Marriage is one of the most important relationships we will ever have in our lives. But what makes a marriage happy? What are some key secrets to success when it comes to marriage, and who has had luck with their marriages?
The “happy marriage tricks anyone can learn” is a book that has been released by the author, Dr. John Gottman. The book covers the secrets to a happy and successful marriage. It also includes tips for how to maintain a healthy relationship. Read more in detail here: the happy marriage tricks anyone can learn.
We’ve chosen to reprint a vintage essay each Sunday to assist our younger readers discover some of the greatest, evergreen jewels from the past, with our archives currently totaling over 3,500 items. The original version of this story was published in February 2017.
You and your partner’s brains are soaked in a heady mix of chemicals that make you feel pleasantly euphoric for each other throughout the first few years of a relationship. And you can’t fathom feeling any other way. Those middle-aged couples at restaurants who sit quietly looking at one other? You two will never be like that. Those pals you have who are going through a tumultuous divorce? There’s no chance you’ll ever be in their shoes. You folks are unique. Your connection is unquestionably exceptional. In every aspect, you’re meant to triumph.
After you are married, a few more years pass. You quarrel a lot more and have a lot less sex. You’re not as close, and you do sometimes look at each other quietly while eating a Moons Over My Hammy. You’re not dissatisfied per se, but you’re also not overjoyed. You have the impression that you are platonic roommates who enjoy one other’s company; you get along OK, but your relationship lacks depth, richness, and ardor. The former zeal has faded.
While the plot of this typical fable may seem to be predetermined, it is not. According to studies, passionate love may endure a lifetime. You have the ability to overcome the odds.
How? Friends and relatives, skilled marital therapists, and popular culture in general may all provide answers to this topic.
Unfortunately, even from “experts,” most of the information supplied via these well-intentioned avenues is inaccurate.
The genuine key to building and sustaining a good and long-lasting relationship — one that has been scientifically investigated and research-backed — is really blissfully simple. It’s fairly simple. It’s even enjoyable. In fact, it doesn’t even need you to work on your marriage personally.
Instead, see your relationship as a bank account — a form of trust that, if constantly filled with positive deposits, will keep your marriage in the “black” for the rest of your life.
3 Myths About What Makes a Relationship Work
Let’s look at some of the common misconceptions about why marriages thrive or fail before we get into why you should think of your relationship as a bank account. Like we’ll see, the power of considering your relationship as a positivity-funded bank account is precisely what makes them wrong.
Myth No. 1: Happy couples do not quarrel.
Couples may have a little or a lot of fights and yet be happy.
Dr. John Gottman’s research found that happy couples don’t necessarily have less conflict in their marriage than unhappy ones. Gottman spent sixteen years at the University of Washington’s “love lab” studying what makes marriages thrive and fail, and is famous for his ability to predict whether a couple will end up divorcing with over 90% accuracy after watching them interact for just 15 minutes. Some people seldom ever quarrel, and when they do, it’s usually softly. Others, on the other hand, argue constantly and become noisy and enraged in the process. Happy marriages, like their unhappy counterparts, still have to work out a balance between their differing temperaments, attitudes, and interests, and they still argue over the same issues – money, kids, sex, and so on.
Despite this, their friendships continue to thrive.
Myth #2: The keys to a great marriage are good communication and constructive dispute resolution.
Truth: A couple may be unhappy despite poor communication and dispute resolution skills.
When a couple is experiencing troubles, they often go to a therapist’s office. What do they do there, exactly? Talk. Discuss their problems, their childhoods, and the ways in which their relationship has failed them. The therapist will guide these sessions, teaching the couple how to speak with each other in a calmer, clearer, and gentler manner in the hopes of resolving their problems. Conflict resolution is seen as the be-all and end-all of a happy marriage.
It might be good to learn the ins and outs of “clean” communication and how to properly communicate your wants in a relationship. Calmly discussing issues is much more pleasant and less stressful than shouting and screaming. However, according to Gottman’s study, many couples break all of the principles of healthy communication and conflict resolution — they lose their tempers, don’t practice “active listening,” and don’t express their problems in “I” statements — but are nonetheless happy.
Myth #3: Husbands and wives have overly high expectations of one other and marriage in general, which leads to marital dissatisfaction.
Truth: Having high expectations for your marriage is a wonderful thing.
But how widespread is this concept nowadays? It’s something you hear all the time. Couples are unhappy, according to its proponents, since the woman grew up with rom-com illusions, and even the guy believes marriage would be a breeze.
