Category Archives: Marriage Research

Can a math formula offer secret to lasting love?

I’m a “word person” more than a “math person”, so I was surprised that a mathematical formula can help us be successful in love.

The brains behind the formula is mathematician Dr. Hannah Fry who works at the UCL Center for Advanced Spacial Analysis in London. She used her unique expertise to explain in a TED Talk and book of the same name “The Mathematics of Love.” In short, Fry explains that the best predictor of long-lasting relationships is the level of positive and negative experiences with one another. She analyzed data from psychologist marriage expert John Gottman, who observed couples for many years in conversations with their partners.

As many of us know through our own experiences, happier couples have more positive interactions with one another. Couples who are less happy and at higher risk of breakup have fewer positive interactions. But there’s more to it. One of the reasons how they deal with negative situations is important is that couples with lots of positivity give one another the benefit of the doubt when their partner is negative. They dismiss a negative comment or action as unusual and may attribute it to fatigue or stress at work. Those in more negative relationships tend to do the reverse. A negative comment is considered “typical” or “normal” and the actions are attributed to the person. For example, a grumpy comment may reinforce the thought that the partner is selfish or unkind. The negativity then can spiral downward.

We may not realize our daily reactions and interactions with our spouse can influence our relationship so much. A spouse who agrees or encourages in response to a comment is likely to receive a positive response back. A spouse who interrupts, dismisses or ignores is likely to receive a negative response back, and perhaps start a spiral down to more frustration or anger. One of the largest predictors of divorce was therefore related to positive or negative reactions, with more positive couples having a low risk of divorce and more negative couples having a high risk of divorce.

The surprising twist is that Fry surmised that the best relationships would have a “high negativity threshold” bringing up issues only if they were very important. The opposite was true. “The most successful relationships are the ones with really low negativity threshold,” Fry writes. They constantly repair the tiny issues between them, not allowing any to grow and fester. So while they have more positive interactions, they are not afraid to have a negative interaction if it means repairing part of the relationship that needs to be fixed. Perhaps they have a more positive or gentler way of addressing those issues if positivity is their more frequent pattern.

Fry’s formula also factors in the wife’s or husband’s mood when alone and with their spouse. If you want the formula and its explanation, check out her Ted Talk. It’s in the last third of the talk, following math tips for online dating and how to pick the perfect partner. Incidentally, she says the formula works the same for two spouses as it does for two countries in an arms race.

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How Does Media Use Affect Your Marriage?

LADY HOLDING PHONE morguefile
Does gaming or social media use affect marriage satisfaction? Sometimes.

A study by Utah State University researchers assessed how social media, television watching and gaming affects marital conflict, perceived instability and marital satisfaction. Researchers Jeffrey Dew and Sarah Tulane surveyed 3,455 people for this study. There were some interesting gender differences and similarities depending on which area of media was studied. TV use did not appear to have much of an effect of marriage quality. However, they found some interesting correlations with social media and gaming.

Social Media

They found wives often used social media more than their husbands, but that this difference didn’t correlate with more marital dissatisfaction. However, when husbands spent more time on social networking than their wives, they and their wives were more likely to report marital conflict.

The researchers surmised that husbands who perceived their marriage to be unstable might have been using social media to strengthen other relationships or develop new relationships (including romantic ones).

Gaming

When both partners spent the same amount of time gaming, it did not appear to affect marriage quality. However, if either the wife or the husband spent more time playing, this was associated with higher conflict, lower satisfaction and higher perceived instability for their marriage. Researchers were surprised there were not more gender differences with gaming.

Bottom Line

The researchers warn that it is difficult to draw clear cause-and-effect conclusions from their data, but they advise talking to your spouse about expectations as a couple, including how much media use is acceptable for you both.

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 20 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.

New Research Reveals How Porn Affects Relationships

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Couples who believe that viewing pornography is morally acceptable, and who have even heard experts say limited porn use can be “fine” may now be interested in research showing how porn use negatively affects intimate relationships. The research is causing experts to change their recommendations and advise couples (and individuals) that pornography is harmful.

Laissez-fair attitudes about porn are changing, and some heavy hitters have recently voiced their concerns with how widespread porn use has affected modern culture. Following are a few summaries of these changing views and a brief explanation of what experts are learning about what they call “arousal addiction.”

Time Magazine’s April 2016 cover story “Porn and the Threat to Virility” is one mainstream example of how a culture that used to be accepting of porn use is now highlighting how its use can be harmful. Men who grew up using porn as teens have started a movement to expose the harm it has caused in their lives, starting with decreased virility and libido.

For a fairly entertaining explanation of the brain changes that occur with porn viewing, view this TED Talk by Gary Wilson called “The great porn experiment. Wilson explains the physical changes that occur in the brain with porn viewing and how they lead to “arousal addiction.” He also shares experiences from the new control group of men who have become ex-users as a result of widespread erectile dysfunction, depression, social anxiety and memory/focus problems that disappeared once they gave up porn. Pornography use can be more detrimental to teens because of the increased plasticity of their brains, says Wilson. In fact, older men improve their symptoms faster than younger men, but both of them can reverse the negative effects and often feel a “rebirth” after giving up porn, Wilson says.

