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10 Scientific Ways to Lead A Loving and Lasting Marriage

10 Scientific Ways to Lead A Loving and Lasting Marriage

Let’s face the truth, here. Marriage is a journey, isn’t it? Once the honeymoon phase of marriage is complete, couples are left with the non-exceptional and routine expectations of everyday life. They go to work, cook, do laundry, pay bills, and manage family and social relationships. Oh, and those pesky little things called “differences”. Those need to be worked out too.

This is a lot for couples to manage, yet many underestimate this unexplored dimension of married life. Much of married life is acted out in the everyday behaviors, actions, thoughts, and interactions that you and your spouse have. Yet, there seems to be some things that healthy couples do and things that unhealthy couples do. These things set the successful marriages apart from the unsuccessful marriages. Well, this is your chance to give your marriage a check-up. Read on to see ten things that healthy couples do that could extend their relationship indefinitely. (These things are backed up by research, so it isn’t just a bobble-head talking here!)

1. Play the math game

If you have ever played any type of game in life, then you’re in luck. Marriage can be a game too. Marriage researcher, Dr. John Gottman, is the one of the foremost authorities on what makes marriages work. In fact, he is so accurate that he can predict whether you will get divorced with 96% accuracy. That’s a pretty amazing percentage considering most things in life are not so accurate. So, what is something that Dr. Gottman has found that successful marriages do?

Marriage can be a numbers game – Dr. John Gottman noticed that healthy couples have five positive interactions for every one negative interaction. These could also be understood as having five positive feelings to every one negative feeling. In their ground-breaking book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (2000), Gottman and Silver write that having a 5:1 ratio of positive interactions to negative interactions is a sign of a healthy relationship. And one that may help you avoid the painful conclusion of divorce.

In order to test your ratio, put a piece of paper on the kitchen refrigerator. Divide it into two columns. Label one column “negative” and the other “positive”. Both you and your spouse are responsible for monitoring the ratio. At the end of week, see how many positive and negative interactions you’ve had. Don’t fret if it skews toward the negative side the first week. Another week is coming and you get another chance. Ultimately, you are responsible for your own behavior, so do your part. Take your eyes off what your spouse is doing, or not doing. Your goal, for example, could be to get to your ideal ratio in three months. Be sure to celebrate improvements in your ratio by going out on dates, giving each other back rubs, or smacking your spouse with the juiciest kiss you’ve ever given.

2. Remember your history

One of the many ways couples become disengaged with each other is to forget their history. Think of a ship’s anchor: it serves a very important purpose. Not only is an anchor useful when there are turbulent waters in the midst of a maiden journey, but anchors usually provide a sense of assurance. Whenever needed, the ship can be secured and stabilized. Furthermore, an anchor is controlled by the ship captain and can be deployed at any moment. It is always there.

Life can take marriages through turbulent waters. I have worked with hundreds of couples whose waves are capsizing the ship and there is no sign of an anchor. In marriage, I see a relationship’s courtship and the early days of a marriage as the relationship anchor.

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In an article titled, “Family Beginnings: A Comparison of Spouses’ Recollections of Courtship” (2005), Dr. James J. Ponzetti from the University of British Columbia writes that couples use their relationship’s beginning stories as a way to highlight several things. One is to highlight the basis for the marriage taking place. In other words, why did the marriage become a reality? When couples were interviewed, they were able to highlight the positive reasons that led them to marry. The marriage is justified and feelings of happiness and positive recollections flood the couple.  Additionally, these stories help highlight that although a couple may be experiencing turbulence, their relationship is more than just what is happening currently. A relationship history can offer long-forgotten reasons for why the relationship is worth fighting for or saving. Furthermore, every relationship has survived tough times. Many times, relationship beginnings have stories of successes and triumphs that have become buried in piles of countless arguments, petty differences and negative feelings.

Here’s what to do with this: take a night this week or next and spend 30 minutes on the couch with your spouse and tell your story of getting together, courting, and eventually marrying. Tell it to each other. See if it matches. Have some fun with it. Laugh and recollect. You can choose to take this challenge even further: send your unique marriage story to me personally, and I’ll select TWO inspiring and awesome stories to post on my website (click my picture below for web address) for everyone to read. I believe we need to use our marriage anchors more frequently and celebrate them, especially when times get tough.

