Why Parenting (Not Marriage) is the Highest State of Tolerance

Posted December 5, 2011 by

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Richard Burton, the British actor and Elizabeth Taylor’s husband and ex-husband multiple times over, once described marriage as “the highest state of tolerance.” This resonated with lots of married couples at the time. While I agree that marriage tests one’s tolerance, stamina, energy level, and everything else about us — I see things a bit differently.

I believe that parenting teens is the highest state of tolerance.

Here is how I see it.

  1. Your teen, it seems, will suddenly stop talking to you for no reason.
    (Your spouse on the other hand will eventually let you know exactly why you are getting the silent treatment.)
  2. You don’t know if your teen will make it through the turbulent adolescent years safely.
    (Your spouse already has.)
  3. When you give birth to a child, you are forever changed in a deep and visceral manner.
    (You did not give birth to your spouse — and while you may feel deep love and affection it is certainly not the same.)
  4. You have to worry if your teen is having sex and whether or not they are using good judgment.
    (Hopefully, you know that your spouse is having sex with you only.)
  5. You did not choose your teen, and the two of you may be mismatched in terms of personality styles.
    (You chose your husband or wife with the hope that your personality styles complement each other.)

Your thoughts? Which tests your tolerance more? Marriage orĀ  Parenting?


Barbara is a Ph.D. clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of adolescents and their well-intentioned but exhausted parents. She is the co-author of Teenage as a Second Language-A Parents Guide to Becoming Bilingual with Jennifer Powell-Lunder PsyD and the co-creator of the website http://www.talkingteenage.com.

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