The Marriage Benefit: The Surprising Rewards of Staying Together in Midlife

Married couples are happier than everyone else, especially in middle age
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Some couples were given mundane tasks, while others took part in a silly exercise in which they were tied together and asked to crawl on mats, pushing a foam cylinder with their heads. The study was rigged so the couples failed the time limit on the first two tries, but just barely made it on the third, resulting in much celebration. Couples were given relationship tests before and after the experiment. Those who had taken part in the challenging activity posted greater increases in love and relationship satisfaction than those who had not experienced victory together.

The researchers theorize that couples who explore new places and try new things will tap into feelings of self-expansion, lifting their level of commitment. Every couple has disagreements, but science shows that how two people argue has a big effect on both their relationships and their health. Many people try their best to avoid conflict, but relationship researchers say every conflict presents an opportunity to improve a relationship.

The key is to learn to fight constructively in a way that leaves you feeling better about your partner. Marriage researcher John Gottman has built an entire career out of studying how couples interact. He learned that even in a laboratory setting, couples are willing to air their disagreements even when scientists are watching and the cameras are rolling. In one important study, Dr.

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Gottman and his colleagues observed newly married couples in the midst of an argument. In many ways, this is great news for couples because it gives you a place to focus. The most important moments between you and your partner during a conflict are those first few minutes when the fight is just getting started. Focus on your behavior during that time, and it likely will change the dynamics of your relationship for the better. Identify the complaint, not the criticism.

Daily Marriage Tip

Do you think you could find a way to help more on those nights? Think about pronouns. Be aware of body language. No eye-rolling, which is a sign of contempt. Look at your partner when you speak. No folded arms or crossed legs to show you are open to their feelings and input. Sit or stand at the same level as your partner -- one person should not be looking down or looking up during an argument.

My Partner Is Going Through A Midlife Crisis: What Should I Do?

Learn to De-escalate: When the argument starts getting heated, take it upon yourself to calm things down. Here are some phrases that are always useful in de-escalation:. Gottman reminds us that fighting with your partner is not a bad thing. After all his years of studying conflict, Dr. You just need to make sure you get the beginning right so the discussion can be constructive instead of damaging. A famous study of cardiovascular health conducted in Framingham, Mass. Women said issues involving children, housework and money created the most problems in their relationships.

Men said their arguments with their spouse usually focused on sex, money and leisure time. Even though the lists were slightly different, the reality is that men and women really care about the same issues: money, how they spend their time away from work housework or leisure and balancing the demands of family life children and sex.

Studies show that money is consistently the most common reason for conflict in a relationship. Couples with financial problems and debt create have higher levels of stress and are less happy in their relationship. Why does money cause conflict? Fights about money ultimately are not really about finances. A person who overspends on restaurants, travel and fun stuff often wants to live in the moment and seek new adventures and change; a saver hoping to buy a house some day may most value stability, family and community.

Money conflict can be a barometer for the health of your relationship and an indicator that the two of you are out of sync on some of your most fundamental values. David Olson, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, studied 21, couples and identified five questions you can ask to find out if you are financially compatible with your partner.

Olson found that the happiest couples were those who both agreed with at least four of the statements. He also found that couples who did not see eye to eye on three or more of the statements were more likely to score low on overall marital happiness. Debt tends to be the biggest culprit in marital conflict.

It can be an overwhelming source of worry and stress. As a result, couples who can focus on money problems and reduce their debt may discover that they have also solved most of their marital problems.

The reality

Surveys suggest secret spending occurs in one out of three committed relationships. Shopping for clothes, spending money on a hobby and gambling are the three most-cited types of secret spending that causes conflict in a relationship. The key is to agree on the amount of discretionary money you each have and then stay quiet when your partner buys the newest iPhone just because. Invest in the relationship.

The Marriage Benefit: The Surprising Rewards of Staying Together

When you do have money to spend, spend it on the relationship. Take a trip, go to dinner, see a show.