3. Be positive

Remember that old saying, about seeing the glass half-full, instead of half-empty?

Well, it turns out that if applied to your marriage, it could greatly benefit it. In some ways, being positive in your marriage is like giving it a super-strength pill.

According to her article titled, “The Happy Couple” (2005), Suzann Pileggi investigated several studies that point to the benefits of being positive in marriage. One of the benefits is that choosing to look on the bright side is NOT ignoring problems. In fact, being positive and upbeat helps make your marriage bond stronger, increases marital satisfaction, expands your thinking, and allows for working better together toward solutions to those problems.

Examples of being positive include expressing gratitude towards your partner, celebrating accomplishments, being enthusiastic and doing fun activities together. Need a little more positivity in your marriage? Take an evening walk and tell your spouse a joke on the way. The next morning, leave him or her a note on their pillow letting them know one special thing you really appreciate about them.

4. Be a chain-breaker

No one comes from a perfect family. And although some families may present with healthier characteristics than others, it is ultimately up to you and your spouse to alter the future. Ever seen the iconic film Back to the Future II? Then remember that every couple has the opportunity to influence the future of their children and their families.

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In the 1950s, psychiatrist and family therapist Dr. Murray Bowen established that individuals and families tend to pass along traits, beliefs, and behaviors from generation to generation. Known as the “multi-generational transmission process”, this process is actually alterable, yet many of us fall into its trap. The way we behave, think and act in marriage is also a reflection of the families we came from and our marriages suffer for it.

In an article titled, “Breaking the Chain of Negative Family Influences” (2005), Dr. Roberta L. I. Margarrell and Dr. Dean E. Barley  write about “transitional persons.” These are the ones who interrupt and ultimately stop negative and unhealthy patterns from being passed on to future generations. Some of the ways in which transitional persons do this include, but are not limited to, an increased awareness of negative and unhealthy circumstances, a strong desire to change, persistent focus on making the changes happen, and getting help from others to make these changes happen.

Are you and your spouse transitional persons? What are you inserting into your marriage that came from your family of origin? Think about it: which behaviors and patterns are you passing on? Which behaviors and patterns are you eliminating?

5. Make marriage about friendship

Friendship is a wonderful word. Although friendship can be defined in many ways, there are two basic requirements for friendship: trust and admiration. There are very common phrases that float around in society about friendship, such as “a friend is always there, even when we’re not,” or, as Aristotle put it, “friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.”

In a study titled, “Ties that Bind: A Qualitative Study of Long-term Marriages” (2001) by Leslie L. Bachand, M.S. and Sandra L. Caron, Ph.D, friendship was one of the top responses couples gave when asked why their marriages have lasted as long as they had, which in this article ranged from 38 to 54 years.

One of the enemies of friendship in marriage is chaos and lack of scheduled time to act friendly towards each other. Set time apart to work on building that friendship with your spouse. Once children come in and careers take off, competition for your attention and time will be fierce. Schedule it in your calendars and hold each other accountable for building the blocks to a great marriage friendship.

6. Commit to getting marital therapy

Just like you take your car to get a tune-up, or go to the batting cages to work on your swing, taking your marriage to the “shop” is something that could improve your married life.

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In 2005, Douglas K. Snyder and W. Kim Halford reviewed several studies that dealt with measuring the effectiveness of couples therapy in their article titled, “Evidence-based couples therapy: current status and future directions.” They reported that five different couple therapies showed a statistically significant effect on improving marital distress, especially when compared with couples receiving no treatment at all. Furthermore, marital therapy has also been shown to help with other individual psychological disorders, even including medical problems.

If you and your partner have received marital therapy before, then great job! If you haven’t ventured in that direction, then the recommendation is that you try it – at least once. It would not hurt to try and you may even be surprised by the benefits. Plus, rest easy in knowing that you are taking care of your life’s most important investment.

