Commuter Marriages Test More Americans 1/9/00
Mon Jan 10 12:11:06 EST 2000
from: Smart Marriages
This thread about how we use the skills in our own marriages/relationships
- or sometimes fail to use them - reminds me to tell you that there will
be a workshop exploring these issues. "How Your Marriage Impacts Your
Teaching of Marriage Education, and Vice Versa" - it will include lots
of time for discussion and should be a very interesting enjoyable
<< Get the point? We're human and we should be letting the people in our
courses know that no matter how skilled they become, they're going to get
wrong sometimes. Teach them how to get back on track. And then do our
to practice what we teach.
Michele Weiner-Davis >>
This makes good sense to me. We're all in a "learning experience" and
change is hard for all of us.
Sometimes what also helps (my husband and me, but also working with
clients in therapy) is to be able to notice how long or short a time it
to "get back on track," whether it was a shorter time frame than the
before, and then to give oneself credit (validation) if it was less time
(even by a minute!). I think that serves as an accomplishment, gives a
of optimism and empowerment (I really dislike this word--hackneyed, but
in vogue, and describes this concept well). This validation is very
to what you describe in your books as stressing the positive, the
I've seen couples work with each other on how much shorter time it
each of them to get back on track each time. I think that's really good,
since they're both aware of working on the issues. They feel joint
responsibility for the marriage, and it adds a really neat quality for
as they tell me.
Thanks for your honesty.
The following came in as part of an email this week. The writer is talking
about the session LifePartnerQuest by David Steele.
It prompts me to mention a request for ideas about how singles might
meet each other at the Smart Marriages conference. There are lots of
singles who attend and many have asked
that we schedule events that might help them meet. They say they love
the conference and this group of people who think about relationships in
the right way, but have no way to know who is single and no way to meet
There have also been requests for ways for those
who aren't single, but are just attending alone, to connect with
colleagues --to have
people to discuss ideas with.
Two different requests with two different goals.
Please send me any and all "networking" ideas. What has worked at other
conferences? What might work at ours?
If you hit the reply button
your comment only goes to me. I will keep the ideas confidential and ask
your permission if there are any I want to share with the list. (Also,
me when any of you write in if you say that I may share or may not share
your comment.) -
. . .
> I'm cleaning slates and thinking totally differently about how to go about
>deciding who I can be happy with. I learned this from the guy from the West
>Coast who gave a talk at smartmarriages and was doing relationship
>counseling around the idea of helping singles find the right person. That's
>another way of working on the divorce rate.
>Anyway, I found that tape very helpful. I am optimistic about being able to
>select a suitable mate and being able to resolve future conflict.
>In case you can't tell, the conference was a very good thing for me.
Saturday, January 9, 2000 - Christian Science Monitor
Commuter Marriages Test More Americans
By Francine Kiefer, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Amid packing boxes and furniture they hadn't seen since Little Rock days,
the Clintons awoke Thursday to a new phase in their life: the commuter
But while they're now the nation's highest-profile commuter couple - and
the first presidential duo in which the wife has moved out of the White
House - there are millions more Americans like them. Sort of.
Long-distance marriages are on the rise in the United States, reflecting
an era of dual-income households and of women, like Mrs. Clinton,
pursuing careers of their own.
The trend is driven by a host of factors, including convenient jet travel
and couples having fewer children. But even as it opens career doors,
experts say it can strain marriages at a time when Americans seem more
concerned about family breakdown.
Commuter marriages are especially prevalent among educated professionals,
like the Clintons, who either don't have children or whose children have
left the nest, say sociologists and psychologists.
And it tends to involve lines of work that offer some flexibility, such
as politics, journalism, or academia.
In fact, "commuter marriages are a regular feature of political life,"
says Judith Wallerstein, author of "The Good Marriage" (Warner Books).
Legislators typically divide their time between a home district and their
offices in Congress or a statehouse.
But unlike the president and first lady, most couples who work in
separate cities can't call up a motorcade or military jet to get home
whenever they want - or send the bill to taxpayers. And, unlike the
president, most spouses left holding down the fort probably don't have
cooks, gardeners, and other help to take care of all the household
"[The Clintons] have access to transportation and to various resources
that most people just don't have," says Naomi Gerstel, a sociologist at
the University of Massachusetts in Amherst who studies commuter
In 1998, 2.4 million Americans said they were married but that their
spouses did not live at home, a 21 percent increase from four years
before, according to the US Census Bureau. These were not people who
considered themselves "separated" - which implies a troubled marriage.
Sociologists like Ms. Gerstel caution that these data include military
couples who spend long periods apart. Still, anecdotal evidence confirms
that the trials of long-distance relationships are spreading far beyond
How well these marriages work, however, is another question.
Tremendous stress can bear down on these relationships. There are two
residences and schedules to coordinate. Travel and phone costs increase.
If the situation goes on for years, each person can develop a separate
life that becomes unknowable to their partner. Worries about infidelity
And if there are young children involved - the greatest challenge of all,
according to experts - the person left at home inevitably bears the brunt
of raising those children.
Still, everyone interviewed for this story agreed that, while a commuter
marriage can speed a divorce - the outcome for half of all US marriages -
it is usually not the underlying cause of one.
"The substance of marriage is dependent on other things," says the Rev.
James Ford, who, as 21-year chaplain for the US House of Representatives,
has heard an earful about the strains of weekend flights back home and
long stretches on the campaign trail.
Anne Northrup, a congresswoman from Kentucky, says it's her rock-solid
marriage of 30 years, and the fact that five of her six children are up
and out, that account for a commuter marriage that "works really well."
She would never have run for Congress when her kids were small, says this
Republican, who has been commuting between Louisville and Washington for
But now she's in a new phase of her life, one in which she can work
straight through till midnight if she wants to. Still, she gets homesick
in her studio apartment, especially when it's the end of the
congressional year and she's having to spend five days a week or longer
"In the last three or four weeks, every time I would find myself coming
through the airport, coming home, with the biggest grin on my face, and
leaving on Monday choking back tears," she says.
The president and first lady say they will try and see each other as much
as they can, though it wasn't until the last minute that the president
decided he could accompany his wife as she moved into their five-bedroom
Dutch colonial on Old House Lane in Chappaqua, N.Y.
While gossips wag about the implications for the Clinton marriage, the
White House and others point out that the first couple won't necessarily
spend more time apart now. Last year alone, Mr. Clinton made more than 80
visits to various states sans Hillary.
He also spent about 30 days overseas without his wife - and that doesn't
count the trips she made without him.
"Whatever you can say about them, I guess it's true that somehow, one way
or another, they've made some kind of emotional, psychological, or just
physical accommodation for being apart over quite a significant period of
time," says Barbara Defoe Whitehead, of Rutgers University's National
Marriage Project. "You could argue that proves it can be done, or you
could argue that's one of the problems."
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