Making Marriage Work

Making Marriage Work

There are simple steps you can take to keep your marriage alive
and healthy. Here are some ideas, which are described in detail in my
book *The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work*, that have been
gleaned from over 20 years of research with hundreds of couples:

1. Seek help early. The average couple waits six years before seeking
help for marital problems (and half of all marriages that end do so in
the first seven years). Meaning the average couple lives with
unhappiness for far too long.

2. Edit yourself. Couples who avoid saying every angry thought when
discussing touchy topics are consistently the happiest.

3. Be careful how you "start up" a conversation. Arguments first "start
up" because a spouse sometimes escalates the conflict from the get-go by
making a dramatic, or angry or upsetting remark in a confrontational
tone.

4. A marriage succeeds to the extent that the husband can accept
influence from his wife. If a woman says, "Do you have to work Thursday
night? My mother is coming that weekend, and I need your help getting
ready," a husband who replies "My plans are set, and I'm not changing
them," is a guy in a shaky marriage.
A husband's ability to be persuaded by his wife is so critical
because, research shows, women are already well practiced at accepting
influence from men, and a true partnership only occurs when a husband is
able to do so as well.

5. Happy couples had high standards for each other even as newlyweds.
The most successful couples are those who, even as newlyweds, refused to
accept hurtful behavior from one another. The lower the level of
tolerance for bad behavior in the beginning of a relationship, the
happier the couple is down the road.

6. Successful couples know how to exit an argument. Happy couples know
how to repair the situation before an argument gets completely out of
control. Successful repair attempts include: gossiping about other
people together (very useful); changing the topic to something completely
unrelated; throwing in some humor; stroking your partner with a caring
remark ("I understand that this is hard for you"); making it clear
you're on common ground ("This is our problem"); backing down (in marriage, as
in the martial art Aikido, you have to yield to win; and, in general,
offering signs of appreciation for your partner and his or her feelings
along the way ("I really appreciate and want to thank you for...")

7. Focus on the bright side. In a happy marriage, couples make five
times as many positive statements to and about each other and their
relationship ("We laugh a lot" as opposed to "We never have fun") than
negative ones. A good marriage must have a rich climate of positivity.
Make deposits to your emotional bank account.