What are the key strategies for maintaining a long, happy marriage?
A recent study looked at the survival rates of patients who had undergone coronary artery bypass surgery. The results of this study were eye opening. It was discovered that people in happy marriages were 3.2 times more likely to survive 15 years after the surgery than their not so happily married counterparts. It was found that a happy marriage provided more emotional support and also a greater likelihood of adapting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. A happy, satisfying marriage can be the biggest factor in our overall wellbeing and survival. Here are some of the biggest factors that have been identified for maintaining a long and happy union.
1. "Birds of a Feather Flock Together". Numerous studies have shown that the more similar we are to one another, the more likely the marriage will last. The similarities that are most important are the matching of our cognitive styles. There is another popular saying, that "Opposites Attract," but in reality it is the similarities that keep couples together longer. A recent study found that the most successful marriages are those that are between two "adaptor" personalities.
Adaptors are defined as people who are dependable, cautious sound, and like to have structure. In fact, more than 70% of successful marriages in the study were found when the marriage was between two adaptor personalities. The key learning point in all of this is to work on finding solutions to problems that are mutually beneficial. It can also be beneficial to increase time doing activities together that you both find enjoyable.
2. Positivity. When couples exhibit positive behaviors and love for one another, the result is a long, satisfying marriage. Positive behaviors include humor, agreement and caring. Couples who show more caring gestures and positive communication between one another last the longest.
The happiest couples react to each other’s good news with lots of enthusiasm and genuineness. Couples who show little interest in one another’s good fortune are the most likely to suffer. Couples, instead, want to build the enthusiasm and help contribute to increased level of enthusiasm, which is termed "capitalizing" in the realm of positive psychology.
3. Reflective Listening. The most successful couples are able to listen effectively, maintain attention to the conversation, and reflect back about what the other person said. When we know that the other person is truly listening, we can feel a greater emotional connection. Strong marriages are built on trust, and reflective listening is one way of building trust and emotional connectedness.
4. Acceptance and Understanding of Roles. Of course there are many different types of marriages. Some marriages have a more traditional framework, while others have a more modern twist. Whether the family has a stay-at-home dad or the CEO professional mother, it is important to have respect and acceptance for one another’s roles within the relationship.
Does one party or the other have more household roles? It is ok to have these differences, as long as each party agrees and accepts the roles. When one partner feels that he or she is doing more work than the other, there tends to be an erosion of the relationship. Open up a discussion about the roles and responsibilities for each partner, and agree on it.
5. Fight Fair. Sure there are going to be disagreements within any relationship, but the most important thing to remember is the "fight" fair. Couples need to strive to reach a mutual solution to a problem, and not focus on who is right and who is wrong. Relationships are not about keeping score or an upper hand. When we talk about the "protective" advantages of marriage (such as living longer after a bypass surgery), the marriage must be described as not being highly conflictual in nature.
By keeping these "secrets" front and center, we can improve our chances of maintaining a long and positive relationship. Marriages of the past were often kept together because of financial necessity or fear of social disapproval. Today’s marriage is much different, and it is more socially acceptable to divorce. Because of this, we may have created lower tolerance for the minor annoyances in any relationship. It may be advantageous to read through these secrets for a successful marriage with your spouse, and discuss which areas may need some nurturing.