“Get real!” they exclaim. “Marriage is difficult! Everyone gets married to the wrong person and then has to make do with what they have. It’s better to have realistic expectations and accept reality than to have unrealistic expectations and get disillusioned.”
Although such a marital strategy has that pleasing tough-guy-realist quality, it turns out that it is not founded on reality at all. Gottman cites evidence, which his own investigations corroborated, that shows the exact opposite to be true in his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work:
Some ‘experts’ suggest that one of the major causes of marital dissatisfaction is because husbands and wives have unrealistic expectations of one other. The reasoning is that by decreasing your expectations, you’ll be less likely to be disappointed. However, a research conducted by Donald Baucom of the University of North Carolina debunks this theory by looking at couples’ standards and expectations of one another. He’s discovered that those who have the highest expectations for their marriage have the best-quality marriages. This shows that maintaining your relationship to high standards is significantly more likely to result in the sort of marriage you want than turning a blind eye and letting things go.
Anyone who believes marriage is simple is either dishonest or crazy, according to some. However, the whole idea that marriage is always tough and that you should decrease your expectations as a result comes off as bitter grapes from individuals who are in bad relationships and want to think that their predicament is universal and unavoidable.
It isn’t, and it never will be.
Because we can honestly claim that after 15 years, two children, and even operating a company together, our marriage is still the simplest thing we’ve ever done – and we’re not lying or crazy. We know other couples who have had an easy time with marriage and are confident in their honesty and sanity.
What’s the key to establishing one of these easygoing relationships? As we just stated, it’s not because we don’t quarrel (we do), nor because we’re good at resolving conflicts calmly (arguments may grow hot and break at least half of the requirements of “clean communication”). It’s also not a question of decreasing your expectations (ours are still too high after 15 years of marriage).
Instead, the key to a successful marriage is to maintain one’s “relationship bank account” full at all times.
Your Relationship Bank Account’s Importance
Nearly 70% of marital problems are perennial and unresolvable, meaning they continue throughout the couple’s lives. Year after year, year after year, spouses butt heads about the same issues.
This is gloomy news if you think that dispute resolution is the cornerstone to a happy marriage. It basically suggests that nearly no marriage can be successful.
Such concerns, however, are not a problem if you follow Gottman’s research-based worldview; in fact, he would argue that friction is a natural part of the ying and yang of life in general, and of partnerships in particular, and that some negativity in a marriage is really beneficial.
As long as there are good things to balance it out.
Gottman has calculated an exact ratio for where this balance must sit in order for a marriage to remain stable and happy: 5:1. A marriage that has at least five times more pleasant contacts than negative interactions is more likely to prosper in the long run.
Happy marriages aren’t without strife; they simply have more positive than negative. This positive reserve functions as a buffer, dampening and defusing the love-degrading impacts of a couple’s disagreements by absorbing negative waves and preventing them from spreading and overwhelming the partnership. This phenomenon is known as “positive sentiment override,” according to Gottman.
Another way to think about this sum is as a “relationship bank account.”
If a couple’s relationship bank account is running low on “funds” (there have been more negative interactions than good interactions for a time), each “withdrawal” (conflict) takes the account balance closer and closer to zero, or even a “overdraft.” As a result, each disagreement seems heavy and dangerous, as if it’s pushing the relationship closer to “bankruptcy” — a break-up or divorce.
If a couple’s account is filled with optimism, on the other hand, they can afford to make “withdrawals” on occasion without risking running out of money. When a withdrawal is made, it doesn’t seem like the stakes are all that high since there is a large safety cushion in place. The concept that a disagreement is leading them closer to divorce or that it’s an indication that they won’t make it is a million miles away — it’s not even on the table. An argument is nothing more than a stupid argument.
The difference between couples who have “positive sentiment override” and those who have “negative sentiment override,” according to Gottman, is that the former “communicate to each other every emotion on the spectrum, including anger, irritability, disappointment, and hurt, as well as their fundamental fondness and respect.” Regardless of the topic, they send each other the message that they are loved and welcomed “warts and all.”
Why Is the “Relationship Bank Account” Approach to Marital Success So Successful?
Increases the number of times you try to fix something during a fight. Because individuals whose relationship bank accounts are in the positive don’t see their disagreements as high-stakes affairs, the partners are occasionally self-aware enough to remark to themselves, “Boy, this is a silly fight,” in the middle of the squabble.
