What You Can Learn from Marriage Studies
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Romance Report1 of 17
By Woman's Day
While you can glean advice from studies about relationships, it’s not one-size-fits-all, says Sherry Amatenstein, a marriage therapist and author of The Complete Marriage Counselor: Relationship-Saving Advice from America's Top 50+ Couples Therapists. However, if a bit of research resonates with you, there are commonsense ways you can apply the message.
Rocky Recession2 of 17
According to a new survey conducted by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, the current recession is having a double-edged impact on American marriages. On the one hand, couples who are under financial stress report that it’s hurt their marriages. For others, being worried about jobs, money and mortgages has fostered a stronger marital commitment.
The Lesson3 of 17
“I’ve seen couples who’ve gone both ways during times of economic stress,” says Amatenstein. When times get tough, “try to remember that you’re in this together.” The outside world is your shared adversary and something that you can face as a team.
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Chit Chat4 of 17
A University of Chicago study revealed that some of us are so inept at talking (and listening!) to our spouses that we may as well be speaking to a perfect stranger. The researchers suggest that everyday closeness may breed complacency; we think we understand each other, when in fact we get lazy at crafting our messages to each other and at really listening to our spouses.
The Lesson5 of 17
It's more important to understand than to be understood, says Michele Weiner-Davis, author of Divorce Busting. “Try to improve communication by repeating back the gist of what your partner is saying in an effort to indicate that you ‘got it.’ That instills understanding and empathy.”
Brain Chemistry6 of 17
In a study that purports to show that love really can last, researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook took functional MRI scans of long-married couples as well as newer pairs. As the participants looked at photos of their significant others, key reward and motivation regions of the brain “lit up” on the scans, showing a similar chemistry between long-term and newly coupled pairs.
The Lesson7 of 17
Instead of mourning that long-gone tingly, new-relationship feeling, look forward to the deepening of your commitment as the years pass, says Amatenstein. “It’s about trust, being cared for and caring, and being vulnerable. If you can get there, it’s going to be better than the new feeling.”
Mommy Warbucks8 of 17
Sociologists at Cornell University have found that men who are financially dependent on their wives are more likely to be unfaithful, perhaps because they feel powerless. Interestingly, the opposite is true of women: Economically dependent wives are more faithful than those who are not.
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The Lesson9 of 17
This could happen, cautions Amatenstein, but it’s not always the case. The reason he might cheat is that his ego is so bruised by the mismatch in your incomes that he’s looking to get a boost some other way. However, if your husband feels needed and wanted, and it’s clear that you’re both contributing to your family life, he’s much less likely to stray.
Dynamic Duo10 of 17
At Michigan State University, researchers concluded that the old trope about husbands and wives becoming more alike over the years is probably false. It’s more likely the case that we’re initially attracted to a partner similar to ourselves and that those shared outlooks and values become more pronounced over time.
The Lesson11 of 17
On the surface it seems that opposites attract — you may have been pulled in by the fact that your extroverted spouse draws introverted you out of your shell, for example. But “the things that keep a marriage together long-term are shared values, goals, sense of humor and outlook on life,” says Amatenstein.
Support Me12 of 17
Studies at the University of Iowa found that couples who were good at cheerleading each other report having happier, more solid marriages. Couples can’t seem to get enough “self-esteem support,” which is when you offer each other emotional encouragement. But too much “informational support,” defined as an overload of unasked-for advice, can backfire.
The Lesson13 of 17
Always be sure the support you’re offering your spouse is authentic. “If your partner can sense that you’re just puffing him up, he’ll end up resenting it,” says Amatenstein. And in the case of informational support, be careful that you (or he) aren’t piling on unsolicited advice but are instead brainstorming solutions together.
Fightin’ Words14 of 17
What if one half of the couple wants to argue productively and the other withdraws? Research from the University of Michigan says that this fighting style may be a predictor of bad days ahead. Here's what happens: A conflict arises, and one spouse is eager to discuss it, while the other would rather wait and cool down first. Researchers say that the partner ready to listen and talk sees her spouse’s need to cool off as disinterest.
The Lesson15 of 17
“If one spouse likes to attack the problem promptly, and the other usually needs some time, they need to reach a compromise,” says Weiner-Davis. “Sometimes, the partner needing space must push himself or herself to tackle the problem immediately. Other times, the partner liking to put things to rest promptly needs to respect his or her partner's desire to wait.”
Keeping the Faith16 of 17
Couples who share their faith and practice it together tend to have strong marriages, says research from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. It may be that the time spent together (at religious services, in prayer), as well as the shared values and outlook, glue marriages together.
The Lesson17 of 17
“A couple always needs something beyond just the two of them that they share,” says Amatenstein. If, for the two of you, faith fits the bill, great. If it’s a source of tension — i.e., one of you is more devout than the other — be careful to keep it separate and find something else that you two can share.
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