Do You Have a 'Me Marriage?'

Do You Have a 'Me Marriage?'

By Carol Wang. CREATED Feb 13, 2012

Omaha, NE--It's about me, not we.  That's the premise of one marriage researcher's latest findings.

Dr. Gary Lewandowski, Jr., a professor at Monmouth University in New Jersey, says the key to a happy, fulfilled marriage has more to do with what each individual gets from the relationship, than you might think.

Lewandowski's research is based on the idea of self-expansion--that what keeps a relationship interesting and couples engaged is the fact that each person is constantly gaining new experiences and knowledge from the other.

"Early in a relationship you spend a lot of time talking about your plans about your future, about who you are and what you want to become.  You spend a lot of time early-on on dating; you purposely plan doing exciting things," explains Lewandowski.  He found that couples who continue to bring each other exciting and interesting ways to grow are happier and more satisfied in their marriage.

"Both of us have been really committed to learning about ourselves and each other," agrees Phileena Heuertz.  She and her husband, Chris, have been married for 16 years.

"One of our friends says if you stay with your partner for all of your life it's like you've been married to five different people and I believe that," adds Chris Heuertz.

Another couple, married for almost 30 years, sees the value in the 'me marriage' theory.

"We are complete opposites in many aspects and that's what has helped," responds Mary Greguska.

But Katie Kueny, a marriage therapist at UNMC, cautions about centering a marriage too much on the individual and not the union.

"There's research that shows we rely on our spouses too much these days to fulfill our every need, to make us happy all the time," Kueny comments.  She points to research that attributes this mindset to higher divorce rates.  ""We're more apt to grow in a relationship and be happy in our own lives when we give to our marriage and our relationship."

Chaley and Eric Chandler believe their common values and their shared history makes their six-year marriage a success.  ""I think one of the benefits of our marriage and why it's so great is that we know each other so well," states Eric.

Chaley chimes in, "We're very good friends.  We truly enjoy being together.  We have a lot of fun together.  We'd rather be with each other than with anyone else.  He's the only one who doesn't annoy me, ever.  Well, most of the time."

Despite their skepticism of the self-expansion theory, the Chandlers scored the highest on the test Dr. Lewandowski devised.  Their scores indicate they bring a lot of new and interesting experiences to each other and each receives a high level of satisfaction and happiness from their partner.

The Greguskas and the Heuertzs had the largest gap in their scores, which Dr. Lewandowski reads as one is carrying most of the load when it comes to expanding a couple's horizons.

 "This is what I take from it: either I can brign you more interesting things to the marriage or you could be more open to the things I do bring and try new things that are different from you," points out Phileena.  Chris acknowledges the difference in scores reflects his reluctance to participate in some of her activities.

Newlyweds Melissa and Rob Farris scored in the middle range, meaning they have room to grow.  Four months into wedded bliss, they tell us they're still learning a lot about each other, and they want to push themselves out of their comfort zones.

"Because of Rob I've been skiing, skydiving, motorcyling and snowmobiling and waterskiing," Melissa lists off. 

Dr. Lewandowski reminds people relationships are work and continuing to expand each other's horizons is a never-ending process.  "The beginning of a relationship is just that, the beginning. Once they get to know you, you're done.  Continue to grow together so you don't grow apart."

Dave Greguska brags that the two have reached a happy medium, sharing their individual interests and compromising as well.  "It's all about meeting someone halfway and sharing a life together not continuing your individual lives."