Five Ways to Bolster Your Marriage

This month, we wrapped up our “Creating Oneness” marriage retreat series.  We love hosting this series and hope to have it again this coming summer, so look for dates some time in the early spring.

I thought it was good timing as I found an article on “five ways to prevent divorce,” or what I’m titling “Five Ways to Bolster Your Marriage” (why focus on the negative here?).  In an effort that we might have some of the same newlywed sparks, I’ve adapted them below:

1. Be thrifty. A recent study of 1,734 married couples revealed that couples who don’t value money very highly score 10 to 15 percent better on marriage stability and other measures of relationship quality than couples where one or both are materialistic. According to the lead author of the study, materialistic couples exhibit “eroding communication, poor conflict resolution and low responsiveness to each other.”

2. Work (especially wives). A recent study from the Pew Research Center asserts that working wives are beneficial to marriages. This study showed that shifts within marriages — specifically, men taking on more housework and women earning more outside the home — have contributed to lower divorce rates and happier unions. One couple found that just shifting their traditional gender roles each summer did a lot to strengthen their marriage.

3. Spend time apart. More counter-intuitive wisdom. I think that some couples make the mistake of thinking that the true sign of a happy couple is wanting to do every last thing together. Wrong. Yes, it’s important to have a lot of over-lapping interests. But, as I’ve noted before, you also need to keep a private space — a room of one’s own, as it were. This is the main message of Iris Krasnow’s new book, “The Secret Lives of Wives”, which is based on interviews with more than 200 women from different educational, social, and economic brackets, all of whom are in long-term marriages (15-plus years). In addition to sex (see below), many pointed to the importance of prolonged separations from their spouses as crucial to making these partnerships last. The reasoning? Physical distance makes women more emotionally and physically self-reliant and also (surprisingly, perhaps) enhances communication between partners.

4. Have sex. Just make that sure you don’t spend too much time apart. According to a recent article on The Huffington Post, there are more than 17,000 people who identify with “I Live In a Sexless Marriage” on the Experience Project. But if recent surveys are correct, the author speculates that this number doesn’t even come close to the actual figure, which she estimates as closer to 20 million married Americans. Moreover, couples who are dissatisfied with their sex life are more likely to consider divorce and/or term their marriage “unhappy.”

5. Do small, recognizable actions. I was absolutely fascinated by this interview in Slate with New York Times health blogger Tara Parker-Pope about her book For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage. In it, Parker-Pope reveals that a lot of research shows that the main determinants of happy, sustained marriages are actually small, tangible things like having have at least five small positive interactions (touching, smiling, paying a compliment) for every negative one (sneering, eye rolling, withdrawal), the presence/absence of sleep problems, how you treat your partner during the first three minutes of a fight, and my own personal favorite: how you recount your own“How We Met” narrative. (adapted from Delia Lloyd’s post 5 Ways to Prevent Divorce).

Delia Lloyd, an American journalist living in London with her husband and two kids, definitely has some good points.  May each of us find ways to live these principles out in our marriages so that they are fruitful, gracious, and thriving (and I’d love to hear your own suggestions in the comments below)!

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