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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Does "the city" have a positive influence on marriage?


Could cities like NYC actually be good for marriages? New York Magazine writer Jennifer Senior believes so.

"I also don't think I'm going out on too weak a limb when I stipulate that cities, in which we have a large network of companions...now seems like a good time to point out that New York State is tied for the fifth-lowest divorce rate* in the nation. Isn't it possible our marriages are simply better here?"

While I agree that cities provide a great deal of newness and opportunity for a wide range of activities, cities also bring a speed that can catapult couples into polarizing rhythms. No matter where you live, all married couples (how about THAT for a generalization) would agree that finding your rhythm as a couple is imperative to maintaining intimacy. Whether it is a Sunday afternoon brunch or a daily stroll through the park, each couple needs created space for communication. Any city will speed up this rhythm, thus the work becomes finding places of connection within this new pace. The speed of a city like NYC is not bad for a relationship, just very dangerous.

Taryn and I have struggled at times to balance the pace of the city and our much needed space for communication. We will both tell you that our relationship hinges on having the time to enjoy a nice dinner, watch Law and Order SVU, and share a lazy Saturday morning. However many days due to our schedules, commutes, and post-work fun (read:Rockefeller tree lighting!) we get home around 9:30 and both head straight to our computers to wrap up essays and e-mails.

So has the city affected our relationship? Yes it has. Living in the pace of the city has demanded that we turn up the intentionality of our communication. Sometimes we succeed, and other times we fail. The city has also given us incredible opportunities to interact with diversity of thought, religion, and leisure. We are thankful for these things.

The problem with my perspective? Taryn and I know no different. For the majority of our three years of marriage we have lived in large urban centers. Perhaps I am giving too much influence to the "city life". Perhaps the same danger is present in suburban, rural, and inter-galactic marriages. However, I imagine there is something unique about each of our situatedness and how it impacts our relationships. My fear is that we overlook the pros and cons of our situatedness, never naming what it means for us to experience community/intimacy/connection in our given contexts.

So should you move to NYC to save your relationships? Probably not. Unless your relationships need great food, large rats, and over priced real estate.

*I would assume that the low divorce rate is a result of people in NYC getting married later in life. In addition NYC is full of educated professionals. With higher education comes higher pay. With higher pay comes fewer financial struggles, the number one cause of tension in any marriage.

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