How to Make Your Marriage Stronger

Marriage© iStockphoto/Thinkstock
In one famous study of marriages, researchers asked therapists, married couples, and others to watch videotaped conversations of ten couples and try to identify the relationships that had broken up. Even the therapists guessed wrong half the time. But there are ways you can predict the health of your own relationship, according to Tara Parker-Pope, author of For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage (Dutton). To size things up, ask yourself these questions.

1. Do you avoid arguments? A University of Washington study of newlywed couples showed those who argued relatively little were happier than combative ones. When the same couples were checked three years later, however, those with an early history of bickering were more likely to have found stability in their marriages, whereas couples who prided themselves on their equanimity were in troubled relationships or already divorced. It turns out the garden-variety marital spat is actually good for you!

2. Do you roll your eyes in response to your spouse? The same researchers found that eye-rolling, even when accompanied by a laugh or smile, indicates some degree of contempt—poison to a relationship. “The obvious first step is to stop the behavior,” says Janice Kiecolt-Glaser at the Ohio State University College of Medicine. “But the second is to explore the reasons behind it.”

3. Do you allow your mate to make the decisions involving what to do with your time together? According to psychologist Howard Markman, professor at the University of Denver, it’s risky for your relationship when one of you controls the social agenda.

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