Tag Archives: best marriage advice

Researchers say successful marriages come down to this trait

rose morguefileSocial scientists and marriage experts have been gathering data since the ‘70s on what separates successful marriages from unsuccessful ones. John and Julie Gottman, both psychologists with The Gottman Institute were forerunners of this work and continue to help couples learn how to have stable, loving relationships. By observing certain interactions, they can predict with up to 94 percent certainty whether couples will be broken up, together, happy or unhappy years down the road.

How we are predisposed toward one another, how we respond to requests, and how good we are at kindness and generosity all play a part in a marriage’s success.

Physiology
A recent article in The Atlantic called “Masters of Love” divulges the differences between the masters of marriage and the disasters. Couples associated with the disasters were markedly different down to their very physiology. When they talked, their heart rates were quick. Their sweat glands were active. They were in fight-or-flight mode all the time, waiting for the next argument. They were more aggressive and defensive. The physiology demonstrated how they were negatively predisposed toward one another.

Couples who were masters of marriage felt calm and connected, had slower heart rates, and warm behavior and language toward one another. It’s not their physical make-up that changed things, says John Gottman. Instead, they created a climate of trust and intimacy that made them both feel at ease. The way in which they created this positive climate was through kindness, generosity and responding positively to bids for attention.

Responding to Bids/Requests for Attention
How you respond to subtle requests for attention or “bids” throughout the day from your spouse is another major factor for marital success. Whether one person shares a funny story from work or asks the other to join them on the couch, we respond in different ways depending on our mood and activities. Maybe we share a laugh, or we may say (or show) that we are busy reading. Even small actions add up, particularly if they are rebuffed or ignored. Couples who divorced after six years only responded favorably to their partner one-third of the time, while couples married after six years met these bids 9 out of 10 times. By ignoring your partner’s requests for attention, you can make them feel worthless or ignored, eventually killing the love they feel.

Types of Kindness
Kindness is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in marriage, say the Gottmans. It makes each spouse feel loved, validated, understood and important. Some people are naturally kind, but kindness is a muscle that can grow stronger with practice. Kindness can have many meanings.

Kindness can mean responding in a pleasing way to your partner’s bids for attention. For example, if you’re watching a show (even a big game), reading the news or busy with a hobby when your spouse comes in the door or asks you a question, do you give them your attention or act annoyed? How do you respond to bids for intimacy?

Kindness can mean how you act during a disagreement or fight. Avoid words of contempt, rolling the eyes, raising your voice, acting aggressively. The way we express our anger or feelings is critical, as is the type of language we choose.

Kindness can mean small acts of generosity—a cup of tea, a backrub, an offer to go to the store or clean up.

Kindness can mean assuming the best intentions for your partner. If he forgot to pick up the dry cleaning, left his towel on the floor, or was late to a date, we don’t assume the worst.

Kindness can mean celebrating life’s joys and good news together—being genuinely excited for the other person when things go well (and of course being there when things don’t go so well).

More than all these, kindness in marriage means how you interact on a daily basis, the affection you share, the feeling that you’re in life together and happy about it.

Relationships fail for a variety of reasons, but the breakdown of kindness drives the unraveling of many of them. “As the normal stresses of life together pile up—with children, career, friend, in-laws, and other distractions crowding out the time for romance and intimacy—couples may put less effort into their relationship and let the petty grievances they hold against one another tear them apart,” says Emily Esfahani Smith, author of The Atlantic article.

Master or Disaster?
Taking this research into account, are your behaviors more in line with the masters or disasters of marriage? What attributes are bringing you down or holding you up?

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Best Advice from Readers: 19 Great Marriage Tips

A couple of weeks ago as I celebrated my 16th wedding anniversary with a Happy Anniversary to me post, I asked you to share one great marriage tip. Thanks for coming through with some wonderful advice. I decided to collect all the reader comments for you:

1. Remember that no couple is perfect and that every married couple has problems. What makes or breaks your marriage is how you confront problems, communicate about them and ultimately work through them.
2. Our marriages are reflections of God’s love for His church, and every choice, every thought, and how we deal with conflict matters. Our marriage tip is pay attention to whom you worship – if it’s God you will grow all the more closer to Him and each other. If you’re worshiping self or your marriage, it will only grow increasingly more difficult because God is a jealous God. As your love grows vertically it will certainly grow horizontally.
3. Learn to take delight in delighting your wife or husband.
4. Marriage is not only between the couple, but it involves two families, which can be very complicated. We learned a lot through the process, and we have been changed and grown up a lot.
5. Simply spend a little time each day focused ONLY on each other. This sounds easy, but it can be really difficult in the high-paced and distraction-filled times we live in. If you spend 15 minutes each day simply being a couple, your marriage will be blessed incredibly!
6. Stay connected to one another physically, emotionally and spiritually no matter what else is going on in your lives.
7. One key is mutuality. Spouses need to fully participate with one another in experiencing intimacy, paying attention to the other’s needs, desires, and value.
8. Keep a good sense of humor, keep your promises…never let go. Hang in there even when you don’t feel like it. And when you are mad as mad can be, think of your three favorite things about your husband/wife that makes you smile. Or at least something s/he said or did lately that was funny.
9. Do everything in your power to communicate unconditional love and acceptance to your spouse, making especially sure to show affection and speak approval whether you feel like it or not.
10. Spend money on your marriage – after 45 years of marriage – what fun we’ve had!
11. Remember that only YOU can make you happy. Always respect your husband, and respect yourself.
12. Mutual respect and compassion is the key to everything!
13. Nurture your friendship with your spouse. Spend time together. Ask for each other’s opinion. Extend grace. Hug. Listen. Share. Fight fair. Laugh together. Support each other’s interests. When a married couple authentically are friends with each other, so many positive results flow out of this (including great sex).
14. Be willing to grow and to let your spouse grow. Marriage is organic; it must be nourished. And its members may grow at different rates. The good news is that they ARE growing.
15. Which tape/CD are you going to listen to? Are you going to focus or dwell on the way your spouse annoys you, or are you going to focus on the positives, the many ways they bless you? I firmly believe it is a choice. We see what we want to see in each other.
16. Some of our most memorable ‘dates’ are very simple. We have a better time just hanging out on the patio with a bottle of wine versus spending a small fortune in a stuffy restaurant!
17. Write a note or card detailing what first excited you about each other when you met. Post it on the refrigerator. Refer to it often.
18. Marriage always gets better if you hang on, and the best is yet to come.

And one bonus tip from me, in gratitude for all your advice: Remember that love is a choice, not a feeling. Our feelings change with our mood and our circumstances, but our actions and attitudes speak volumes. When we act lovingly, we begin to feel more in love.

I am thankful for all the love and joy in my life, and I wish you all more of the same!

What is your favorite marriage tip?

Photo by photostock courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net