Talking to a friend yesterday, I shared my observations on what three factors most affect a couple’s ability to find contentment in a relationship. I could be wrong; this is anecdotal, not a scientific study. But I’m probably right. To recap:

  1. Similar attitudes toward money. I’d say “having enough money” — clearly, that’s an issue — but “enough” has different meanings to different people and what seems to matter most is when the two people agree on what “enough” is and how the money should be used.
  2. The relationship with the extended family. We’re all affected by how we grew up. People who admire and are close to their parents, aunts, uncles, etc., have not only a greater support network, but also examples of how highly functioning relationships are supposed to work.
  3. The number of kids. Zero seems to be best for those without family resources!* Depending on how much family and financial support a couple has, maybe one or even two — but those factors definitely weigh heavy on a couple’s ability to get along once children enter the picture. If you don’t have kids, you never have to deal with all the questions, issues and history that having babies brings to the table. (Who will compromise a career? Who will assume responsibility for making enough money? What happens when there’s not enough money and who is to blame? Who will make what sacrifices for the family? Who will be the resenter and whom will be the resentee? What do you do when disagreeing on discipline or exposing the kids to your crazy uncle? What happens when, tired and bewildered, the two of you find yourselves instinctively repeating the same mistakes your own parents made, the ones you swore you’d never subject your own kids to? How the hell do you expect to have energy left over to put toward your relationship when you’ve been taking care of children all day. And on and on… )
*Obligatory note: Plenty of people without family or financial resources have kids and are happy they had’em — myself included. Just in case that’s not obvious. Still, presents the aforementioned whole’nother round of challenges. Ideally, at the end of your life, you’re looking back on how much richer and deeper an experience you had for dealing with those challenges… right?