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8 Secrets to Long-Term Monogamy: The Science of Happy Marriages

8 Secrets to Long-Term Monogamy: The Science of Happy Marriages

“Monogamy,” in this day and age, is quite a mysterious and puzzling and subject.

As early as I could pen the words, “I love JTT Forever and Ever,” in my Rainbow Bright Diary, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of unending love. As a child I wondered how Winnie and Kevin seemed to have loved each other since second grade, but look what happened to Hillary and Madonna and Cher! And don’t get me started on the tragic complexities that were Courtney and Kurt, or Nicole and OJ. And what exactly did “Shoop” mean, and how did Salt-n-Pepa know this particular gentleman was “A Mighty Good Man”?

Now, as a wife and family therapist, I wonder professionally and personally what exactly do we need to know about monogamy to ensure we are on the right side of the frightening relationship-failure statistics? What should we be plastering on the billboards of 20-somethings these days (aka Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter)? What should we be teaching our children if we don’t want them to experience the pain and agony of relationship demise?

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If you are interested in actually maintaining a monogamous relationship, you might want to check out these eight facts about the institution of long-standing love:

1.  A decline in satisfaction at the beginning is normal.

It is normal and statistically expected to experience a decline in marital satisfaction during the first years of marriage. There are many reasons why a decline in marital satisfaction in the first few years is normal. Google “normal rebound,” “emotional erosion,” and “motivational erosion.” An early-on decline in satisfaction is not necessarily an indication that the relationship is unhealthy or a reason to throw in the towel.

2.  Certain qualities predict successful monogamy.

Researchers questioned couples to attempt to pinpoint the common aspects of people in marriages that last 15 years or more. Here are the characteristics of long-term couples as discovered in two different studies:

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  • Ability to change and adapt to change
  • Ability to surrender to things that will not change (i.e., accepting aspects of your partner as-is)
  • Assumption of permanence (i.e., the marriage will last a lifetime)
  • Trust
  • Balance of  power/Mutuality of decision-making
  • Enjoyment of each other’s company
  • Cherished, shared history
  • Relational values of trust, respect, understanding, and equality
  • Sexual and psychological intimacy

3. Certain communication patterns predict relationship demise.

In his “Love Lab”, researcher John Gottman and his team observed over 3,000 couples to pinpoint behaviors that predicted divorce and breakup with 95% accuracy. See this article for more details about the not-so-obvious signs that a relationship is in trouble.

4. Certain behaviors predict successful monogamy.

his “Love Lab,” researcher John Gottman and his team also observed couples during conflict, and found that these behaviors existed in the happiest long-term couples:

  • Five positive exchanges/communications for every one negative exchange/communication
  • Wife approached husband during conflict, and does so “softly”
  • Husband allowed wife to influence him
  • Wife used humor to soothe husband
  • Husband was able to use positive feelings to soothe himself
  • There is a general culture of gentleness, soothing, and meeting negativity by neutral effect

5. “Love” is not sufficient to sustain a relationship.

“Love” is at first a biological, chemical, and hormonal experience of attachment and infatuation for another person (the complete roses, sunshine, and fireworks deal.) This lasts anywhere from a few months to about two to three years. Put bluntly, this biological infatuation stage exists to ensure that two people can stand being around each other long enough to reproduce. Love after the infatuation stage is a mindset of commitment and respect for the other person that is not always butterflies and rainbows and the ability to behave consistently with this mindset. A feeling of love is not sufficient to sustain a happy relationship long term. There must also be behaviors consistent with commitment and respect.

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6. A mindset of commitment matters greatly.

To go along with point number 5, two separate studies found that the assumption that marriage will last a lifetime (i.e., automatic commitment to push through the icky parts together) are in the top three aspects of relationships that last 15 years or more. In a third study, “Marriage as a long-term commitment,” and “Wanting the relationship to succeed,” were in the top six reasons men and women gave for their successful 15-plus-year marriages.

7. Some people are biologically/genetically less wired for monogamy.

Two aspects of temperament that research has found to be typically less suited for monogamy include thrill seeking and impulsivity.

8. Forget about love.

Yes, you read that right. Happy couples like each other. One study asked 351 couples married 15 years or longer to list the main reasons for their marital success. Husbands and wives both put “Liking spouse as a person,” or “Spouse as best friend,” as one of their top two answers.

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Best of luck with your monogamous relationship endeavors!

Featured photo credit: Roganjosh via mrg.bz

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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