4 most successful characteristics of a successful marriage.
Your relationship doesn’t take work, it deserves work.
In the All-or-Nothing Marriage book, Eli Finkel uses research to come to a fact-based series of recommendations he calls, “relationship-maintenance mechanisms.”
In this article, I cover the three strategies he recommends for countering weakness in relationships. The next article will review the five strength-related mechanisms that make modern relationships more satisfying.
The big picture is that we’re spending less time with our partners than our parents and grandparents did. At the same time, stress is increasingly impacting our levels of relationship satisfaction. We are leading busier, more distracted lives.
And if we choose to have a family together, parents are penalized culturally in two ways. First, parents spend more time than ever raising their children, which squeezes the time mom and dad have for each other.
Secondly, Americans take a hit compared to 22 other capitalist countries like the UK and Australia because of the USA’s lack of parenting-friendly work policies. And though marriages are valued highly in America, minority women with no college degree are hit the hardest by divorce.. They feel mentally worn out and unable to cope with marital issues because of their diminished mental bandwidth.
So what can we do to counter weakness in our relationship to stay happily together?
4 VALUES OF MARRIED COUPLES
According to Dr. Finkel’s research, the four most successful characteristics of a successful marriage reported by all classes and education levels are:
- Supporting each other through difficult times
- Being able to communicate effectively
- Spending time together
- Understanding each other’s hopes and dreams.
Note: Having good sex was ranked third from the bottom of the list of attributes that make a marriage successful.
After the top four above the ranking is:
- Having a family that supports you
- Husband having a steady job
- Having the same values and beliefs
- Having savings from which you can draw
- Having good sex
- Wife having a steady job
- Being of the same ethnic group
THE THREE PHASES OF MARRIAGE
What you must know before I give you the three ways to counter weaknesses in your relationship is that marriage has changed over history.
“America has witnessed three major eras of marriage: pragmatic, love-based and self-expressive.”
- Pragmatic 1700’s-1850’s (The family as corporation.)
- Love-Based 1850’s-1950’s (Industrialization empowers people to marry for love.)
- Self-Expressive 1960’s-Present (The humanist movement and gender equality create a self-expressive movement.)
In addition to merging roles where both men and women work and contribute to child-rearing and home management, marriage is now our crucible for personal growth. Couples who are both assertive (formerly the man’s role) and nurturant (women’s domain of the past) and who have emotional intelligent are considered good relationship partners.
Marriage is now expected to help both spouses achieve a meaningful life, a sense of self-actualization and fulfillment of personal potential.
Instead of focusing on “happiness,” couples are focused on drawing meaning out of their partnership. Instead of an emphasis on pleasure, there is an emphasis on meaning. Self-expression replaced self-esteem. Couples understand that marriage takes work, that infatuation is ephemeral but love can grow and deepen over time. Overcoming challenges strengthens, not weakens a marriage and makes us the best version of ourselves. And that marriage can be a place to support each other’s personal fulfillment. One does not need to lose oneself in the coming together as a couple.
3 WAYS TO COUNTER WEAKNESSES
Conflicts arise. It’s how you handle them that means the difference between a secure relationship and one that falls apart. Here are the three research-based strategies to counter the most common weaknesses that break down marriages:
- Give your partner the benefit of the doubt.
- Imagine a neutral third-party who wants the best for all involved.
- Reframe compliments and appreciations to be able to take them in and believe them.
In #1, if there is an inclination to blame or take things personally, try using your meta mind to give your partner the benefit of the doubt that whatever is affecting you is about you, and not done maliciously to hurt you.
For people who are overly sensitive or take things personally, this is an important practice.
Same with the “neutral party” idea in #2. Instead of getting mad, play the higher game. It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s about US.
What would someone you trust tell you about a conflict knowing you and your partner are well-intentioned? Assess conflict as a neutral third party and see how it lifts you out of the grudge match.
And finally, #3 is applicable if you have or if you married a partner with low-self esteem or someone who has been poorly attachment parented. Instead of them being worried about losing your love, give them a lot of admiration and encouragement. And when you do, have them describe what it meant to them and its significance to your relationship.
When a partner can’t take in a compliment, what they are doing is protecting themselves from losing you. They can’t allow themselves to be fully loved because they are protecting their heart. This is a habit that can be broken. But it takes an intentional thought-process to stop deflecting appreciation and truly receive and take it in instead.
If you’re with an avoidant partner, instead of getting frustrated with their deflections and deprecations, show them how to describe what you meant when you gave the compliment and how it strengthens your relationship. It’s almost like you have to wire a new connection in their brain so they can feel the appreciations.
Those are the three ways to make your marriage stronger by countering common weaknesses that undermine a relationship.
In my next article, I’ll go through ways you can bolster your strengths as a couple. For as I’ve learned, focusing on strengths gets us farther than focusing on weaknesses.
If you want to read the whole book, it’s excellent.
The All-or-Nothing Marriage: How The Best Marriages Work, by Eli J. Finkel
Here are two complimentary YouTube videos that will help you further, no matter your gender.
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