How many books have your read on healthy eating? Self-help? Fitness? Dating? Leadership? Wellness? If your bookshelf looks anything like mine, Amazon should probably be thanking us for our intellectual curiosity. But what about the modern marriage? It is the most profound relationship in many people's lives, but there are fewer fact-based options for the person seeking to understand how to strengthen our most important relationship.
Having recently celebrated our first wedding anniversary, I wanted to learn how my husband and I could help immunize ourselves from future strains and stresses on our marriage. Since we inherit most of our conceptions of marriage from our families, peers and social groups, I was drawn to Tara Parker-Pope's scientific exploration of relationships in For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage. After her 17-year marriage ended, the New York Times Well Blog columnist Parker-Pope sought an objective, fact-based understanding of what went wrong in her own relationship. Whether you think of your significant other as your soul mate, life partner, husband or wife, Parker-Pope offers insights to help you strengthen your most profound relationship in life.
If you are in a new and thriving marriage, a fulfilling partnership of many years, or evaluating whether you want to take the next step, Parker-Pope's tips from "For Better" will help you maintain, booster or rekindle the relationship bliss:
1. Celebrate the small stuff.
"It's not enough that your partner knows that you take pride in her or her accomplishments. You have to show it. Making a fuss over the small, good things that happen everyday can boost the health of your marriage."
2. Learn how to fight productively.
"The key to fighting productively is to recognize when a disagreement is going in the wrong direction and to take steps to calm things down and repair rifts."
3. Silence is not golden.
"By staying quiet and avoiding conflict when things bothered them, they had missed important opportunities to cultivate and grow their relationship."
4. Don't put negative thoughts into the universe.
"Men and women who had pondered thoughts of divorce in 1980 were nine times more likely to have gotten divorced by the end of the study."
5. Plan together.
"Couples who planned a baby's arrival or who were equally joyous at becoming parents were far more likely to maintain their marital happiness or even enjoy an increase after the baby was born."
6. Maintain a circle of friends and support.
"Strong friendships outside the marriage can take the pressure off your relationship, help you work things out away from your spouse, and ultimately protect your marriage from unnecessary stress and discord."
7. Overcompensate for mistakes.
"Do marriage math. Even when you make a mistake, tell yourself that you're going to do at least five positive things for your spouse to make up for it, and then do them. And don't wait until you bicker to turn on the charm. Nice gestures and comments go far in a marriage, they are easy to do, and they will help insulate your marriage from being damaged by the inevitable bad days."
8. Set the marriage bar high.
"Husbands and wives who hold their partners to a reasonably high standard have better marriages. If you expect a better, more satisfying relationship, you improve your chances of having one."
9. Give it a break.
"Sometimes, improving your marriage means giving it a break. Increasing your connections with family, friends and society is good for your marriage."
10. Be aware of your body language.
"Eye rolling is a painfully obvious sign of contempt, and it's a powerful predictor that your relationship is in serious trouble."