7. Don’t be shameless

Do you remember forgiving your best friend when you were a child? It was so easy. There you were with a big scrape on your knee because you and your best friend in the whole world had just had a fight. Yet, you knew deep inside that you would forgive them and in about five minutes, and then you’d be best friends again. Life was easy and peaceful. Plus, it was a pretty sure deal that your friend authentically apologized for being so mean – so that just made it too easy to forgive them.

In marriage, forgiveness is the knot in your marriage rope that keeps your union strong. In a 2014 study of 33 couples out of York University on how forgiveness is established in a relationship, it was found that expressing shame rather than guilt increases the chance that the injured partner develops empathy and eventually softens to show acceptance towards the offending partner. The authors, Meneses and Greenberg, write the following:

“In sum, the expression of primary shame related to the emotional injury in the injurer communicates genuine
suffering for having been responsible for damaging the relationship and empathic distress for the
injured partner’s pain. Its expression helps evoke a more empathic/accepting response from the
injured partner, which facilitates forgiveness.”

This allows for the process of forgiveness to set in, which ultimately protects the marriage from breaking down over time.

The next time you cross a hurtful line with your partner or spouse, be sure to leave the guilt at home and revel in some shame instead.

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8. Use quality and constructive communication

In a 2013 study, over 1,000 couples were studied to see if either constructive or destructive communication affected the relationship between work-life balance and marital satisfaction. It was found that constructive communication had a positive effect on marital satisfaction. It may seem obvious; however, the study showed that the quality of the communication was the factor that influenced the marital relationship – regardless of the circumstances surrounding any work-life balance difficulties. So, you could have a bad day at work, but still positively impact your marital satisfaction.

Therefore, the individuals in the couple relationship had the decision to make: either use constructive communication, or destructive communication. Constructive communication involved being able to self-soothe, show empathy and be clear about what you’re communicating. On the other hand, being defensive, feeling contempt, criticizing and feeling flooded were all indicative of destructive communication.

9. Pray for each other

A little prayer never hurt anyone or anything. Although the discussion of whether there is a God or not will probably go on for years and years to come, the psychological and relationship effects of prayer have been studied extensively. In a 2014 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology (2014) it was found that what is called “Partner-focused Petitionary Prayer,” or PFPP, was linked to increased relationship commitment. The prayer patterns must be focused on praying for the needs of your partner, not necessarily just for your own.

Although the study did not state how many prayers to make, I believe that there should not be a limit. Instead, follow your heart and if you feel like praying for your partner while waiting at the local Starbucks, then there’s your chance.

10. Don’t forget to laugh

When you laugh together, you are in essence injecting positive emotions and cementing lasting memories into your marriage story. Remember, a marriage really is a story, and most successful stories include a healthy amount of humor. In an article titled, “Laughter Makes Love Last” (2007), published in the magazine Prevention, laughter was pinpointed as a marker for marital strength and bonding. You might have to put on your comedian hat even if you don’t consider yourself funny. It is important to note that humor doesn’t just include doing stand-up comedy, or performing skits in front of the family. Humor in marriage involves noticing the quirky, odd, and strange behaviors associated with that person you decided to marry. It could also involve simply “trying” to be funny. Just trying to be funny, sometimes, ends up being funny.

Hopefully, these ten marital insights will give you some ideas on how to have a long, loving and lasting marriage. Hopefully, it also gave you and your spouse a healthy dose of affirmation if you’ve already been doing these things. Marriage is definitely complex, so take it one step at a time, and invest, invest, and invest some more in your marriage to increase the odds that it will thrive and last.

Featured photo credit: kiss via freeimages.com

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Last Updated on August 19, 2019

How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

We live in a world that constantly tells us what to do, how to act, what to be. Knowing how to be true to yourself and live the life you want can be a challenge.

When someone asks how we are, we assume that the person does not mean the question sincerely, for it would lead to an in depth conversation. So telling them that you are good or fine, even if you’re not, is the usual answer.

In an ideal world, we would stop and truly listen. We wouldn’t be afraid to be ourselves. Instead, when we answer about how we are doing, our mask, the persona we show the world, tightens. Sometimes even more so than it might have been before. Eventually, it becomes hard to take off, even when you’re alone.

