In previous generations, many couples celebrated their twenty-fifth, fortieth, and even fiftieth wedding anniversaries. With today’s divorce rate hovering at the fifty percent rate in the United States, there’s a good chance that few couples will be celebrating such milestones in their marriages. What can couples do to create not only a long, but a satisfying marriage?
Dr. Howard Markman, a psychologist at the University of Denver, believes “love and commitment to the relationship are necessary for a good marriage, but they are not enough.” He believes that couples need to have good communication skills, as well as skills in handling conflict to have a satisfying relationship. Markman studied 135 engaged couples, and found that certain behavior patterns usually signaled an impending collapse in the marriage. “How you handle conflict is the single most important predictor of whether of not your marriage will survive,” stated Dr. Markham.
Dr. Markham found these behavior patterns contributed to the failure of a marriage.
- When either partner, though it is usually the male, withdraws from conflict.
- The tendency to escalate conflict in the face of disagreement and the inability to stop fights before it gets ugly.
- The tendency to invalidate the relationship by hurling insults at each other. According to Dr. Markham, “one zinger” counteracts twenty positive acts of kindness.
According to researchers, couples go into marriage with idealistic notions of what marriage is all about. These couples need to at the beginning of, or preferably before, marriage clarify what their expectations are to each other, and where there are discrepancies, a mutually satisfying compromise must be reached. One of the biggest no-no’s in a relationship is taking one another for granted, which happens after the honeymoon period is over in a marriage. Couples need to communicate well with each other, as this is one of the greatest assets in any relationship. Successful communication takes both proper transmission skills (articulation) and proper receptive skills (listening). Without both of these skills, communication will be difficult at the best.
Maintaining a marriage is no easy task. Marriages today are complex , dynamic relationships, and are much more than two people living under the same roof. It takes time and effort, patience and practice, good communication and conflict skills to create a fulfilling, emotionally gratifying and supportive marriage.