Tag Archives: Marriage Research

The #1 Thing Men Want More of is Not What You Think

The Normal BarBased on survey results from more than 70,000 respondents, the new book, The Normal Bar, provided a number of surprises. But the most surprising result I read about was when men in unhappy relationships were asked what they want most from their partners that they’re not getting. The authors/researchers expected to find that sex topped the list, but it didn’t make the top two.

Male respondents instead want more and better communication, saying their partners don’t listen to them attentively enough. Coming in second, they wanted more affection. In third place, they said they desired more sex.

Unhappy women also ranked communication at the top of their wish list, and for more affection in second place. Their third wish was for financial stability.

Remember that these were the responses from unhappy couples. Another surprise was the response from happy couples as to what they wanted more of. The number-one answer was “nothing.” In fact 35% of satisfied women and 40% of satisfied men say all their relationship needs are being met.

These results were not just true for Americans, but were true worldwide. Communication is apparently a bigger issue than most of us realize, being the most important relationship issue for many couples. Only the French reported affection as more important, which was surprising because the French were number-one in romance.

Take-Away

What can we take from these results to help us in our marriages? First, if your spouse is asking for better communication, don’t roll your eyes or belittle its importance. In your partner’s eyes, the way you speak to them and listen to them out may be one of their top concerns. Second, better communication may mean less talking and more listening. Reflect back what you hear to make sure you are understanding them correctly. And third, remember that it can be easy to drift apart. Make daily effort to reconnect on an emotional and physical level. Show affection and demonstrate your love with small daily efforts.

Are you giving your spouse enough time and attention? Are you talking only about the day’s agenda or about deeper issues, desires and concerns? Can you carve out time for a walk together or to have a cup of coffee in the morning or a glass of wine in the evening? Try to bring a fun topic or question to your chats, such as dreaming about a future vacation, or guessing what famous person you would each like to have over for dinner.

Communication is a skill we can all learn to improve. If communication is an area of dissatisfaction or dispute, seek out a class, a counselor or even online tips for how you can take your communication to the next level.

I’ll be providing some additional insights from the book. You can learn more by reading The Normal Bar by Chrisanna Northup, Pepper Schwartz, PhD, and James Witte, PhD. Let me know if you’re interested in having your  name added to a drawing for a free copy of the book by leaving a comment below.

Do you agree or disagree with the survey results?

Lori Lowe 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, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Why More Americans are Happy, Yet Unsatisfied

winter by Michal  Marcol freedigitalphotos.netAccording to recent Gallup polls, American levels of happiness are at a four-year high, with 60 percent of all Americans reporting they feel happy without a lot of stress or worry. Books about happiness are selling in record numbers. So why don’t Americans seem more satisfied?

One reason is, as I have written in a previous post, “There’s more to life and marriage than happiness.” Another reason is that 40 percent of Americans have not discovered a satisfying life purpose. Having a clear purpose and meaning for your life has been shown in research to increase your life satisfaction, improve your physical and mental health, and decrease the chances of depression. It is very possible to be both relatively happy and yet still live an unsatisfied life.

“It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness,” conclude researchers. Yes, pursuing happiness and pleasure can actually hinder you from having a meaningful, satisfying life as an individual and as a married couple.

A new study to be published in the Journal of Positive Psychology examined the attitudes of 400 Americans over a month and found that while a meaningful life and a happy life overlap in some ways, they were very different. Researchers determined that leading a “happy life” was associated with being a “taker” who at times appeared shallow, selfish or self-absorbed, but with satisfied demands. These happy individuals might be healthy and have plenty of income for what they needed or wanted, as well as few worries.

A meaningful life, on the other hand, was associated with being a “giver.” The participants in this category derived meaning from sacrifices. They actively looked for meaning in their activities, even when they knew the action might decrease their happiness or require them to give something up for themselves. Examples might be a parent who takes time to care for their children, a person who buys a present for a friend to cheer her up, or a spouse who offers to help around the house.

Finding meaning can even involve extreme sacrifices, such as the one made by the Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist Viktor Frankl in Vienna in September 1942. Read about his fascinating story and more about the research in this article from The Atlantic called “There’s more to life than being happy.” Frankl, who survived the Nazi concentration camps, later wrote the best-selling book Man’s Search for Meaning. After working on suicide prevention for teens earlier in his career, he helped two suicidal inmates in the camps find meaning for their lives and gave them something to live for. Don’t we all need something to live for?

“Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to ‘be happy,’” wrote Frankl. He also wrote the enduring words: “Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself—be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself—by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love—the more human he is.”

This last quote brings me to the point of this post. To find meaning in life and certainly in our marriages, we need to direct our attention away from our desire for happiness of the moment and toward others. By loving our spouse and family more fully, we can find greater fulfillment and satisfaction.

Researchers say happy people derive joy from receiving benefits from others, while people leading more meaningful lives derive a great deal of joy from giving to others.

Why is finding a deeper meaning for your life and marriage more important than seeking happiness for your family? Because it affects every choice you will make.  When one spouse reaches a turning point in their life, such as a mid-life crisis, someone focused on personal happiness might assess what they are getting from others and who is making them happy. They may say things like “life is short” and “you only live once” to justify behavior focused on personal pleasure. On the contrary, someone focused on meaning might assess what memories and values they are giving to their loved ones and how they have improved the lives of others. They will wonder what legacy they are leaving and how they can strengthen that legacy.

The idea that we are responsible for something greater than ourselves is contrary to the value of freedom above all.  Are these values at odds in your mind?

Please share how you find meaning in your life and in your marriage.

If you are interested in more on this topic, here are other happiness-related posts:

Is your family seeking pleasure, happiness, or joy?

Happiness comes before success in life, not after

The formula for unhappiness is revealed

Are too many choices leading to unhappiness?

Lori Lowe 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, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Are Pre-Marriage Jitters Predictors of Later Divorce?

The months preceding a marriage should be used by a couple to seriously consider whether they wish to be truly committed to one another and feel that they can do so. It’s not unusual for one or both of them to have questions, concerns or even fears about marriage. Occasionally, these reservations lead them to call off the wedding.

I’ve known several couples who after going through marriage preparation decided not to marry. Rather than considering this a failure, it’s probably good to know early—before they promise to love and honor ‘til death do they part—that at least one of them has serious doubts as to their long-term success. Unfortunately, it’s often just one person in the couple who comes to that conclusion, leaving the other broken-hearted.

A recent study caught my attention that analyzed these pre-wedding jitters of couples who went ahead and got married. Did having these fears predict a later divorce? Psychologists from the University of California, Los Angeles surveyed 250 couples a few months after they got married. They conducted follow-up surveys every six months for four years.

The researchers concluded that wives’ uncertainty before marriage was a better predictor of a later divorce than were husbands’ reservations. They also found the wives who had doubts before marriage tended to be less satisfied with the marriages. And couples in which both partners had doubts were linked with a 20 percent divorce rate.

“Don’t assume that love is enough to overpower your concerns,” said lead study author Justin Lavner. “You know yourself, your partner and your relationship better than anybody else does. If you’re feeling nervous about it, pay attention to that. It’s worth exploring what you’re nervous about.”

Considerably more husbands had doubts about getting married—47 percent—compared with wives at 38 percent. However, the wives’ doubts were better predictors of impending marital trouble. Nineteen percent of the women who had doubts about getting married were divorced within four years, while 8 percent of wives who did not have reservations were divorced four years later. For men, 14 percent of the husbands with doubts were split in four years, compared with 9 percent of husbands who did not have doubts getting hitched.

Researchers said marital jitters were significant predictors even when they took other factors into consideration, including cohabitation, whether the couple had divorced parents, or the difficulty of their engagement.

Newlywed wives with doubts about the marriage were two-and-a-half times more likely to divorce within four years than wives who did not have these doubts. And even the wives (who had doubts) who stayed together after four years were significantly less satisfied with their marriage than wives who did not experience these doubts.

“There’s no evidence that problems in a marriage just go away and get better. If anything problems are more likely to escalate,” said Lavner.  So, for couples not yet married, explore any reservations you may have, and go through premarital preparation to help you discuss important issues before tying the knot.

For couples who are already married, that is not to say marital problems can’t be solved; there is hope for all marriages, and many (experts say most) problems can be solved.

I should also add that I know some individuals who had jitters that faded away once they made the decision to commit to one another. It was the commitment decision itself that gave them jitters, not the person to whom they were engaged. Only you know whether your feelings of doubt are serious or fleeting.

