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How to Succeed in Marriage

How to Succeed in Marriage

By J. Bailey Molineux, Ph.D.

Dr. John Gottman has discovered a nearly guaranteed formula to make your marriage successful. It is simple and easy to remember: five to one. Just insure there are five times more positive, loving interactions than negative, painful interactions between you and your spouse and it is highly unlikely you will divorce.

Dr. Gottman is a research psychologist at the University of Washington who has studied marriages for over twenty years. In his recent book, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail , he describes the differences between marriages that last and those that end in divorce.

What keeps people together is that they enjoy each other, have fun together and show love for each other emotionally, physically and sexually. There are plenty of hugs, kisses, snuggles, compliments, shared pleasure and common activities. As a result of being married, each spouse's self-esteem is higher.

But successful marriages are not entirely free of negativity according to Gottman's research. The key is not to avoid negatives but to keep them well below the number of positive interactions.

There will always be hurts, disagreements, frustrations and conflicts in any marriage which should be dealt with. Gottman claims the negative interactions serve useful purposes in the successful marriage. They clear the air of negative feelings, hopefully resolve some important issues and temporarily create some distance when there has been too much togetherness.

Gottman also found there are three types of successful marriages depending on how the spouses in each handle conflict. The validating couple are good at communicating with each other and working out their problems. They are able to successfully validate each other's feelings and compromise on their differences. Theirs is the kind of interaction that most psychotherapists attempt to promote.

But Gottman discovered two other types of marriages which therapists might be surprised to learn are successful and lasting. The conflict avoiding couple avoid hurts, frustrations and disagreements in the interests of marital stability. They agree to disagree or to minimize the conflicts that start their fights.

The volatile couple is just the opposite of the conflict avoiding couple. They love to argue and to express their emotions vociferously. When they are angry, they are really angry, but their loving is strong and intense also. They are passionate whether fighting or making love.

Although each of these marital types are stable, each has its unique risks which could lead to more marital difficulties. The conflict avoiding couple may not be able to handle a major problem should one arise and it can't be ignored. The volatile couples' passion may slip into too damaging a fight, while the validating couple may sacrifice too much of the self in favor of the marriage.

Marriages which are headed for divorce, according to Gottman, show slightly more negative than positive interactions. What impels them towards dissolution is the quality of their fighting. It starts with criticism of each other's personalities, and not complaints about specific behaviors, degenerates into contempt and defensiveness and finally ends in stonewalling in which the spouses avoid each other.

So remember five to one. Your spouse needs and deserves five times as many expressions of caring from you than complaints and angers.

 

About the Author: J. Bailey Molineux, a psychologist with Adult and Child Counseling, has incorporated many of his articles in a book, Loving Isn't Easy, Isbn 1587410419, sold through bookstores everywhere or available directly from Selfhelpbooks.com. Copyright 2002, J. Bailey Molineux and Selfhelpbooks.com, all rights reserved. This article may be reprinted but must include authors copyright and website hyperlinks.





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