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Sometimes It Is Nice To Be Bi-Polar

We did it!!  We did it!!  We have now interviewed successfully married couples in both The Arctic and The Antarctic!  We guess you might call us “Bi-Polar!”

When we planted our feet on the continent of Antarctica three years ago, we became the FIRST marriage researchers in the world to interview successfully married couples on ALL SEVEN CONTINENTS of the world.  And we want you to know that we are very proud of that accomplishment!

As our loyal readers know, we have been engaged in our “labor of love” for over 34 years.   We began our journey with this simple idea in mind – “Do great marriages around the world share common and pervasive characteristics.“

And now, after 34 years of research in all 50 states of the Union, in 53 countries, on all seven continents on Earth, and in ten Canadian Provinces, our answer to the previous question is, YES!  They do, even in the most isolated places on the planet!  We have now discovered this to be true in The Arctic as well!

Let us now digress before we zero in on what we’ve learned on these trips to The Arctic and to Antarctica.

First, understand that Antarctica has the coldest, windiest, driest, and harshest climate on Earth.  Living and working there, even for short periods of time, is not for the faint of heart.  Very few people stay on the Continent for more than six months at a time.  It is very rare for a person to “winter-over” and work for a full continuous year on The Ice. 

In the Austral summer as many as four thousand people (mostly scientists and support staff) are there.  Cruise ships bring about 30,000 people a year to the continent, but almost exclusively during the Antarctic summer season (November-February), and few get to actually set foot on the continent. 

Considering that there can be six months of sunlight and six months of daylight, depending on the season, living here for even a short period of time can have its psychological and biorhythm challenges.  The isolation and distance of Antarctica from the rest of the world can have deleterious effects on the marriages and relationships of people who work there or in the continent’s environs.

There are many misconceptions about Antarctica.  For example, is it a country?  The answer is NO!  Nobody owns the 7th Continent.  Nobody!

One person asked us if they have nice hotels and places to eat?  The answer is a resounding NO.  There are no hotels.  There are no restaurants.

Another person who learned of our trip asked us if there is much poverty in Antarctica.  Again, the answer is a big NO.  A citizen of the USA can only get there if they are scientists funded by the National Science Foundation; members of the US Air Force who have been assigned there (most all who go to Antarctica volunteer to go); people who volunteer to work there in support roles (cooks, mechanics, etc.); tourists; and those arriving on a tourist ship that are conducting research.  The latter category includes us.  We are marriage researchers and this is the only way could get to Antarctica to complete our research on successful marriages around the world.

Some final notes about Antarctica.  There are NO cities or towns and NO permanent residents.  Moreover, by treaty agreement, NO country in the world owns Antarctica!   Antarctica is NOT a country; it is a Continent, and an isolated one at that.

And last but not least, there are no roads, bridges, Interstate-type highways, cars or gas stations.  Antarctica is unique amongst the world’s seven continents.  Understanding this is an important first step towards gaining a perspective of the adventuresome spirit of the people who work and travel there.

It is important to note the major distinctions between The Arctic and The Antarctic.

First, The North Pole in The Arctic is an ocean (The Arctic Ocean)   surrounded by continents.  Antarctica in the South is a continent surrounded by oceans (Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian).  Big difference!!

During our trips to Antarctica and the Arctic, we interviewed a number of married couples (mostly scientists and expedition team members) to ascertain if the long periods of separation and isolation create unique and specific challenges to their marital relationship.   The good news, of those dozen people we interviewed on this trip, the most important finding is this – their marriages survive and thrive for the most part because they recognize that communication is at the heart of their relationship.  Keeping in frequent touch with their spouse during long periods of separation is critical to sustaining their marital relationship.

Relatedly, the “tourists” traveling the National Geographic Explorer (the ship we sailed on going and coming from Antarctica and The Arctic) are explorers.  Every person we talked to and/or interviewed, are folks who have traveled the world extensively.  They love being together and find that their many journeys can actually strengthen their marital relationship.  Moreover, many volunteered to us that these travels kept their marriages vibrant, exciting, and alive.

Secondly, we were interested in seeing if the “Seven Pervasive Characteristics of a Successful Marriage” that we have discovered in our worldwide search for great marriages around the world, apply to people who work in or travel to Antarctica and to The Arctic.  While we expected to find some differences from the norm, we didn’t.  Quite the contrary, our interviews reinforced the notion that great marriages around the world are driven by common themes.

In summary, here is what we have discovered on these trips to Antarctica and The Arctic.  Successful marriage, love, and relationships all require simple acts.  Simple gestures.  Simple conversations.  Success in love and marriage depends upon an accumulation of the doing the simple things to form the foundation for building a love that lasts. 

The seven key ingredients that define a successful marriage are easy to understand, yet difficult for many couples to practice in their relationship. 

Togetherness: Two become one without losing the individual identities of each other. In successful marriage it is not you and me, it is WE!

Truthfulness:  Couples talk about anything and everything. In successful marriage there are no sacred cows and no secrets.

Respect:  Couples understand that you do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Successful love and marriage is about mutual love and respect.

Fitness:  Successfully married couples understand that taking care of only their only health is not sufficient.  They must also promote the health of their spouse.  To live until “death do us part” requires a mutual concern about good health.

Joint Finances:  It is not YOUR money and MY money.  In successful marriages, it is OUR money.

Tactile Communication:  Touching each other multiple times per day is the norm.  In successful marriage touching says, “I love you so much I simply must touch you.” Suprisingly, touch does not HAVE to include sex.

Surprise: Love is characterized by the notions of variety and spice.  Successful marriage is exciting, never boring, and full of unpredictable things.  Don’t always do that which is predictable.  Upend expectancies.  Variety is the spice of life!

It seems that successfully married couples around the world share much in common.  After 34 years of wandering the Earth in search of great marriages we are more convinced of the truth of this notion than ever.  

Whether it’s the top of the world, the bottom of the world, or all around the world, it is comforting to know that great marriages are possible.

Love well, whatever continent you live on, whatever country you call home, whatever Province or State you live in – love well even if you are “Bi-Polar.” 

Those who are successfully married in the Arctic and the Antarctic share much in common.   Great marriages around the world are defined by common success variables even if they live at opposite ends of the world.


By Dr. Charles D. Schmitz and Dr. Elizabeth A. Schmitz
Authors of:
How to Marry the Right Guy
Winner of the Eric Hoffer Awards Gold Medal Winner Best Self-Help Book
Winner of the Mom's Choice Award Gold Medal Winner Best Relationship Book
INDIE Award Gold Medal Finalist Best Relationship Book
International Book Awards Finalist Best Relationship Book

Building a Love that Lasts: The Seven Surprising Secrets of Successful Marriage
Winner of the INDIE Book Awards GOLD Medal for Best Relationship Book of the Year
Winner of the Mom’s Choice Awards GOLD Medal for Most Outstanding Relationships and Marriage Book Nautilus Book Awards
(Jossey-Bass/Wiley) Available wherever books are sold.

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