In fact, according to Gottman, one of the most important ways that a large relationship bank account enhances a marriage is that it leads to more frequent and speedier “repair efforts.” Repair efforts are little gestures or words — a smile, a chuckle, an apology — that one partner uses to relieve the tension of a disagreement and prevent it from escalating out of hand. When a couple’s relationship bank account is full, the spouse on the receiving end of a repair effort is more likely to recognize it for what it is and react appropriately. You’ve seen how a repair effort works if you’ve ever had a furious disagreement with your significant other and she smiled, then you both smiled, and then you both laughed and were able to calm down and talk things out normally.
Prevents the marriage from being overwhelmed by strife. Maintaining a well-stocked relationship bank account not only shortens fights, but it also assures that they are resolved promptly and with minimal lasting impact. Couples with large bank balances can quarrel and still have a lot of optimism left over; they keep their love, admiration, and liking for one other; they can fight and still like each other a lot.
Removes the pressure to engage in “excellent fighting” practice. You may quarrel “poorly” and yet be completely engaged and infatuated with each other if you maintain a store of optimism in place. How “excellent” you argue isn’t nearly as crucial as your marriage’s overall quality. This is a huge plus and a huge comfort because, let’s face it, it’s difficult to remember to make “I” statements when you’re ready to lose it.
Allows you to learn to accept your partner’s flaws rather than having to settle all of your disputes. You don’t have to split and work on each of your conflicts/issues individually if you use the bank account approach to marriage. In fact, you don’t have to attempt to settle your sticky issues at all – which is a relief since the great majority of them would never have been resolved in the first place! People seldom change; they can become a bit better at controlling their shortcomings, and you can acquire ways for dealing with them together, but a problem that exists at the start of your marriage will very certainly exist until your golden years.
It’s great to feel sad about that truth, but it doesn’t have to be a long process.
Your displeasure with your spouse not living up to this or that expectation will be substantially overshadowed by your admiration, respect, and liking for the things they do well and that you appreciate when your relationship bank account is in the black. While you reduce your expectations in certain areas, you boost them in others, so your marriage remains uplifted, thankful, and positive. You still adore one other and see each other as deserving of dignity and respect, flaws and all.
Solve difficulties in a roundabout way, especially sex-related issues. Though the bank account method to marriage allows couples to live with conflict rather than cure it, it does sometimes settle conflicts completely. It accomplishes so in an indirect manner, avoiding the need for couples to deal directly on the issue.
Sex is a fantastic illustration of this. If there are issues in the bedroom, such as one partner believing sex isn’t occurring frequently enough, Gottman advises trying a change in mindset rather than segregating sex from the rest of the relationship. Stop thinking of sex as climax and consider anything nice that occurs between you to be sex.” “Every Positive Thing You Do in Your Relationship Is Foreplay,” Gottman’s clinic’s tagline states.
When you treat your relationship like a bank account, instead of focusing on what’s wrong, you focus on what’s good, allowing the positives to outnumber the problems, reducing their importance and influence on your love and happiness.
“The key to rejuvenating or divorce-proofing a relationship is not merely how you manage your arguments,” Gottman says, “but how you connect with each other when you’re not arguing.” You can weather the difficult times and even prevent certain storms from emerging in the first place by putting in place a type of insurance policy during the good times.
The “bank account” strategy to maintaining a healthy, happy, and secure marriage has the added benefit of not requiring you to work directly “on” the relationship. Instead, you create a trust fund to which both you and she contribute, which generates profits that are reinvested in your relationship. And, as we’ll see, depositing money into this fund is more pleasure than labor.
We’ve just referred to these deposits as “positive interactions” thus far. But, precisely, what do they entail?
That’s what we’ll talk about the next time.
Part 2: The Best Ways to Fund Your Relationship Bank Account can be found here.
Part 2: The Best Ways to Fund Your Relationship Bank Account can be found here.
John Gottman’s Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
The “rules for a successful marriage” is a guide that will teach you how to make your relationship work. It has been said that this book is the secret to a happy and successful marriage.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the 3 most important things in a marriage?
A: The number of times the couple says I love you, the time they spend together, and how much their children appreciate them.
What makes a happy successful marriage?
A: There is no one thing that makes a happy marriage, but there are many things that make it successful. For example, respect for each other and communication skills play a major role in making the relationship work.
What are the 5 keys to a successful marriage?
A: 1) A good sense of humor. 2) Be able to put up with one anothers quirks 3) Accept each other for who they are 4) Respect your partner 5) Make time for date nights
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