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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 September 20, 2018

7 Powerful Questions To Find Out What You Want To Do With Your Life

7 Powerful Questions To Find Out What You Want To Do With Your Life

What do I want to do with my life? It’s a question all of us think about at one point or another.

For some, the answer comes easily. For others, it takes a lifetime to figure out.

It’s easy to just go through the motions and continue to do what’s comfortable and familiar. But for those of you who seek fulfillment, who want to do more, these questions will help you paint a clearer picture of what you want to do with your life.

1. What are the things I’m most passionate about?

The first step to living a more fulfilling life is to think about the things that you’re passionate about.

What do you love? What fulfills you? What “work” do you do that doesn’t feel like work? Maybe you enjoy writing, maybe you love working with animals or maybe you have a knack for photography.

The point is, figure out what you love doing, then do more of it.

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2. What are my greatest accomplishments in life so far?

Think about your past experiences and the things in your life you’re most proud of.

How did those accomplishments make you feel? Pretty darn good, right? So why not try and emulate those experiences and feelings?

If you ran a marathon once and loved the feeling you had afterwards, start training for another one. If your child grew up to be a star athlete or musician because of your teachings, then be a coach or mentor for other kids.

Continue to do the things that have been most fulfilling for you.

3. If my life had absolutely no limits, what would I choose to have and what would I choose to do?

Here’s a cool exercise: Think about what you would do if you had no limits.

If you had all the money and time in the world, where would you go? What would you do? Who would you spend time with?

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These answers can help you figure out what you want to do with your life. It doesn’t mean you need millions of dollars to be happy though.

What it does mean is answering these questions will help you set goals to reach certain milestones and create a path toward happiness and fulfillment. Which leads to our next question …

4. What are my goals in life?

Goals are a necessary component to set you up for a happy future. So answer these questions:

Once you figure out the answers to each of these, you’ll have a much better idea of what you should do with your life.

5. Whom do I admire most in the world?

Following the path of successful people can set you up for success.

Think about the people you respect and admire most. What are their best qualities? Why do you respect them? What can you learn from them?

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You’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.[1] So don’t waste your time with people who hold you back from achieving your dreams.

Spend more time with happy, successful, optimistic people and you’ll become one of them.

6. What do I not like to do?

An important part of figuring out what you want to do with your life is honestly assessing what you don’t want to do.

What are the things you despise? What bugs you the most about your current job?

Maybe you hate meetings even though you sit through 6 hours of them every day. If that’s the case, find a job where you can work more independently.

The point is, if you want something to change in your life, you need to take action. Which leads to our final question …

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7. How hard am I willing to work to get what I want?

Great accomplishments never come easy. If you want to do great things with your life, you’re going to have to make a great effort. That will probably mean putting in more hours the average person, getting outside your comfort zone and learning as much as you can to achieve as much as you can.

But here’s the cool part: it’s often the journey that is the most fulfilling part. It’s during these seemingly small, insignificant moments that you’ll often find that “aha” moments that helps you answer the question,

“What do I want to do with my life?”

So take the first step toward improving your life. You won’t regret it.

Featured photo credit: Andrew Ly via unsplash.com

Reference

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