What you can do to be sure that your marriage increases your access to life's blessings.
Do wedding vows really lead to the fulfillment of the fairy tale of living happily ever after? Anyone who is married and has experienced therefore the challenges couples inevitably face in the project of living life in tandem as a pair might be tempted to scoff at that idea. Yet statistics quoted in Waite and Gallagher’s The Case for Marriage do confirm that spouses who succeed in building a reasonably healthy marriage relationship in fact are likely to enjoy longer lives than unmarried or unhappily married peers folks. They are likely, again according to the statistics, to enjoy better health. What other benefits do statistics suggest that married people become likely to cash in on? Can being married, for instance, bring financial prosperity?
According to the multiple research studies quoted in Waite and Gallagher’s The Case for Marriage, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Financial payoffs for married folk are many. Married couples in general make more money than their single counterparts. They also save more money.
Single-parenting and divorce, by contrast, can offer a fast route downhill into poverty. Fortunately though, for the single parent struggling to rise above subsistence-level money struggles, marriage can offer a fast lane into a financial comfort zone.
So, are you ready to insure that your marriage relationship will increase your odds of being rich richer, richer in happiness, healthy, and money, too? If so, ask yourself the five questions below.
First, how much fun are you enjoying together? Couples who play together are more likely to stay together. Even just twenty minutes of talking together after the kids are in bed will do much to refresh your connection. Add the occasional date night and plus some weekend fun without the kids and you'll up with the odds in your favor that your good marriage will stay that way.
The way you spend time together, though, does matter. If your free time together ends up with each of you having an affair with the TV or computer, turn them off. Face each other instead of facing the strangers on the screen. Spend less time back-to-back, and more face to face-to-face to reap the full benefits of eye-to-eye, smile-to-smile, and maybe even skin-to-skin connecting.
Second, how’s the weather in your relationship? Do you show one another fondness and compassion? Do you say “yes” far more frequently than you say “but” or “no?” How often do you express appreciation, hug each other, and share smiles? The more positives, the more you will be likely to get the goodies. The more that you radiate sunshine to each other, the more happiness, health and wealth you are likely to enjoy.
The flip can happen. Emotional cold weather with criticism or silence, outbursts of stormy anger, or financial difficulties can drag you both down. Still, the more you continue to radiate sunshine to each other, the less painful occasional negative emotions or money shortages will feel. Sharing positives just about always makes it more likely that you will end up eventually with higher total emotional, physical, and financial health.
Third, how often do you shut the bedroom door, light some candles, and turn on some Marvin Gaye? The best things in life are free. Good sex may not be enough to make a good marriage, but if sexual sharing is rare to absent, your connection may become fragile. As a popular saying from the early days of the women’s liberation movement goes, “Sex is a positive way of spending time.”
Fourth, getting weary of familiarity? Novelty strengthens partnerships. Anything new that you do together – a new game, exercise routine, shared volunteer project – can enhance your attachment.
Finally, can you extend the olive branch? Healthy partners use healing apology skills after conflicts. Admitting mistakes and learning from them goes a long way toward turning upsets into opportunities for an ever-better marriage. Talking effectively about differences, responding to each others' concerns, and creating win-win solutions all add to partnership peacemaking.
How well do you communicate with your partner, especially after tough times? Check your skill levels at the free quiz on my marriage skill-building website, PowerofTwoMarriage.com. If your skills in one or more areas seems to need an upgrade, take action.
So, what's the takeaway? Sign yourself up for great life benefits by living in the bosom of a loving marriage. Some maintenance, however, is required. Treasure the pleasures in your marriage, build the skills to sustain goodwill, and remember, after upsetting moments, that learning from mistakes is part of cherishing each other. Then, enjoy the windfall!
Psychologist Susan Heitler, PhD has recently authored PRESCRIPTIONS WITHOUT PILLS: For Relief from Depression, Anger, Anxiety and More. Her writing for couples includes The Power of Two, The Power of Two Workbook, and poweroftwomarriage.com a fun interactive-learning website.
This article was originally published at psychologytoday.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.