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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 February 20, 2019

How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home

How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home

Possessing effective communication skills is a powerful tool to have. Effective communication skills are essential to success in many aspects and areas of your life. There are a lot of jobs that require you to be a good communicator.

Strong communication skills help you enjoy better relationships with friends and family. Being an effective communicator will give you advantages in more ways than you can imagine.

Conversely, being poor at communicating will negatively impact your life.

Let’s take a look at how to master effective communication skills at work and home.

What is Effective Communication?

Probably a good place to start is to paint a picture of what clear communication is.

Effective communication is defined as verbal speech or other communication methods to get your point across. Sounds pretty simple, right? It does but there’s more to it than that.

It’s really about how all of us interact and communicate in every aspect of our lives. It’s the ability to say something at the right time; to be able to get multiple people on the same page in a group decision. It’s how that one friend of yours who plans most of the activities is able to get everyone to the same place at the same time.

Non-verbal communication is key to being effective as well. It’s the ability to have your body language say the right thing so the person you’re speaking to knows your listening.

Effective communicators don’t react to situations with high emotion. It means not having to say something all the time in every situation. You are even being an effective communicator when you show up to pick your daughter up from the mall when you say you will. You are communicating to her that she can rely on you.

Are You a Poor Communicator?

Before we get too deep into how to be a master communicator, let’s take a look at your communication skills.

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If you find yourself agreeing with a lot of these, you might want to sharpen your communication skills.

  • You’re constantly interrupting – Hey, I know, we all want to be listened to. We all want to get our point across. Most importantly, we want to be understood. If you find yourself interrupting all the time you aren’t listening enough.
  • Doing too much – Many of us are master multi-taskers. It’s not good if you are communicating with someone. When you try to do too much while speaking with someone, you aren’t paying attention to what they are saying. Lack of focus is bad.
  • Rambling – I know of several people I work with who do this constantly. I honestly dread having to speak to them. The worst part is even though a lot of words are coming out of their mouths, they really aren’t saying anything. I’m more confused after they answer my question.
  • Not being direct – Nothing wrong with emails or reports. However, if you can convey the same information quickly and directly to someone, it is much more effective. Why write a 2 paragraph email when you can pick up the phone and say the same information in 2 sentences?
  • Always talking about yourself – Everybody likes to relate things to their own experiences. It draws us together and helps us create a feeling of sharing and community. If you are always coloring someone else’s conversation with a similar situation in your life, people will think you are making everything about you. Don’t be that person!
  • Using a lot of qualifiers – Qualifiers are fine for the most part. When you use them as a crutch most of the time when you speak, it’s not helping your communication. Sometimes, we do this to makes things seem “softer”. Saying things like “I don’t want you to take this the wrong way but…” or “I know what you’re thinking but…” over and over doesn’t help you communicate.
  • Your ears don’t work – If you don’t listen well, you can’t answer someone correctly. In order to be an effective communicator, you have to understand what someone else is saying to you. If you don’t listen with purpose you will only have part of the picture.
  • Bad body language – The importance of body language is well documented. If you don’t look at someone when they are speaking, it appears that you don’t really care what’s being said. This makes people feel like you don’t care what they are saying and it’s not important to you. Other bad body language examples include always crossing your arms and not looking someone in the eyes.

What Effective Communication Can Do For You

Let’s take a look at how being able to effectively communicate can help you at work and in your personal relationships.

Work

  • Better client relationships – You certainly want a great communicator to be handling your client relationships. Strong communicators represent both the client and your company is the best manner.
  • Higher employee engagement – Pretty critical if you are a leader or a manager of people. An engaging and interactive communicator in a leadership position is wonderful for employees.
  • Getting better buy in from others – This is great whether you are a manager or individual contributor. Strong communicators tend to get people moving and working towards a common goal.
  • Helps mitigate conflict – Good communicators are able to help resolve conflicts quicker and easier. This helps smooth things over and keeps projects and initiatives moving forward.
  • Builds trust – You want to be able to trust who you work for and with. Effective communicators are good at establishing and building trust between people and groups.
  • Solves problems – Problems are solved by people with the ability to communicate clearly between groups and people. Those without good communication skills many times add to the confusion of a problem because they are unable to articulate their thoughts and ideas.

