Sniffled and Lust

Posted on June 11, 2016


Like so many of us, I have a game on my phone that is my go to if I find myself waiting around for someone.  Mine is “Word Bubbles.”  If you haven’t played it, it is relatively simple.  The point is to connect the letters to form words.  Each word you form not only has to be a legitimate word, but it also have to be the word the game was looking for.  For example, “net” won’t work if what the game wanted was “ten.”  The puzzles start out pretty easy (i.e. form one three letter word) and get progressively more difficult.  The current level I am on requires one to solve for words of three, four, seven, eight, and nine letters in length out of a matrix of letters.

If that seems too difficult, take heart.  You can use hints.  Each hint will give you a letter for one of your unsolved words.  You can accumulate hints either one at a time by solving the puzzle of the day, or you can buy 50 hints for a couple of bucks.  I try to rarely use them for two reasons.  First, I am a cheapskate.  Second, I find that if I have the patience to spend time studying the puzzle, eventually, it can be solved.

In one of Malcolm Gladwell’s books (I think it was Blink, but I can’t remember for sure), he discussed the work of a researcher who studied how people approach problem solving.  Among his findings was observing how long the average person would work on a math problem before deciding the problem was too difficult to solve.  The answer from the research is that the average person will work on a problem between 30 seconds and two minutes before deciding the problem was too hard and quitting.

If you have read my blog much, you may already be anticipating where I am going with this.  And you are probably right.

My thought was, “what about marriage?”  If the typical person is willing to decide that a problem is too difficult to solve after 30 seconds to minutes, is this reflective of how long we are willing to persevere in other areas of our lives?  Could we be doing this with marriage?

Vince Lombardi and Michael Jordan have similar quotes about not losing.  Lombardi’s was “We didn’t lose the game, we just ran out of time.”  Jordan’s was “I’ve never lost a game, I just ran out of time.”  I have sometimes had that feeling as a therapist when one partner quits on a marriage that could have not only been saved, but turned into a relationship that could have been really satisfying for both partners.  We didn’t lose the game, we were just behind when someone called it quits.

The research[1] on distress couples found that most couples who were very unhappy and decided to stay together reported being happy or very happy together five years later.  Further they were generally happier than couples who divorced.

The lesson here is that there is much to be said for perseverance in marriage.  This does not mean just staying unhappy.  If you need help, get help.  It does take both of you working on it, but I have seen some couples come back from tremendous distress and betrayals of trust to get to a place where the relationship is safe and satisfying.

Oh, yeah.  The title words of the blog are the first two words I figured out from level 439 of Word Bubbles[2].   I haven’t solved the rest yet.  Maybe I will use a couple of my hints.

[1] The study is cited in The Case For Marriage.  I don’t feel like looking it up, but you can if you like.

[2] Maybe I am spending too much time with it.