what makes a marriage work;
Each year, more than 2 million couples marry in the world. While most couples say they are madly in love, some really wonder if they have what it takes to build a strong marriage that lasts over time.
Whether you’re married now or planning to, you’ll want to know about a Life Innovations survey of 21,501 married couples from every state. It identified not only the top 10 strengths of happy marriages, but also the top 10 problems in marriage.
The top 10 strengths are as follows:
- Partners are satisfied with communication.
- Partners handle their differences creatively.
- They feel very close to each other.
- Spouses are not controlling.
- Partners discuss their problems well.
- They are satisfied with the affection they show and receive.
- There is a good balance of time alone and together.
- Family and friends rarely interfere.
- Partners agree on how to spend money.
- Partners agree on spiritual beliefs.
Additionally, the research found that the strongest couples have strong communication skills, a clear sense of closeness as a couple, flexibility, personal compatibility and good conflict resolution skills.
Strong marriages have a balance between separateness and togetherness. These couples prioritize togetherness, ask each other for help, enjoy doing things together and spend most of their free time together.
Also, some of the common factors in the relationship roles in strong marriages include both parties:
- Are equally willing to make necessary adjustments in their roles,
- Reporting satisfaction with the division of housework,
- Working hard to have an equal relationship, and
- Making most decisions jointly.
The happiest couples said they were happy with the way they communicate. They said that they found their partner to be a good listener, which made it easy to express their feelings. They especially noted that their partner doesn’t use put-downs.
Obviously, conflict management/resolution skills are crucial. In strong marriages, both partners say that their partner understands their positions. They feel free to share their feelings and ideas; they take disagreements seriously and they work cooperatively to resolve conflicts.
According to the survey, the top 10 problems in marriage are:
- Problems sharing leadership.
- One partner is too stubborn.
- Stress created by child-rearing differences.
- One partner is too negative or critical.
- Feeling responsible for issues.
- One partner wishes the other had more time.
- Avoiding conflict with partner.
- One partner wishes the other was more willing to share their feelings.
- Difficulty completing tasks.
- Differences don’t ever get resolved.
For example, some common stumbling blocks are when one person feels most responsible for the problem, avoiding conflict and having serious disputes over minor issues. Sadly, relationships with unresolved differences can get into trouble. As a result, stumbling blocks become walls instead of stepping stones to build up the marriage.
Finally, no matter how in love you feel, bringing two personalities and their families together and learning how to dance can be challenging.
So don’t just prepare for your wedding – take time to prepare for your marriage. Learn how to build on your strengths, creatively address differences and work together for the best interests of your marriage. It will probably be the best wedding present you can give to each other.
Keys to Effective Communication in Marriage
What are the keys to effective communication? Well, research on what makes marriage work show that happy and healthy couples have a ratio of 5:1 positive to negative behaviors in their relationship.
This means there are five times as many positive interactions between happy couples (i.e. listening, validating the other person, using soft words, expressing appreciation, affirmation, physical affection, compliments, etc.) as there are negative (i.e. raising one’s voice, stating a complaint, or expressing one’s anger).
Tips for improving the effectiveness of communication in your relationship:
Be intentional about spending time together.
On average, couples spend only 20 minutes a week talking with each other. To change this, turn off the technology and make it a point to spend 20-30 minutes a day catching up with each other.
Use more “I” statements and less “You” statements.
This decreases the chances of your spouse feeling like they need to defend themselves. For example, “I wish you would acknowledge more often how much work I do at home to take care of you and the children.”
When issues arise, be specific. Broad generalizations like, “You do it all the time!” are not helpful.
It is very frustrating when someone else acts like they know better than you what you were really thinking.
Express negative feelings constructively.
There will be times when you feel bitterness, resentment, disappointment or disapproval. These feelings need to be communicated in order for change to occur. But how you express these thoughts is critical. It’s one thing to say, “I am really disappointed that you are working late again tonight.” But if you say, “You clearly do not care one whit about me or the kids. If you did, you would not work late every night,” will convey something entirely different.
Listen without being defensive.
For a marriage to succeed, both spouses must be able to hear each other’s complaints without getting defensive. This is much harder than learning how to express negative feelings effectively.
Freely express positive feelings.
Most people are quicker to express negative feelings than positive ones. It is vital to the health of your marriage that you affirm your spouse. Positive feelings such as appreciation, affection, respect, admiration, and approval are like making deposits into your love account. You should have five positive deposits for every one negative. If your compliments exceed your complaints, your spouse will pay attention to your grievances. If your complaints exceed your compliments, your criticism will fall on deaf ears.