Dr. Luisa Bryce
Marital success: how to love your partner for better or worse
Surprises create positive emotions in relationships
Nobody said it was easy. No one ever said it would be this hard. – Coldplay
Marriage. There are a million different quotes and opinions detailing marriage; its complexities, its wonders, its highest highs and lowest lows. Notice how no one really talks about the average times?
No one ever said marriage was a cakewalk, but like many things in our society what is actually statedas factual and what is advertised and portrayed by the media is completely different. Take sex, for example. We teach our children to behave in a sexually appropriate manner. We preach self-respect. And then our children are exposed to half-naked pop artists who give off the impression that sexual promiscuity will equate to happiness, confidence, and self-worth. How confusing.
Another riddle to be solved in this day and age is our obesity epidemic. Medical experts tell us to exercise, eat healthy, and watch our waistlines, yet we turn on the TV and we’re instantly bombarded with fast food commercials promising big portions at low prices. Huh.
Marriage is portrayed by society in much the same light. Anyone who’s been married or is married will tell you it’s tough. But we’re made to believe by wedding magazines and fashion experts that being married (or at least getting married) will be a complete fairytale. Are we setting ourselves up for defeat by placing so much wonder and glory on the wedding?
I’d like to set the facts straight. Marriage is hard, just like parenting is hard. And how do we expect not to work at it and have it be successful? There’s no way around it. Marriage takes a heck of a lot of effort. So what gets you through? What makes a relationship persevere amidst all the stress… the financial disagreements, parenting disputes, and forgotten anniversaries?
Here’s what the latest research has to say. First, here’s what contributes to marital woes:
Many factors that predict marital success are fixed (age at the time of marriage, ethnicity, education level at time of marriage) According to the National Institute of Health, the subject of finances is the culprit for the majority of marital disputes Stress & difficulties in communicating effectively contribute greatly to marital dissatisfaction, as does lack of affection (especially for men, who tend to get less hugs from their friends)
Now here are a few tips on how to increase marital satisfaction:
Make the average a little less average
Spouses report increased happiness when their partners made them feel important and loved. Focus on increasing small, simple things every day (a kiss goodbye among the morning chaos, a caring text message during the day). Figure out what makes your spouse feel appreciated. Let your partner know you’re thankful for the life you live together.
Have a game plan for managing conflict
Sit down together when you’re both calm and think about the last fight you had. Figure out what triggered the argument and discuss how to resolve issues more effectively next time. Hold yourselves to the same standard you hold your kids (e.g. no name calling or spiteful comments). Try to agree on a few key ideas for effective conflict resolution (For example, “We both agree to give each other space when things get heated,” or “We both agree not to argue in front of the kids).
Don’t just talk about the kids
Yes, the kids are important. So are the bills, the house, and the car. However, in order for a relationship to continue to thrive, you’ve got to have meaningful conversationsbeyond the tasks of daily living. Share your hopes and dreams, your worries and fears. Stay connected and continue to get to know your spouse throughout the years beyond the role of mommy or daddy.
Have fun and try new things
Laugh every day. Humor can make or break a marital challenge. Celebrate the good times and offer support and congratulations to your spouse when accomplishments are achieved. Try something new as a couple. Research shows that novelty, surprise, and variety are key in creating and recreating positive emotions in relationships.
How do YOU add joy to your marriage? Please share your comments.