KSL Television ~ Studio 5
January is stereotypically known for being the healthiest time of year; we start diet and fitness plans with a new resolve to live longer, happier lives. However, there is another common practice that isn’t so positive in January: it is the one month out of the year marked by the greatest number of people filing for divorce.
According to leading marital researchers, if it’s really health and longevity you’re after, working on your marriage at home will get you a lot further that working on your muscles in a gym. There is a great deal of accumulated evidence that marriage is good for the mind, body, and soul. It used to be the thought that marriage was really only better for men, not womenÃ¢â?¬Â¦.that’s no longer the case. If it is a good marriage, the benefits are equally as great for women as for men. Being unmarried, by the way, is a tremendous health risk when you examine the catalog of relative mortality rates. But, in a good marriage (there is no such thing as a perfect marriage) there are a number of health perks – these are just a few:
Increased Life Expectancy
Lowered Risk of Death (Cancer Patient)
Lowered Risk of Dying in Hospital (Post-Surgery)
Strengthened Immune System
Decreased Rate of Schizophrenia, Alcoholism, and Suicide
Many people are surprised to learn that remarriages have a higher failure rate than first marriages. Second marriages have a higher divorce rate than first marriages, third marriages have yet a higher divorce rate than second marriages, and so on. Divorce clearly is not teaching us what we failed to learn the first time around. The benefits of divorce have been oversold. Sadly, we usually bring children into these remarriages that often do not work out. It’s our children who suffer some of the greatest consequences, not to mention making them especially vulnerable for their own future divorce. This of course does not mean we should never have divorce – but we should have it as the great exception not the rule.
Compelling research determined that two-thirds of unhappily married couples had become happy five years later. There were 55 formerly unhappily married couples who turned their marriages around even after extended periods of infidelity, alcoholism, verbal abuse, emotional neglect, depression, and illness. These marriages that became happier fell into three broad headings:
1) Couples who just stuck it out. With the passage of time came the ease of conflict and distress.
2) Couples who actively worked on their marriage; they improved communication, solved problems, and changed behaviors.
3) Couples who improved their own individual happiness; they created a good and happy life despite a mediocre marriage.
When it comes to resolving conflicts, it’s not that we should never fight. The divorce courts have it all wrong – “rreconcilable differences” are part of every good marriage. Successful couples learn to manage their differences without creating damage, i.e., no namecalling, criticism, contempt, or stonewalling – research that came Dr. John Gottman’s work out of the University of Washington. (Read any and everything you can written by him!)
The number one predictor of divorce is the habitual avoidance of conflict. The reason we avoid conflict is because we mistakenly believe it will cause divorce. It’s like the cartoon of the couple explaining to the marriage counselor, “We never fightÃ¢â?¬Â¦..we stopped talking a long time ago!”
In the beginning of a romantic relationship we avoid conflict because we are so much in love and believe that “loving” means “agreeing”. We’re afraid that if we disagree or fight, we’ll ruin the momentÃ¢â?¬Â¦or the marriage.
Later, we avoid conflict because our fights have become so destructive, out-of-hand, and upsetting. So, we simply shut down and become determined to avoid conflict at any cost.
Successful couples are those who know how to discuss their differences in ways that actually strengthen and improve their intimacy. Every happy, successful couple has about 10 areas of incompatibility that they never will resolve. They learn how to manage their disagreements and live life around them.
Accentuate the Positive
There is a key ratio on this: 5:1. For every negative interaction, make certain there are 5 positive interactions to counter the damaging effects of that one negative.
Stay Emotionally Engaged
Experience each other as friends; acknowledge the tension and do what you can to ease it. Forgive DAILY and let go of past resentments. Do not walk away; learn how to compromise!
Learn to soothe yourself and each other. Make and receive repair attempts. Especially if you are trying to make-up from a tense and unresolved difference, use anything, such as a smile, nudge, wink, pat on the bum, or a humorous or supportive comment to wave that white flag of peace.
More important than solving perpetual problems is whether or not a couple can talk about them. Maintain a conversation and you will occasionally make some progress or at least make a situation better for a while until the issue reemerges. Regardless, keep reaching out to each other with kindness and respect; there is no other way than to keep bridging our gaps.