Notes from the counselor on Marriage
Dr. Muriel Redman McKenney on Marriage
Dr. McKenney was married to one person for over fifty years. It was as marriage that started with little promise of success. Muriel literally ran away and got married during the Second World War with one of her brother’s friends while he was home on leave for a couple of weeks.
Her father was opposed to the wedding and disowned her as a direct result. If he had ever changed his mind on this his early death due to heart trouble may have prevented him from letting her know.
It is not clear, even to her children, exactly what prompted her marriage to their father. Muriel and Albert came from different social classes and with the exception of her brother, had no friends in common.
She had completed two years of college and in his family graduation from high school was the most anyone could be expected to go.
Before his wartime leave they had never dated nor shown any interest in each other.
It is somewhat of a mystery, the truth of which she has never fully revealed.
These are the notes of Dr. Muriel R. McKenney, The Counselor, on Marriage:
If you have children in school, chances are that at least half of their classmate’s parents are divorced or separated. The average length of a marriage now is about seven years with many people tending to remarry. Most couples enter marriage with high expectations for a close and enduring relationship, where they will find satisfaction and happiness. But many times, they have not learned how to relate effectively to another person, especially if they enter marriage with a history of having unhappy or divorced parents.
Children learn how to relate to a partner, mostly, by observing their parents, and often tend to re-enact what they have seen and experienced. Also, what they observed happening in society, in the movies and on TV programs influences them greatly. There seems to be a lack of appropriate models to emulate and people with the best intentions hardly know what to do anymore to “work at” their marriages.
When counseling with families, therapists, invariably discover attitudes or faulty perceptions that are powerfully destructive influences on the marriage relationship. Everyone has their own personal picture in their head of how a marriage “should” be, and proceeds according to their perceptions. These are difficult to change but not impossible. The first step in bringing about a healthy change is to take an objective look at the marriage. What are each person’s expectations? What do they believe marriage “should” be like? What are their attitudes or perceptions about relationships? Is marriage forever? Is it for convenience? Is it for economics? Is it for companionship?
We should recognize and become fully aware that the way we perceive our marriage may be the root of the problem. After all, we are always striving to fulfill our expectations whether we realize it or not. If we expect to fail, we probably will. We may unconsciously make it into what we think it is. If, indeed, we find that a faulty perception is the underlying cause, then the next step is to find out how it is operating in the marriage to prevent the natural process of intimacy and growth in the relationship. Finally, we do what needs to be done to bring about the needed change.
There seem to be two faulty perceptions that are prevalent today. One is that after the ceremony, the marriage will take care of itself, and if it doesn’t seem to be working it is because the couple is no longer in love. The second perception is that marriage naturally gets boring and dull as time goes by. If we believe that, it surely will happen.
Some people marry without giving it much thought. It just seems a natural thing to do, or there may be benefits involved, or they may just feel like it. Having no real expectations, they feel that the marriage will take care of itself. Later on, they may even feel guilty when they find they have to work on their relationship, wondering if they still love each other. After all, if they were still in love, wouldn’t marriage take care of itself?
Working on the marriage actually means to give it top priority for a change. Too often it comes last, if at all. Couples act as if the marriage requires no time, energy, sharing, thought, sacrifice or creativity. But they expect it to provide meaning, warmth, satisfaction, happiness and undying love. These same couples give freely of their time and energy to vocational endeavors, social functions, civic duties and recreation. Often, they become so absorbed in their outside commitments that they are oblivious to the fact that their relationship is dying of malnutrition.
We often see individuals who are “married” to their jobs, the center-point of their lives. Give them a family present for their home and it goes directly to their office. Others are “married” to their TV sets. Their children and spouse know better than to interfere with the highly valued shows. Then there are those individuals who are “married” to themselves. Little, if any, thought is given to the spouse except when needed. They constantly talk about and do nice things for themselves. The spouse is taken for granted and is of little interest to them.
There has been much emphasis on personal growth during the past two decades and consequently, some people have been so preoccupied with finding themselves that they have missed finding others, especially their significant others. When, actually, in a healthy marriage there is the greatest potential for personal growth for both partners. In a happy marriage, two people have a unique meaningfulness for each other; which creates a feeling of self-worth and self-esteem; it allows them to be truly themselves. They enjoy a special closeness, intimacy and emotional pleasure with each other. Their relationship is most important and their communication is open and honest. It is worth making it the top priority because it can last a lifetime.
Thus ends the notes of The Counselor.
What is certain about the Counselor was that she was totally committed to making her marriage a Donna Reed style affair. She started a family with a daughter only a year after she was married. With a husband that spent most of his time aboard a warship, she was pretty much anchored to her home which was a rental unit of one type or another for the first eight years of marriage.
One element of married life that Dr. Muriel loved the most was the children. She enjoyed being a mother and the relationships that she developed with each of her children.
Though Alzheimer’s disease has robbed her of many memories, the memories of things she has done with her children are still strong.
It is possible that she chose to marry so that she could have a big family and could surround herself with children.
Whatever her reason, her marriage with all its ups and downs lasted until death parted her husband from her fifty three years after they had run off to get married.