Maintaining Marriage Happiness
Marriage is both a commitment, and a covenant.
Marriage is is linked with everything from a sense of security, intimacy, happiness, prosperity, and even health. But as every married couple knows, matrimony brings both benefits and challenges. Research shows, however, that some of these challenges are both predictable, and manageable.
Even more good news: like fine wine, many marriages improve with age.
Relationship Navigation For Newlyweds
Whether couples are cautiously optimistic about their upcoming nuptials or recklessly racing down the aisle, the early years of marriage can present significant challenges. Anticipating post-honeymoon hurdles may equip partners-to-be with the tools necessary to withstand both the perks and the pressures.
Zaeema Farooq and Iram Fatima in “Predictors of Relational Turbulence in Early Years of Marriage” (from 2018) identified relational uncertainty and partner interference as factors that predict relational turbulence within the early years of marriage.
The authors explain that relational uncertainty includes doubt about the extent of a partner´s relational involvement or commitment, as well as self-uncertainty regarding one´s own involvement in the relationship.
Partner interference is explained as “perception of the extent to which an individual’s plans and actions are interrupted by a spouse’s behavior.”
The authors note that both relational uncertainty and partner interference are linked with negative emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, and jealousy.
Regarding the interpersonal dynamics at issue, Farooq and Fatima adopted a research based relational turbulence model to explain the negative interpersonal dynamics of distress couples experience initially within intimate relationships.
They note that the model illustrates relational turbulence as “excessive affective, cognitive and behavioral reactivity or responsiveness to events of interpersonal nature.”
Although obviously, all studies should be viewed as potentially limited by the demographics of the population studied, many interpersonal concepts explaining sources of marital distress translate to other populations.
Long Term Partners With Benefits
As couples age, love and companionship may become more important at different times. Shawn Grover and John F. Helliwell in a piece aptly entitled, “How’s Life at Home?” found marriage to be most important during middle age — a time period they note is tied to a decrease in well-being for everyone.
Using data from the United Kingdom’s Annual Population Survey, Grover and Helliwell note that marriage may soften the blow with respect to the causes of mid-life life satisfaction lull, and note that the benefits of marriage appear to be sustained long term.
Other research corroborates the benefits of long marriages on partner happiness and satisfaction.
Linda G. Bell et al. (in 2018) explored the link between marital functioning during midlife and later in life. They reviewed interviews by participating couples conducted midlife, then 25 years later. They found connection at midlife to be “positively related to warmth/support and clear interpersonal boundaries in later life.”
Bell, et al. also found that a higher degree of connection at midlife correlated with less depression later in life.
Regarding level of conflict, Bell et al. found that a higher degree of individuation midlife was linked with less conflict later in life. They note that individuation is enhanced when an individual´s “assertion of ideas and feelings is met by validation and acknowledgment and as mates are comfortable with individuality and with differences between them.”
They also found evidence indicating a higher degree of marital functioning later in life, which they summarized as “more warmth/support, clearer interpersonal boundaries, more comfort with differences, and less covert conflict.”
They note their findings are consistent with other research finding that marriages later in life often function better than marriages midlife. They note that findings suggest, “some affective qualities (e.g., depression, humor, and overt conflict) are stable from midlife to later life, whereas others, particularly those associated with individuation (e.g., clear interpersonal boundaries, comfort with differences, and covert conflict), are areas that can show improvement from midlife to later life.”
Till Death Do We Part
Marriage vows are made to be kept. Thoughtfully navigating the early years of couple hood allows many partners to celebrate the later years, cherishing one another throughout the lifespan.
This article was originally published in Psychology Today.
Wendy L. Patrick is a career prosecutor, named the Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year, and recognized by her peers as one of the Top Ten criminal attorneys in San Diego by the San Diego Daily Transcript. She has completed over 150 trials ranging from human trafficking, to domestic violence, to first-degree murder. She is President of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals San Diego Chapter and an ATAP Certified Threat Manager. Dr. Patrick is a frequent media commentator with over 4,000 appearances including CNN, Fox News Channel, Newsmax, and many others. She is author of “Red Flags” (St. Martin´s Press), and co-author of the revised version of the New York Times bestseller “Reading People” (Random House). On a personal note, Dr. Patrick holds a purple belt in Shorin-Ryu karate, is a concert violinist with the La Jolla Symphony, and plays the electric violin with a rock band. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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