No one can really know what goes on inside a marriage except the two people involved, but researchers are getting increasingly good glimpses of what drives couples, how relationships are stressed and what factors can keep the spark alive.
The goal: to find out what keeps love alive and couples together. [Read: How to Maintain Strong Long Distance Relationship]
Putting marriage under the microscope has led to new long-term studies that show better than ever as a birth or simple boredom can drain a union.
Secrets of a Successful Happy Married Life
Continue to Date
It has been said that it’s the quality of time, not the quantity of time that matters. But now we know, thanks to the Marriage Masters, that it’s the quantity of quality time spent together that leads to a wonderful marriage. Whether it’s a vacation in the Bahamas, or simply spending a night at a local motel once a week, keeping the roman just make sure you make room for some best girlfriends too. Krasnow’s research affirms that the women with the highest marital satisfaction stay connected to a group of gals who spice up their social life, provide great laughs, and offer support for whatever unfolds in their marriages — the peaks and the valleys. Krasnow writes, “Our girlfriends, ever-forgiving and always empathetic, provide the escape hatch from the inevitable storms and challenges that comes with long marriages.”
Be Little Selfish
A new baby or a bigger mortgage, family illness. You dig deep, find inner strength and juggle stress, commitments and finances – all out of love. But long after the crisis passes, you’re still (by now resentfully) giving 110 per cent. Sure enough, your sense of injustice builds a wall between you.
[Also Read: Ways to Destroy Your Relationship]
The one losing end should just say no. And say it often enough that your yes carries weight. “So although it may sound crazy to people who value hard work and devotion to family, our advice is this: You need to be a little more selfish,” says Gottman. Schedule “me” time for your interests and “us” time to reconnect. “When responsibilities mount, such ‘indulgences‘ are usually the first to go,” he observes. “But outlets like these… provide you with the energy you need to navigate hard times.”
Never Criticize Your Partner’s Close Relatives
You know how it is—your family can tick you off but no one else had dare speak ill of them. That’s why you should tread carefully with your in-laws and your husband’s dearest friends. “Even when he’s venting to you, your contributions can put him on the defensive,” explains LeslieBeth Wish, EdD, a Florida-based psychologist and licensed clinical social worker. “When you take position A, you prompt your partner to take position B.” Instead, says Dr. Wish, put yourself in his position so that you can empathize with him.
If you’re like me, I was raised in a home where my mom is the best cook ever and I would never stand a chance cooking in that same kitchen while I was living there. So when I entered my marriage, I knew only the basics of cooking by theory (from my mom talking about it and from watching my mom cook). But as you all know, you can’t really know how to do things until you start doing it. Now, I was lucky enough to marry a husband who cooks (in fact he’s used to cooking for hundreds of people in the homeless shelter where we met!), so technically I could survive not knowing how to cook. But that doesn’t mean I should let him do all the cooking all the time. As a wife, I think it’s important to own that kitchen. Starting this year, I made a commitment to actively learn and practice and explore cooking and baking in my kitchen. So that I can finally own up to saying that I do cook and bake for my husband and family. And there’s something about a woman wearing an apron holding a plate of hot-out-of-the-oven cookies that turns a man on. There’s not a time when I have my apron on that I don’t get my ass spanked. Lol! Which brings me to the next point.
Amazingly, many couples never discuss money except in the most superficial ways until after they’re married. One of the leading causes of arguments in marriages is because of a difference in how money is handled. Before you walk down the isle, discuss your feelings about things like credit, paying bills and saving money. Talk about how you will pay expenses, and who will handle the money. Finding out after the fact that you have major differences is only going to lead to long term problems.
Well okay, talk all you want about your dreams, ambitions and Egypt’s future. But when it comes to nagging reminders about what your spouse still has to do after a long day working for the man—take out the recycling, walk the dog, write a thank-you letter, defrost the chicken, fix the stereo—keep a lid on it. Economists talk about “information processing costs,” or the costs incurred from processing, absorbing and filtering information. When information processing costs get too high, we tend to become paralyzed. Like when we get to the kitchen-cabinet department at IKEA, and we’re so overwhelmed that we decide to skip the whole thing and just have a plate of meatballs at the café then head home for a nap.
Overloading your spouse with what you consider to be perfectly valid information is a bad idea. One thing at a time, friends, and the most important thing first. Same rule applies when you’re arguing. Stick to the point—he didn’t call to say he was running late—and don’t tick off the long list of sins he’s committed since last Tuesday.
Love and Affection
Another surprise was that men crave affection—but not necessarily sex—more than women. “It’s counterintuitive,” says Orbuch, “but men crave feeling special and being noticed by their wives.” She adds that men who report not getting enough nonsexual affection were twice as likely to ask for a divorce, but the reverse was not true for women. “Women are fortunate. We get this kind of affirmation from more people in our lives, our mothers, children, our best friends”—so women tend to need less from husbands. She recommends carving out time for regular cuddling, kissing, hand holding, and saying “I love you.”
When things go wrong, do you row about it? It’s often very hard not to and while arguing is a normal, healthy part of most relationships, it’s important to make sure that it is constructive and you’re not just yelling for the sake of it. Resolving arguments and solving the problem without letting it escalate is quite a skill and one you do really need to master for the sake of your relationship.