Is Your Marriage Bliss, or a Miss?
Great Date, Great Mate?
The success factors
About 25 or 30 factors should be taken into account when
predicting relationship success, says Jeffry Larson, PhD, professor and
director of the marriage and family therapy graduate programs at Brigham Young
University, who recently taught colleagues about the topic in a program
sponsored by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Some are
obvious factors such as personality differences, says Larson, author of
Should We Stay Together?
Among the pairings he feels have little chance of long-term
success: Those in which there are significant religious differences, and those
in which one person is the party type and the other isn't. Despite the old
wisdom that opposites attract, he advises against such relationships. "It
makes marriage interesting," he says, "but difficult."
Another red flag: A couple who have a conflict every time they
go out, but think marriage will smooth things over. Engaged couples, he finds,
chalk it up to pre-wedding pressure or anxiety. But he tells them that marriage
is more stressful than dating or living together.
The three-minute litmus test
Aside from personality factors and argument frequency, pay
attention to your arguing style, suggest Larson and other therapists. It is
telling -- and predictive. There's nothing wrong with arguing, but hostility
during arguments is a very bad sign, Larson says.
Fighting style is very much an indicator of whether a
relationship will last, agrees Sybil Carrere, PhD, a research psychologist and
assistant professor of family and child nursing at the University of Washington
School of Nursing, Seattle, who has conducted many studies with John Gottman,
PhD, known as the University of Washington's marriage research guru.
After observing couples argue, Carrere and her co-researchers
found, they could predict divorce among newlyweds based on the first three
minutes of an argument. Couples who ultimately divorced were more likely to
start the dialogue with an attack on their partner's character, says Carrere.
Something like: You never tell me what is going on. You always hold in
"When someone comes at you that way, it is hard to come
back in a positive fashion," Carrere says. And so the fight escalates.
"It reminds me of 8-year-olds fighting," she says.