I have been married for over 15 years. It has not been all roses and puppy dog tails. Marriage can be hard. Like reaching down into your soul hard. But like most things in life, gifts are often packages wrapped up in problems. We once went to a therapist in Denver to see if we could get some help through a really rough patch. He suggested we go buy his book. So we went to Barnes and Noble that afternoon and bought the book. Two of them. We go to checkout and the cashier says, "Hey man, you've got two copies of the same book here." My husband said, "yes, correct, the last thing we need to be fighting about is who gets the book!!" Oh, and by the way, the title was "Fighting FOR Your Marriage."
So throughout our fifteen years (as of 2014), we have asked for help. We have made the call because our pain got bigger than our pride. It has helped, quite a bit. I am blessed, goose bump blessed, to have the husband that I do. We chose each other. He makes me want to be a better person because of WHO he is in the world. It is AWE-some to have a partner like Tom. And I want to be a better wife. I want to be kinder, I want to be more patient, I want to give more. So I am always interested in any insight couples who have weathered the test of time might have, and I found this study, modified here, from The Atlantic (June 12, 2014) very interesting in a beautiful and simplistic way!
Of all people who get married, only 3 in 10 end up together (not divorced) and healthy and happy. So Social Scientists started studying marriages in the 70’s by observing them in action. Psychologist John Gottman was one of those researchers. For the past four decades, he has studied thousands of couples in a quest to figure out what makes relationships work.
With a team of researchers, they hooked the couples up to electrodes and asked the couples to speak about their relationship, like how they met, a major conflict they were facing together, and a positive memory they had. As they spoke, the electrodes measured the subjects' blood flow, heart rates, and how much they sweat they produced. Then the researchers sent the couples home and followed up with them six years later to see if they were still together.
Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it’s not there. People who give their partner the cold shoulder—deliberately ignoring the partner or responding minimally—damage the relationship by making their partner feel worthless and invisible, as if they’re not there, not valued.
Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from theirs has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved. The hardest time to practice kindness is, of course, during a fight—but this is also the most important time to be kind. Letting contempt and aggression spiral out of control during a conflict can inflict irrevocable damage on a relationship.
There are many reasons why relationships fail, but if you look at what drives the deterioration of many relationships, it’s often a breakdown of kindness. As the normal stresses of a life together pile up—with children, career, friend, in-laws, and other distractions crowding out the time for romance and intimacy—couples may put less effort into their relationship and let the petty grievances they hold against one another tear them apart. In most marriages, levels of satisfaction drop dramatically within the first few years together. But among couples who not only endure, but live happily together for years and years, the spirit of kindness and generosity guides them forward. There is an innate generosity that occurs when someone is kind, kind in their actions, kind in their words, kind in being present. So that’s what it all came down to: KINDNESS AND GENEROSITY.
let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray. -Rumi
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