Imagine a world where we asked how someone was doing and they really told us. Imagine a world where there were no masks, only transparency when we talked to one another.

If you want to live in a world that celebrates who you are, mistakes and all, take off the mask. It doesn’t mean you have to be positive or fine all the time.

According to a Danish psychologist, Svend Brinkman, we expect each other to be happy and fine every second, and we expect it of ourselves. And that “has a dark side.”[1] Positive psychology can have its perks but not at the expense at hiding how you truly feel in order to remain seemingly positive to others.

No one can feel positive all the time and yet, that is what our culture teaches us to embrace. We have to unlearn this. That said, telling others you are ‘“fine”’ all the time is actually detrimental to your wellbeing, because it stops you from being assertive, from being authentic or your truest self.

When you acknowledge a feeling, it leads you to the problem that’s causing that feeling; and once you identify the problem, you can find a solution to it. When you hide that feeling, you stuff it way down so no one can help you.You can’t even help yourself.

Feelings are there for one reason: to be felt. That doesn’t mean you have to act on that feeling. It just means that you start the process of problem solving so you can live the life you want.

1. Embrace Your Vulnerability

When you are your true self, you can better self-advocate or stand up for what you need. Your self-expression matters, and you should value your voice. It’s okay to need things, it’s okay to speak up, and it’s okay not to be okay.

Telling someone you are simply “fine” when you are not, does your story and your journey a great disservice. Being true to yourself entails embracing all aspects of your existence.

When you bring your whole self to the table, there is nothing that you can’t beat. Here’re 7 benefits of being vulnerable you should learn.

Can you take off the mask? This is the toughest thing anyone can do. We have learned to wait until we are safe before we start to be authentic.

In relationships especially, this can be hard. Some people avoid vulnerability at any cost. And in our relationship with ourselves, we can look in the mirror and immediately put on the mask.

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It all starts with your story. You have been on your own unique journey. That journey has led you here, to the person you are today. You have to be unafraid, and embrace all aspects of that journey.

You should seek to thrive, not just survive. That means you do not have to compete or compare yourself with anyone.

Authenticity means you are enough. It’s enough to be who you are to get what you want.

What if for the first time ever, you were real? What if you said what you wanted to say, did what you wanted to do, and didn’t apologize for it?

You were assertive, forthcoming in your opinions or actions to stand for what is right for you, (rather than being passive or aggressive) in doing so. You didn’t let things get to you. You knew you had something special to offer.

That’s where we all should be.

So, answer me this:

How are you, really?

And know that no matter the answer, you should still be accepted.

Bravery is in the understanding that you still may not be accepted for your truth.

Bravery is knowing you matter even when others say that you do not.

Bravery is believing in yourself when all evidence counters doing so (i.e. past failures or losses)

Bravery is in being vulnerable while knowing vulnerability is a sign of strength.

It’s taking control.

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2. Choose Your Attitude in Adversity

You can take control of your destiny and live the life you want by being true to yourself. You can start anytime. You can start today.

You can start with one day at a time, just facing what happens that day. Most of us get overwhelmed when faced with the prospect of a big change. Even if the only thing we change is our attitude.

In one instant, you can become a different person with a change of attitude. When you take control of your attitude, you become able to better understand what is around you. This allows you to move forward.

Originally, you may have had a life plan. It could have started when you were little; you were hoping to become a mermaid, doctor, astronaut or all three when you grew up. You were hoping to be someone. You were hoping to be remembered.

You can still dream those dreams, but eventually reality sets in. Obstacles and struggles arise. You set on a different path when the last one didn’t work out. You think of all the “shoulds” in your life in living the life you want. You should be doing this…should be doing that…

Clayton Barbeau, psychologist, coined the term “shoulding yourself.’[2] When we are set on one path and find ourselves doing something different. It becomes all the things you should be doing rather than seeing the opportunities right in front of you.

But in all this disarray, did you lose sight of the real you?

It may be in our perceived failures and blunders that we lose sight of who we are, because we try to maintain position and status.