See the story in HealthDay.

Did you have pre-wedding jitters? If so, did they fade or did they become predictors of future problems in your marriage?

Photo by Aleksandr Kutsayev courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Religious Practice is Relevant to Divorce Rate

It’s common to hear people say that Christians have the same divorce rate as non-Christians. In fact, most people believe this is an established fact. When digging deeper, however, this turns out to be false, at least when we’re talking about practicing Christians. Religious practice, not religious affiliation, makes the crucial difference.

W. Bradford Wilcox, a leading sociologist at the University of Virginia and director of the National Marriage Project, conducted his own analysis which concludes there is a big difference in the divorce rates between those who are committed to religious practice and those who self-identify with a particular faith.

To explain it further, people who refer to themselves as Catholics are 5 percent less likely to divorce, but active Catholics are 31 percent less likely to divorce than those with no religious affiliation. Among Protestant Christians, those who are nominal Protestants are 20 percent more likely to divorce than nonreligious people. Conservative Protestants are 10 percent less likely to divorce, and Conservative active Protestants are 35 percent less likely to divorce than people in the general population. The difference was a much more stark difference among Jewish individuals. Nominal Jewish people were 53 percent more likely to become divorced, and active Jewish people were 97 percent less likely to divorce than the non-religious. Wilcox controlled for socio-economic factors.

So, contrary to what you have heard, religious commitment and practice within a traditional religious faith does correlate with stronger and longer marriages. Reasons for these church-goers’ lower divorce rates may include having a community of support to help churchgoers live out the churches’ teachings. There were important correlations of note:

“Whether young or old, male or female, low-income or not, those who said they were more religious reported higher levels of commitment to their partners, higher levels of marital satisfaction, less thinking and talking about divorce, and lower levels of negative interaction.  These patterns held true when controlling for such important variables as income, education, and age at first marriage,” reported Professor Scott Stanley, sociologist from the University of Denver. (From FactChecker: Divorce Rate Among Christians)

Jennifer Roback Morse writes in the National Review Online that the false assumptions that Christians divorce at the same rate as others is harmful because 1.) It contributes to a general sense that divorce is inevitable. 2.) It demoralizes people on a personal and policy level. 3.) It makes Christians appear to be hypocrites. 4.) People don’t know that religious practice has a stabilizing effect on marriages.

However, in every culture and religion, I think we can agree that divorce more common than we would hope.

Do you believe your belief system and/or religious practice affects your marital strength?

Get Inspiration for Your Marriage:

Lori Lowe 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, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com. Pick up your copy today!

Photo by David Castillo Dominici courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Researchers: Divorced friends may have good marriage advice

Some divorced individuals have learning experiences through their divorce that can help others, researchers say. The Early Years of Marriage Project, a long-term NIH-funded study on marriage divorce that began more than 25 years ago found that divorced people may have some valuable insights to share.

The study included 373 couples between the ages of 25 and 37 who were in their first year of marriage in 1986. Nearly half of them divorced, and 70 percent went on to new relationships.

Researchers also found value in asking happily married couples what makes their marriages work. But they concede that the divorced couples can tell about what they learned about marriage the hard way, and what they would do differently. More than 40 percent of the divorced individuals remarried, and they shared some of the things that they carried to their second marriages. Read the TODAY article here for details.

A couple of the points researchers found included:

Nearly half of subjects said money strained their first marriages. That’s why 60 percent didn’t share expenses in their new relationships. Instead of resolving their money issues, they felt it was better to set up a system that kept financial conflict at bay.

Researchers found that men needed “affective affirmation” –such as as compliments or physical contact that shows support from their wives as an important part of their relationship.  Men needed this non-sexual support more than women, because they don’t often hear positive feedback from others in their lives as women do.

It’s too early for the researchers to determine if these second marriages will fare better than their first in the long run. However, the point is that failure often teaches us some important lessons. If you have a divorced friend who tells you he wishes he had shown more affection to his wife, or who says she wishes she had appreciated her husband’s efforts more, those are lessons worth listening to. If they have a lot of anger about their ex, perhaps it’s best to change the subject.

