Despite the importance of saving a marriage for every member of a family, there is very little scientific research on how to keep marriages stable and happy.
Active Listening is the Key to a Happy Marriage
This idea is perhaps the reason why most attempts of marriage therapy fail as it is the basis for it. Active listening is a technique promoted by countless “gurus” and marriage therapists or counselors to pursue better conflict resolution and communication between couples. Unfortunately, it just does not work. In fact, researchers have found couples who do practice it relapse within only a year of doing it. The reason for this is that the approach requires couples to exhibit significant emotional mastery in a very stressful and emotional situation.
This does not mean that active listening will not help a couple to communicate better. It just won’t be the key for saving the marriage in trouble or to prevent it from getting into trouble. Research has found that most couples of happy marriages rarely practice active listening when they’re arguing.
Personality Problems Ruin Marriage.
It is easy to assume that hang-ups of a significant other ruin the marriage. But, according to research, it is not in fact a normal personality that is the key to a happy marriage. The key is having a partner in the marriage that works with their own personality and “hang-ups”. Furthermore, it is important that couples handle the others’ tendencies with respect, care, and compassion.
Common Interests are Important to Keep Couples Together
This is due to the differences on the level of common interests between couples. What is important is the interaction between couples in the pursuit of these interests. After all, it doesn’t matter that they have common interests if the couple does not practice respect towards each other.
Reciprocity Keeps a Good Relationship
The idea of giving what one receives back to their partner is a popular concept of enriching a relationship. But this is actually a sign of an unhappy relationship (or, at the very least, tension in the relationship) as it promotes the couple to keep count of what one does for the other. Happy relationships and marriages do not keep count on who does what for whom. Happy couples just do things for each other because of what they feel for their spouse and their relationship.
Never Avoid Conflict
Couples have different ways of dealing with conflict. Saying that avoiding conflict will ruin a marriage invalidates the approach of happy married couples who do. Talking it out and avoiding conflict have their own merits depending on the couple and the situation. Furthermore, persistence to talk out differences can lead to trouble between couples.
Affairs are the Root Cause of Divorce
Based on a study by Lynn Gigy and Joan Kelly, 80 percent of divorced couples have broken up due to losing the support, friend- ship, respect, attention, care, and concern one has for the other. The other 20 percent are those who have broken up due to extra- marital relationships.
The Actual Key to a Happy Marriage
Happy marriages do not consist of a perfect union between two individuals. The couples still have differences because of their personalities, values, and interests. They still have arguments about finances, careers, children, sex, and relationships. What happy marriages essentially have in common is the basis of the relationship – deep friendship. This deep friendship makes the couple respect each other and genuinely enjoy each other’s company. This deep friendship enables happy couples to put a stop to arguments and troubles from escalating. It gives them the greater success in repairing troubles within their marriage. They under- stand that it is not important who messed up but that the mending of the relationship is successful. Through friendship, a couple is able to resolve the root cause of most of their marriage troubles, which is based on the differences of the couple in their values, lifestyle, and personality. While these differences cannot be resolved by typical active listening advice, these are resolved by the deep friendship between happily married couples.
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
There are particular observed interactions that show how the couple’s marriage really is. These interactions can spell the end of a marriage when it is prevalent in a couple’s discussion. Couples must watch out for these “four horsemen”:
First Horseman: Criticism
There will be always complaints between couples. But if it is about a person’s personality or character (and not their actions), it is a criticism. This does not mean that being critical towards one an- other will immediately lead to divorce. It only becomes a problem when it is persistent in a relationship as it leads to the second horseman.
Second Horseman: Contempt
You are showing contempt when you are either calling names, rolling your eyes, sneering, mocking, being sarcastic, or being cynical. The problem with this is it shows disgust, which poisons the relationship and leads to even more conflicts. This is mainly a result of unresolved negative thoughts about one’s partner.
Defensiveness One would naturally defend themselves when they feel they are under attack, which is essentially what criticism and contempt are. But by defending themselves, they are essentially implying that it is not their fault but the other’s fault. This would result in more defensiveness on the other party. Overall, the couple has not achieved much other than negative and hurt feelings.
Stonewalling Eventually the cycle of criticism, contempt, and defensiveness will lead to stonewalling. Although it is a natural response to avoid conflict instead of responding to feed more into the conflict, the one doing this is also avoiding the marriage. This horseman mani- fests at a later stage of a marriage when the first three horsemen have overwhelmed one party of the married couple.