Relationship experts Drs. John and Julie Gottman released an “Open Letter on Porn” in April that changes their stance on the acceptability of porn use. “Research on the effects of pornography use, especially one person viewing pornographic images online, shows that pornography can hurt a couple’s relationship,” say the Gottmans. Research suggests pornography can be a “supernormal stimulus” that causes interest to decrease in their normal sexual partner.

“Pornography poses a serious threat to couple intimacy and relationship harmony,” the Gottmans conclude. Read their letter for further details; I will merely highlight a few points they make here:

  1. Use of pornography by one partner leads the couple to have far less sex and ultimately reduces relationship satisfaction.
  2. Porn use threatens a relationship’s intimacy by causing the partner using it to turn away from intimate interaction with their partner.
  3. Because the person watching porn is in total control of his or her sexual experience, that person may form the unrealistic expectation that sex with their partner will also be totally under their control.
  4. Porn sites often include violence toward women and perpetuate ideas that violence is acceptable.
  5. Porn use can become an addiction causing the same brain mechanism changes that occur with other addictions, such as gambling or drug use.
  6. Porn use can lead to a decrease in relationship trust and an increase in affairs.

In other (not as recent) research, a Journal of Neurosurgery and Neurosciences (Surgical Neurology International) published an article entitled “Pornography addiction: A neuroscience perspective” by Donald Hilton and Clark Watts, who outline the chemical changes and anatomical changes that occur in the brain with various types of addictions, including addiction to pornography use. They studied the physical changes that occur with porn use as compared with eating addictions, cocaine and opioid addiction, and others.

Some conclusions made in this scientific paper:

“In 2006 world pornography revenue was 97 billion dollars, more than Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple and Netflix combined. This is no casual, inconsequential phenomenon, yet there is a tendency to trivialize the possible social and biologic effects of pornography. The sex industry has successfully characterized any objection to pornography as being from the religious/moral perspective; they then dismiss these objections and First Amendment infringements. If pornography addiction is viewed objectively, evidence indicates that it does indeed cause harm in humans with regard to pair bonding.”

As with the conclusions by the Gottmans, Hilton and Watts also express concern that data demonstrates a strong correlation with regard to pornography inducing violent attitudes against women. They say it is irresponsible not to address this issue considering the current patterns of porn use. (In 2001 87% of college age men viewed porn, 50% weekly and 20% every day or two, 31% women viewing as well.)

The bottom line is that experts are now realizing porn use interferes with healthy intimacy between partners, changes the brain chemistry, negatively affects sexual performance, and can negatively affect performance in other areas of life.

Does this research change your views on pornography?

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 20 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.

Spouses need to feel their partner “gets” them

couple talking morguefileWhen having a fight, couples who can still see where their partner is coming from bounce back better after the fight, and view the fight as a “healthy one.” Bottom line:  we need to feel that our partner “gets us” even when we are not in agreement.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, conducted experiments with 85 people in relationships and studied the couples’ arguments, as well as how happy they were in the relationship and whether they felt their partner understood them. When couples did not feel understood by their partner, they felt less satisfied with the relationship after a fight, and visa versa.

But partners didn’t have to be completely understood, they had to feel understood. The key was whether their partner expressed empathy with their position.

To say it differently, whether you agree or not isn’t the issue. Expressing empathy and understanding is. If you want your partner to feel happy with your relationship, it’s important to convey that you still appreciate your partner and where they are coming from, regardless of whether you agree.

“Feeling understood, regardless of whether it’s grounded in reality, can be enormously good for general well-being,” said researcher Serena Chen. “Conveying that you understand but don’t agree can go a long way. We know this, but we don’t often do it.”

Expressing empathy is not pretending to agree. Instead, partners who vocalize empathy are bridging the divide, avoiding accusatory “you” statements, and helping the other person feel their views are valued.

“I get you,” is the message we need to convey, even in a fight.

Next time you disagree on politics, chores, or anything else, see if you can take the time to let you partner know you hear what they are saying, and that you “get” them.

 

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 20 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.

Ultimate Intimacy? Money Talk

money morguefileFinancial experts say some American couples resist financial discussions. They say couples who avoid money talk are avoiding the ultimate form of intimacy. Open financial communication is one way couples can prevent conflict or resentment over finances.

American men and women polled by TD Bank view marital finances differently, with more men calling themselves “breadwinners” and more women viewing the family’s money as “ours” (54%), compared to 48% of men saying the same.

One in three people committed financial infidelity last year, and 40% don’t know how much their partner earned—according to other recent studies.

Talking honestly, early, and regularly about finances helps prevent divisions, say experts, as well as using a joint account for joint expenses.

Who pays the bills, invests the money, and makes the financial goals in your home? Are you both up to date on accounts, debts and activities?

