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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 July 18, 2019

What Makes People Happy? 20 Secrets of “Always Happy” People

What Makes People Happy? 20 Secrets of “Always Happy” People

Some people just seem to float through life with a relentless sense of happiness – through the toughest of times, they’re unfazed and aloof, stopping to smell the roses and drinking out of a glass half full.

They may not have much to be happy about, but the simplicity behind that fact itself may make them happy.

It’s all a matter of perspective, conscious effort and self-awareness. Listed below are a number of reasons why some people are always happy.

1. They Manage Their Expectations

They’re not crushed when they don’t get what they want – or misled into expecting to get the most out of every situation. They approach every situation pragmatically, hoping for the best but being prepared for the worst.

2. They Don’t Set Unrealistic Standards

Similar to the last point, they don’t live their lives in a constant pursuit towards impossible visions of perfection, only to always find themselves falling short of what they want.

3. They Don’t Take Anything for Granted

Happiness rests with feeling fulfilled – those who fail to stop and appreciate what they have every now and again will never experience true fulfillment.

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4. They’re Not Materialistic

There are arguing viewpoints on whether or not money can really buy happiness; if it can, then we know from experience that we can never be satisfied because there will always be something newer or better that we want. Who has ever had enough money?

5. They Don’t Dwell

They don’t sweat the small things or waste time worrying about things that don’t really matter at the end of the day. They don’t let negative thoughts latch onto them and drain them or distract them. Life’s too short to worry.

6. They Care About Themselves First

They’re independent, care for themselves and understand that they must put their needs first in order to accommodate the needs of others.

They indulge, aim to get what they want, make time for themselves and are extremely self-reliant.

7. They Enjoy the Little Things

They stop to smell the roses. They’re accustomed to find serenity when it’s available, to welcome entertainment or a stimulating discussion with a stranger when it crosses their path. They don’t overlook the small things in life that can be just as important.

8. They Can Adapt

They’re not afraid of change and they work to make the most out of new circumstances, good or bad. They thrive under pressure, are not overwhelmed easily and always embrace a change of pace.

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9. They Experiment

They try new things, experience new flavors and never shy away from something they have yet to experience. They never order twice from the same menu.

10. They Take Their Time

They don’t unnecessarily rush through life. They work on their own schedule to the extent that they can and maneuver through life at their own relaxing pace.

11. They Employ Different Perspectives

They’re not stuck in one perspective; a loss can result in a new opportunity, hitting rock bottom can mean that there’s no where to go but up.

12. They Seek to Learn

Their constant pursuit of knowledge keeps them inspired and interested in life. They cherish information and are on a life-long quest to learn as much as they can.

13. They Always Have a Plan

They don’t find themselves drifting without purpose. When something doesn’t go as planned, they have a plan for every letter in the alphabet to fall back on.

14. They Give Respect to Get It

They are respectful and, in turn, are seen as respectable; the respect they exude earns them the respect they deserve.

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15. They Consider Every Opportunity

They always have their eyes open for a new road, a new avenue worth exploring. They know how to recognize opportune moments and pounce on them to make the most of every situation. Success is inevitable for them.

16. They Always Seek to Improve

Perpetual self-improvement is the key towards their ongoing thirst for success. Whatever it is they do, they take pride in getting better and better, from social interactions to mundane tasks. Their pursuit at being the best eventually materializes.

17. They Don’t Take Life Too Seriously

They’re not ones to get offended easily over-analyze or complicate matters. They laugh at their own faults and misfortunes.

18. They Live in the Moment

They don’t live for tomorrow or dwell on what may have happened yesterday. Every day is a new opportunity, a new chapter. They live in the now, and in doing so, get the most out of every moment.

You can learn how to do so too: How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Past or Future

19. They Say Yes

Much more often than they say no. They don’t have to be badgered to go out, don’t shy away from new opportunities or anything that may seem inconvenient.

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20. They’re Self-Aware

Most important, they’re wholly aware of themselves. They self-reflect and are conscious of their states of mind. If somethings bothering them, they fix it.

We’re all susceptible to feeling down every now and again, but we are all equipped with the necessary solutions that just have to be discovered.

Lack of confidence, inability to feel fulfilled, and susceptibility to stress are all matters that can be controlled through the way we handle our lives and perceive our circumstances.

Learn about How Self-Reflection Gives You a Happier and More Successful Life.

Final Thoughts

The main philosophy employed by the happiest includes the idea that life’s simply too short: life’s too short to let things get you down, to take things for granted, to pursue absolute and unrealistic perfection.

For some, employing these characteristics is a second nature – they do it without knowing. For others, a conscious effort must be put forth every now and again. Self-Awareness is key.

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Featured photo credit: Charles Postiaux via unsplash.com

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