Lori Lowe is the founder of Marriage Gems and 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, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by imagerymajestic courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Is “Good Fighting” Beneficial to Marriage?

Many couples fear that frequent arguing can signal their relationship’s demise. It may be the type of arguing you do, not the frequency, that determines your fate.

Do couples that fight actually have an edge? A 2012 study found that 44 percent of married couples believe that fighting more than once a week helps keep the lines of communication open.

William Doherty, professor in the University of Minnesota’s department of family social science says although this study was done in India, it reinforces similar U.S. studies. He warns, however, that only “good fighting” can be helpful, and that “bad fighting” can be destructive.

A “good fight” would be a discussion or conflict with a soft start-up rather than a hard start-up. For example, a soft start-up may begin, “I’m feeling very overwhelmed and could really use some help.” On the other hand, a hard start-up may begin, “Why am I the only one who ever does any housework around here?”

Here are a few other tips from Doherty on “good fighting”:

  1. Dealing with an issue can be better than ignoring it, especially if resentment is building.
  2. Focus only on the topic at hand; don’t bring up old issues.
  3. Don’t bring in third parties or their opinions.
  4. Don’t compare your spouse to someone else.
  5. Don’t use “you always/never”.
  6. Remember to RESPECT one another.
  7. Apologize when it’s warranted. This shows you value the relationship.

You can check out the source article at the Chicago Tribune: Couples who argue together stay together.

Check out Lori Lowe’s book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage,  at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com

Photo by Photostock courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Divorce Rates are Declining, and Why Stats are Overrated

One of the biggest myths I frequently hear reported is that half of all marriages end in divorce. Analysts at McCrindle Research report that the divorce rate is one in three, not one in two.  “Marriages are actually doing better these days and the divorce rates are declining and have been for more than 30 years,” says social analyst Mark McCrindle.

The “one in two marriages will fail” is an example of a myth perpetuated by careless reporting of statistics. McCrindle says myths become accepted because the numbers give them “an element of believability.”

What harm is there to believing incorrect facts about marriage? Plenty. Couples enter marriage with lower expectations when they hear divorce rates of 50 percent and higher. Some decide it’s not even worth the risk of marriage, because they fear divorce is inevitable. I hear many young people questioning why they would get married when they lived through a family breakdown and/or hear the difficult odds of marital success. And others decide not to fight for their marriage or commit during difficulties, because they don’t believe they will succeed “against the odds.” Incorrect stats can therefore lead to lower marriage rates and higher divorce rates.

Research was carried out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics-based research to disprove five commonly accepted, but incorrect assumptions often heard in daily life. Two of the assumptions related to marriage. Other than the divorce rate, the other myth relates to the “seven-year itch” when people believe most divorces occur. In fact, researchers say divorce comes after an average of 12.3 years. To read about the other myths, read the Herald Sun article here.

Keep in mind that “on average” means that many last longer, and many don’t last as long. If many couples divorce in the first year, that brings the average marriage length way down. If a “median” is reported, that means half of the cases fall above this time period, and half fall below it. It doesn’t mean that time period for divorce is the most frequent.

 The U.S. Census reports that roughly one in five adults has ever been divorced.

What’s the point?

The takeaway is read/share your data with a skeptical eye, and to not perpetuate myths like “half of all marriages end in divorce.” Plenty of people complain about the difficulties of marriage, but if you have a strong marriage, don’t be shy about encouraging others. Be a positive voice for marriage where you work, in your church, in your home, and your words will have a ripple effect. Share blog posts with a couple who might find them helpful, along with a short email. Or consider mentoring a younger couple if you have a strong marriage.

If you know a couple who is planning to get married, realize that they are hearing many negative comments about the odds of their eventual success. Counter that with loving comments and positivity. No couple wants to be a part of a statistic; they want to know their union is unique and celebrated.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. The book tells the true stories that demonstrate that marriage can thrive even in the most difficult circumstances. Learn from 12 inspiring couples who experienced child loss, infidelity, drug addiction, cancer, financial crises, brain injury, stranger rape, military service, infertility, opposing religions, unsupportive families, interracial relationships, raising special-needs children, and much more. These couples found the pressures of life didn’t destroy them; instead, they crystallized their commitment to each other. Available from Amazon.com or at your favorite e-book retailer.

Photo by Photostock courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net.