Autumn 2000

The Marriage Benefit: The Surprising Rewards of Staying Together in Midlife in positive terms,” Mark O'Connell advises couples in The Marriage Benefit. The Marriage Benefit book. Read 8 reviews from the world's largest community for readers. Baby boomers' expectations for their marriages are often unreal.

Spending money on new and shared experiences is a good investment in your partnership. One of the more uncomfortable findings of relationship science is the negative effect children can have on previously happy couples. Despite the popular notion that children bring couples closer, several studies have shown that relationship satisfaction and happiness typically plummet with the arrival of the first baby.

One study from the University of Nebraska College of Nursing looked at marital happiness in men and women. Scores declined starting in pregnancy , and remained lower as the children reached 5 months and 24 months. Other studies show that couples with two children score even lower than couples with one child. While having a child clearly makes parents happy, the financial and time constraints can add stress to a relationship. After the birth of a child, couples have only about one-third the time alone together as they had when they were childless, according to researchers from Ohio State.

So there you have it. The secret to surviving parenthood is to have lots of sex, be faithful and be generous toward your partner.

40 Ways Your Marriage Changes After 40

Here are some suggestions for how to strengthen your relationship based on the findings of various studies. Are you generous toward your partner? How often do you express affection?

Or do small things for your partner like bring them coffee? Finding a partner who makes your life more interesting is an important factor in sustaining a long relationship. Gary W. Lewandowski Jr. Take this quiz to measure how much your relationship expands your knowledge and makes you feel good about yourself. Lewandowski says. How thoughtfully couples make decisions can have a lasting effect on the quality of their romantic relationships. Couples who are decisive before marriage — intentionally defining their relationships, living together and planning a wedding — appear to have better marriages than couples who simply let inertia carry them through major transitions.

Rhoades , a relationship researcher at the University of Denver and co-author of the report. Many couples living together, for instance, did not sit down and talk about cohabitation. Showing intent in some form — from planning the first date, to living together, to the wedding and beyond — can help improve the quality of a marriage over all. Stanley said. Sometimes couples become so focused on the relationship that they forget to invest in their relationships with friends and family.

Researchers Naomi Gerstel of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Natalia Sarkisian of Boston College have found that married couples have fewer ties to relatives than the unmarried. They are less likely to visit, call or help out family members, and less likely to socialize with neighbors and friends. The problem with this trend is that it places an unreasonable burden and strain on the marriage, says Stephanie Coontz, who teaches history and family studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. To strengthen a marriage, consider asking less of it , suggests Dr.

That means leaning on other family members and friends for emotional support from time to time.

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It sounds silly, but research suggests that seeing a sappy relationship movie made in Hollywood can help couples work out problems in the real world. Obviously, talking about a movie is not going to solve significant problems in a marriage, but the findings do signal the importance of communication in a marriage and finding opportunities to talk about your differences. Rogge , an associate professor of psychology at the University of Rochester and the lead author of the study. The best movies to start constructive communication are those that show various highs and lows in a relationship.

Balancing the housework, fighting fairly and setting yourself up for success: Tara Parker-Pope answered your questions about love and relationships. Tara Parker-Pope is the founding editor of Well, an award-winning consumer health site with news and features to help readers live well every day.

Twitter: nytimeswell. Love and Romance Falling in love is the easy part. Diagnose Your Passion Level The psychology professor Elaine Hatfield has suggested that the love we feel early in a relationship is different than what we feel later. Assessment The Passionate Love Quiz Think of the person you love most passionately now, and answer the questions.

Sex For most couples, the more sex they have, the happier the relationship. The average sexual encounter lasts about 30 minutes. About 5 percent of people have sex at least three times a week. People in their 20s have sex more than 80 times per year. People in their 40s have sex about 60 times a year. Sex drops to 20 times per year by age After the age of 25, sexual frequency declines 3. After controlling for age and time period, those born in the s had sex the most often; people born in the s millennials had sex the least often. About 20 percent of people, most of them widows, have been celibate for at least a year. The typical married person has sex an average of 51 times a year.