Personal relationships

  • Creates closeness – A good communicator is able to help foster a feeling of closeness with his or her partner.
  • Makes conflict okay – It’s actually better to fight with your partner from time to time instead of never fighting. We all have differences of opinion and points of view. When we don’t express these and bury it inside by not communicating, it just comes out later in a more negative form.
  • Provides support – It’s nice to know that someone cares about you and supports you. A strong communicator will ask how you’re doing and be a good sounding board for what you’re going through.
  • Expressing feelings – People who are not effective communicators tend to be not very good at expressing how they feel. This makes it tough to share your feelings with you partner.
  • Get the loving you want – In order to get the physical, mental, and emotional love you want and need, you have to be able to communicate clearly and appropriately with your spouse or partner. This is done through effective communication.
  • Eliminate mistrust, doubt, faithlessness, and insecurities – Many times these seeds are sown due to a lack of communication. If your partner rarely tells you where he or she is going, you will tend to start coming up with your own ideas. Often these aren’t true but how would you know if you aren’t told?

Can You Improve Your Communication Skills?

The short answer is yes, of course you can improve your communication skills.

Improving or changing anything in your life takes some work and effort but it can be done. You have to keep in mind your starting point and your goal.

If you are not a very good communicator now and you want to be able to give a motivating speech to a large graduating class, you’d better get working.

On the other hand, if you get along fairly well in general but want to be able to improve your relationship with your boss or spouse by being able to master effective communication, you may just need some guidance and practice.

Either way, if you want to master effective communication skills at both work and home, it will take a little work and effort. Doing so will benefit you in many ways.

How to Master Effective Communication Skills

In general mastering effective communication skills will help you at both work and home. Let’s look at how to improve verbal, written, and body language communication skills. These will help you create better relationships everywhere you go!

1. Learn how to listen

Speaking is only half of the communication equation. Sharpen your listening skills so you are able to process what the other person is saying. You can then respond it a well-informed manner.

Check out these active listening guidelines to be a better listener.

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2. Make eye contact

Having regular eye contact with someone while you are having a conversation shows you care what they are saying. When you are looking at the floor or out the window it gives the impression that you aren’t paying attention.

Take a look at this advice on how to make engaging eye contact.

3. Ask questions

When you ask someone questions, you are able to clarify what they are saying to ensure you get the whole picture. If you don’t understand it fully, ask questions.

Do you know that it takes some skills to ask questions too? Here’s how to be good at asking questions.

4. Watch body language

Watch both yours and the other persons.

We all know if you have a conversation with your arms crossed the entire time, it gives off a bad vibe. Have open, engaging body language when speaking with someone.

On the flip side, if you see someone’s eyes glazing over while speaking to you, it’s probably a good idea to wrap it up.

Take a look at these top 20 body language indicators to learn more.

5. Speak confidently

Sometimes this is easier said than done. If you communicate in an open, direct, and clear manner, it subtly shows people that you are confident in what you are saying.

It doesn’t mean you always have to be right but delivering your thoughts with confidence helps your case.

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These tips will help you speak more confidently.

6. Keep it simple

You don’t always have to be succinct in your communication. There is a lot of value in being able to tell a great story.

That being said, there are many instances where keeping it simple is very helpful. This is especially true at work in both verbal conversations as well as written like emails.

7. Know your audience

You should have a certain style when communicating with your boss. Another style of communication is better with your spouse and probably others with your kids or friends.

Know your audience to help you communicate the most effectively.

8. Be empathetic and understanding

There is a massive amount of power in being empathetic. And I mean that in a very positive way.

Showing that you are empathetic and understanding to another person goes a long way to creating a great bond with that person. We all want to be understood. It’s that simple.

Think it’s a challenge for you? These 5 tips for empathetic listening will help you.

9. Pause before reacting

There have been a number of times when I’ve read an email that just came in and had an instant reaction to reading it. And I don’t mean a positive reaction. My less effective ways of dealing and communicating has been to send a scathing email back.

When I’ve communicated more appropriately, I’ve waited a while before I responded. This is true in verbal situations as well.

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10. Over communicate

You’d think if you tell someone something that should be the end of it, right? Done deal. Not so fast.

I’m not recommending you tell someone the same thing 10 times in a row. With as many distractions as we all have these days, it’s generally a good idea to follow up on something you’ve communicated a few times if it’s important.

Conclusion

Having effective communication skills at both work and home will help you immensely.

At work, it helps you in your career in many ways.

Communicating well with your boss leads to a solid, symbiotic working relationship. You’re able to clearly articulate what you need to do your job well. You can share your vision and strategy with your boss and others. Good communicators are needed in management roles and leading others. Fostering an environment of effective communication leads to a great work environment.

At home, having effective communication skills will help you achieve the type of relationship you want with your spouse.

You are able to speak freely and openly about your feelings. You can share your wants and needs in a manner that your spouse understands. Your spouse will feel understood and supported by you which is a wonderful feeling to have. And being able to have a disagreement and work through it due to strong communication skills is amazing.

Look at how you can master effective communication skills at work and home to help create more satisfying relationships in all phases of your life.

More Resources About Work Communication

Featured photo credit: NeONBRAND via unsplash.com

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