Amidst stories of Larry King’s pending eighth divorce, a Time Warner colleague is suggesting revoking the CNN talk show host’s marriage license. “In no other area of life can grown people flame out so often and so badly and still get official permission to go ahead and do the same thing again,” Belinda Luscombe writes in an article for this week’s TIME.
“How many marriages are too many?” Luscombe questions. “Statistics show that more second marriages break up than first ones and more third marriages — about 75% — break up than second ones. Given that trajectory, shouldn’t a referee step in after the third or fourth and suspend play for the good of all?”
After reading the article, a co-worker suggested the 76-year-old King of Talk might benefit from a weekend PAIRS class.
Couples who succeed in marriage education come from all walks of life and stages of relationship, yet they generally have two things in common: good will and openness to learning.
Elizabeth Taylor also married and divorced eight times. Mickey Rooney and Zsa Zsa Gabor each married nine times. William Shatner, Billy Bob Thornton, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tony Curtis, Greg Allman and Joan Collins have also been known as serial wedders, although none come close to Anderson, Indiana’s Linda Wolfe who got hitched for the 23rd time in 1996. Last year, Wolfe told a reporter she’s open to finding number 24, “But I would get married again,” she said, “because, you know, it gets lonely.”
Research is providing fascinating insight into biological and emotional events that contribute to marital and family breakdown and offers new perspective on the epidemic of divorce.
As society becomes increasingly aware of the cost of divorce to children, families, neighborhoods, businesses, and taxpayers – estimated in the hundreds of billions annually – federal and state funding for research on the science of love, marriage and intimacy has also grown. Today, hundreds of organizations nationwide offer marriage education classes while researchers in dozens of leading universities and nonprofit foundations actively evaluate replicable evidence-based models for strengthening marriages, families, and communities.
Twenty five years ago, Lori Heyman Gordon, a Northern Virginia Marriage and Family Therapist, began helping couples recognize that love relationships generally travel through four predictable stages: Illusion, Disillusion, Confusion, Conclusion.
Scientists have more recently found that the Illusion Stage is typically accompanied by an explosion of internal fireworks enhanced by the release of pleasure inducing endorphins that can inhibit information reaching the part of our brain that considers long-term interests, reason, and logic. In that stage, we look for what’s right in another person, find it, and celebrate! For some, “Illusion” can last years or longer. For others, particularly as our bodies adjust to the frequency of infatuation, the next stage, “Disillusion,” can begin in nanoseconds.
With the beginning of Disillusion, the passion with which we searched for what’s right in another person is redirected to finding what’s wrong. Since by our very nature, human beings are works in progress, uncovering the deficiencies in another person isn’t rocket science. Research into the science of love is providing meaningful insights into the contributing biological events, likely influenced by nutrition, physical health, emotional history, and genetic disposition. From an educational perspective, helping couples learn to sustain pleasure in their closest relationships — knowing that what’s a pleasure to each of us changes frequently over the course of our lives and experiences — is key to keeping feelings of love alive.
In marriage education classes such as PAIRS Essentials, couples learn practical skills for confiding, deepening empathy, understanding and expressing feelings, dealing constructively with differences, and strengthening relationship bonding and attachment that impacts individual emotional and biological experiences. As a result, instead of the final stage, “Conclusion,” being the end of a relationship and beginning all over with someone else, it’s typically the beginning of a more loving, fully alive, relationship with our existing spouse or partner. For the couples themselves and especially for their children, the benefits are among life’s most meaningful treasures.
Would marriage education make a difference for Larry King’s eighth marriage, ninth, or Linda Wolfe’s twenty-fourth?
With good will and openness to learning, their experiences would likely be similar to those of thousands of others, nearly 99 percent of whom recommend PAIRS as a result of their participation. Research shows significant, lasting improvements for most couples — including those who begin PAIRS at high levels of marital distress — after just nine hours of relationship skills training.
Without good will and a sincere openness to learning, however, addiction to the fireworks of infatuation can be a powerful force capable of sabotaging even the most heartfelt promises and potential. The results are typically short-lived while the price is often paid over the course of a lifetime.
For children, families, communities and taxpayers who continue to foot the bill for the enormous cost of marital and family breakdown, encouraging couples early in their relationships to learn skills for sustaining love and intimacy is an urgent priority. Celebrity couples such as the Kings and others in the midst of marital turmoil should consider taking PAIRS before their next trip up the aisle or back.
Now that would be something to talk about.