Kevin Costner and Christine Baumgartner are not the only long-term couple calling it quits. Do they have to?
Few will know the intimate details of Kevin Costner’s split from Christine Baumgartner, but marriage and family therapists tell us long-term marriages are increasingly at risk.
Kevin Costner is reported saying he was not shocked by divorce filing as his filming schedule has been intense. His absence has been very hard for Christine.
“From my experience it is not how much you love each other that strengthens a long-term relationship; it’s how you resolve differences and preserve connection,” says marriage therapist Rachel Marmor.
Thirteen years ago, America was shocked when Al and Tipper Gore called it quits after 40 years. And that was before the pandemic made everyone more conscious than ever of their lovers and housemates.
To paraphrase Rainer Rilke, the challenge for couples is remembering that we are all beginners and bunglers at love.
While younger couples on the brink of separation or divorce may consider counseling or turn to clergy for guidance, research says time is often the greatest healer. For long-term marriages like Costner and Baumgartner, experts say future bliss may be just a few questions away.
Seth Eisenberg is a PAIRS Master Trainer. PAIRS stands for the “Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills”. Eisenberg is not a mental health professional, although he grew up watching his mother, Lori Heyman Gordon, develop PAIRS as a comprehensive educational course for American University graduate students. Gordon went on to bring PAIRS skills to therapy clients and found most no longer needed therapy as they used the educational skills to find their own answers.
“Couples learned to be their own best counselors and grew closer through the process,” Eisenberg said.
Eisenberg has trained more than 1,000 PAIRS facilitators and taught classes to many thousands. He said 75 percent of distressed couples spending just 12 hours exploring the triad of communication, problem-solving, and emotional understanding end up happy together a year later. For those that aren’t, he said they typically part amicably, are much more likely to be successful co-parents, and are less likely to repeat the mistakes of the past.
As couples begin PAIRS, they’re invited to consider these five questions for clarifying expectations:
With those answers, couples often realize they can work things out without the consequences of divorce, and with their best years ahead. Evidence-based skills training programs such as PAIRS make a difference, studies have shown.
How do couples keep the flames of love burning? Eisenberg said PAIRS graduates learn to give their relationships regular attention, focusing on developing strengths in six specific areas of the “relationship pleasure scale”:
- Shared Interests
- What We’ve Built Together
While not every couple will give themselves high marks in each area, they have a roadmap to know where to focus and skills to give them the best chance of success. Kevin Costner and Christine Baumgartner could work it out, but they’d have to want to?
“Success requires two people with good will towards each other who want to work things out,” Eisenberg said.
Marmor said that with good will, skills such as the “Daily Temperature Reading” have been invaluable for couples, parents, and even teams.
For more information, check out purposebuiltfamilies.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free copy of the Relationship Pleasure Scale and see how your relationship scores.