In being who we really are and achieving what we really want, we need to be resilient: How to Build Resilience to Face What Life Throws at You

It means that we do not see all possibilities of what might happen, but must trust ourselves to begin again, and continue to build the life we want. In the face of adversity, you must choose your attitude.

Can attitude overcome adversity? It certainly helps. While seeking to be true to yourself and live the life you want, you will have to face a fact:

Change will happen.

Whether that change is good or bad is unique to each person and their perspective.

You might have to start over, once, twice, a few times. It doesn’t mean that everything will be okay, but that you will be okay. What remains or should remain is the true you. When you’ve lost sight of that, you’ve lost sight of everything.

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And then, you rebuild. Moment after moment, day after day. We all have a choice, and in this moment, that matters.

You can choose to have a positive attitude, seeing the silver lining in each situation and, where there is none, the potential for one. Maybe that silver lining is you and what you will do with the situation. How will you use it for something good?

That’s how you can tap into yourself and your power. Sometimes it happens by accident, sometimes on purpose. It can happen when we aren’t even looking for it, or it can be your only focus. Everyone gets there differently.

You can rise, or you can remain. Your choice.

When the worst happens, you can rely on your authenticity to pull you through. That’s because Self Advocacy, speaking up to let others know what you need, is part of finding the real you.

There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Or sometimes, helping others can help us deal with the pain of a hurtful situation. You decide how you’re going to help others, and suddenly, you become your best self.

3. Do What Makes You Happy When No One’s Looking

Being the best version of you has nothing to do with your success or your status. It has everything to do with your Character, what you do when no one’s looking.

In order to create the life you want, you have to be the person you want to be. Faking it till you make it is just a way to white knuckle it through your journey. You have the fire inside of you to make things right, to put the pieces together, to live authentically. And Character is how you get there.

If you fall down and you help another up while you’re down there, it’s like you rise twice.

Along with attitude, your character is about the choices you make rather than what happens to you.

Yes, it’s about doing the right thing even when obstacles seem insurmountable.  It’s about using that mountain you’ve been given to show others it can be moved.  It’s about being unapologetically you, taking control, choosing your attitude in adversity and being the best version of you to create the life you want.

How do you know what you really want? Is it truly status or success?

Unfortunately, these things do not always bring happiness. And aspects of our image or “performance driven existence” may not achieve satisfaction. Materialism is part of our refusal to accept ourselves as enough. All the things we use to repress our true selves are about being enough.

“Enoughness” is what we truly seek, but ego gets in the way.

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Ego is the perception of self as outer worth. It’s not REAL self worth.

Ego represses our true self with a new self— the self of chasing ‘“Am I ever enough?”’ questions. And instead of filling our true selves with self-love and acceptance, when we “should ourselves” and chase “enoughness,” we feed the ego or our image.

It’s important to realize YOU ARE ENOUGH, without all the material trappings.

Stanford psychologist Meagan O’Reilly describes the damage of not thinking we are enough. One of her tactics for combating this is to complete the sentence,[3]

“If I believed I were already enough, I’d ____”

What would you do if you felt you were enough?

By believing you are enough, you can live the life you want.

So many fake it to try to get there, and they end up losing themselves when they lose more and more touch with their Authenticity.

Final Thoughts

By being yourself, you are being brave. By acknowledging all you can be, you tell the universe that you can until you believe it too. The steps are easy, and you are worth it. All of it is about the purpose you are leading and the passion that is your fuel.

Being true to yourself is all about mastering how to live life authentically rather than faking or forcing it. Having the life you want (and deserve) is about being trusting in yourself and the purpose you are living for. Both need passion behind it, fueling it each second, or you will experience burn out.

When you are authentic, you can call the road you walk your own. When you live your life for you and not just the results of all your actions (faking it till you make it), you can let go of what you don’t need. This clarifies and pushes purpose to you, living for something that is greater than you.

You will find that making decisions based on what will actually achieve your goals, will help you attain the life you want, and your success with each step, will allow you to enjoy the process. Good luck!

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Featured photo credit: Ariana Prestes via unsplash.com

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