stocktakeTaking Stock of your Marriage

Of course, there’s more to a lasting marriage than disagreements. To foster stable marriages, couples need to continually celebrate those areas where they can come together, and not let their inherent differences pull them down. To be sure, any marriage is made up of two individuals with differing needs, tastes, and interests. And you may wish at times that your partner was different— more outgoing or less social, more intellectually minded or less bookish, more this or less that. But you get into trouble when you try to re-create one another to fit your own ideals. Nobody wants to be coerced. Nobody wants to bear full responsibility for another’s happiness.

Our research shows that the happiest, most stable couples are those who accept that all marriages— and all spouses— have their limitations.

Think back to your childhood fantasies about marriage. Perhaps you dreamed that your trip to the altar would transform you, that once you were married, you would feel “complete as a person,” and your spouse would fill your life with endless romance, happy music, and undying laughter. The sad part is that many people still cling to this fantasy. They expect their marriages to deliver total personal fulfilment and they find themselves disappointed when it doesn’t happen.

 If your marriage has been rocky, you may wonder: “So just what are sufficient grounds for remaining married?” While each couple must discover their own answer to this question, my research suggests some answers. At the very least, our studies show how extensive the grounds need to be. Remember that marital stability rests on a 5-to-l ratio of good to bad times. Happy, solid couples nourish their marriages with plenty of positive moments together.

Learning to resolve conflict effectively is important to maintaining this ratio. But couples also need a proportionate measure of pleasure and joy in their marriages. Infusing your relationship with happy, shared experiences is especially important if you think your marriage is “basically okay” but boring. Couples flourish when they have a sense that they are creating something together— whether that’s raising a family, building a business, or sharing a hobby.

Gottman, John (2012-04-12). Why Marriages Succeed or Fail (pp. 222-223). Bloomsbury UK. Kindle Edition.