I’ve found using a third party financial expert to review and regularly update finances helps us both stay informed. It also keeps one spouse from having most of the financial responsibility for key decisions on financial planning or investing. We feel strongly that both spouses should be financially prepared and informed–including insurance accounts, bank accounts, etc. Check your beneficiaries to be sure there are no surprises in the event of death or disability.

What’s your strategy for financial transparency in your marriage? Do you need to schedule a money talk?

Source: USA Today

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.

Top 15 Sources of Relationship Conflict

back of couple morguefileIt helps to acknowledge a problem before we can begin to address it. And it helps to know where the potential pitfalls are if we hope not to end up in one. The following top 15 sources of conflict in a relationship are a starting point to pinpointing potential relationship problems. Think of your own behavior first, rather than on your spouse’s behavior.

If you need to address one or more of these items with your partner, avoid sentences that begin with “you always” or other blaming words. Consider a friend or counselor to assist with serious concerns.

Researcher Dr. Gary Lewandowski of Science of Relationships cited the following as the most common sources of conflict, from most commonly mentioned to least. He says being aware of trouble spots may help you both attempt to avoid them.

Your partner is…
1) Condescending (i.e., treats you as stupid or inferior, acts like he/she is better than you
2) Possessive, jealous, and/or dependent (i.e., demands too much attention or time; generally acts jealous/possessive/dependent)
3) Neglecting, rejecting, and/or unreliable (i.e., ignores your feelings, doesn’t call, doesn’t say they love you, etc.)
4) Abusive (i.e., slaps, spits, hits, calls names or is verbally abusive)
5) Unfaithful (i.e., had sex with another person, saw someone intimately, or went out with another partner)
6) Inconsiderate (i.e., doesn’t help clean up, burps in your face, leaves toilet seat up or down!, etc.)
7) Physically self¬-absorbed (i.e., worries too much about appearance, focuses too much on hair or face, spends too much on clothes, etc.)
8) Moody (i.e., moody, emotionally unstable, or bitchy)
9) Sexually withholding or rejecting (i.e., refuses to have sex, doesn’t act interested, or is a sexual tease…but not in a playful way)
10) Quick to sexualize others (i.e., talks about attractiveness of others, talks about others as sex objects, idolizes someone on TV, etc.)
11) Abusive with alcohol and/or is emotionally constricted (i.e., drinks too much, smokes too much, or hides emotions in order to appear tough)
12) Disheveled (i.e., doesn’t dress well, doesn’t groom well, and doesn’t take care of his/her appearance)
13) Insulting toward your appearance (i.e., says you’re ugly or insults aspects your appearance)
14) Sexually aggressive (i.e., uses you for sex or forces sex on you)
15) Self-centered (i.e., selfish or always thinks of him/herself first)

What surprised you about the list? I was surprised that condescension was so much more commonly mentioned than self-centeredness, but condescending words or attitudes easily stir up anger and resentment and may come to mind easily.

Read the list again and try to thinking about how you can do or be the opposite of these. For example, how to be considerate, kind, faithful, etc. to your spouse.

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.

Two common patterns that can lead to divorce

couple talk morguefileAccording to the Gottman Institute, two common patterns often reveal when a couple is likely to end up in an early divorce or late divorce.

Couples who don’t make it more than a few years after their wedding day are those who are stuck in a negative cycle, says John Gottman, University of Washington psychologist and founder of the Gottman institute.

What does it mean to get stuck in a negative cycle? The negative interactions and responses become so common as to be rather automatic, and the partner responds in kind to that negativity with more negativity. The friendship and affection that began in the relationship fades further and further into the background.

“This negativity becomes all-encompassing. They check in but they don’t check out. It’s like the roach hotel model. There’s a rapid deterioration of intimacy and friendship where they become one another’s adversary instead of one another’s friends,” he explains.

It may seem rather obvious that these couples are doomed to fail. However, it is our natural reaction to lash out with negativity when we feel attacked. Either partner can stop this cycle by refusing to participate and by learning to build the friendship and affection back in. Of course, real problems may need to be addressed, but often we over-react to small perceived failings or slights. For instance, if your spouse forgets to run an errand for you, don’t say that is a sign of lack of caring when it may be just forgetfulness or busyness. Responding with kindness or forgiveness can keep the cycle from spinning out of control. We need to have many more positive interactions than negative ones to maintain a healthy relationship.

The couples who are predicted to experience a divorce much later are those who “agree to disagree” says Gottman. Around 16 years after the wedding, at the time many parents have teens, these couples end the marriage because they refused to address their problems. In their decision to withdraw from all conflict, they didn’t resolve any real issues. As the years fly by, then may feel they are in an empty marriage. The marriage can last a long time but are called “hostile detached couples” and are often demonstrated by couples who rarely talk at meal times.

So in deciding not to participate in the negative cycles of the first type of couple, we need to not pretend to have a relationship, but rather work to actually maintain a healthy, loving relationship. Sharing time together, building and maintaining good communication and affection, and working through real problems are all part of what successful couples do.

Have you seen other couples in these cycles? Is it harder to see yourself or others falling into these patterns?
Source: Business Insider

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.