Marriage Advice: New Rules for a Good Marriage
New rule: Sleep on it. Conflicts are best dealt with when you have calmed down and are well rested.
Rather than stay up to debate the disagreement du jour, Gottman suggests
that couples set aside a moment every night to focus on what's good about their
marriage. Then, "no matter what — if you're angry, if he's angry, or if
you're both exhausted — kiss good night for six seconds," he advises.
"Sure, sometimes you'll be so mad or tired that the kiss will last for six
nanoseconds. But it will remind you of your enduring affection, and besides —
long kisses often lead to something even better than conversation."
That's not to say that conflicts don't have to be dealt with. To make sure
disputes don't get swept under the bedsheets, Gottman recommends having a
standing, short "State of Our Union" meeting each week (just not at
bedtime). "Take turns telling each other something about your marriage or
your partner that you appreciated that week, and then afterward each of you
gets to bring up one issue."
Next Page: More marriage myths debunked
Myth: One day the two of you will just realize you've grown apart and fallen out of love.
The fable is that some couples just drift apart as their personalities
change or their interests diverge. But experts say if you look closely at most
happy twosomes, you'll be amazed at how little they actually have in common.
She could spend every spare hour crafting, and he might be the world's most
ardent sports fan. Yet they've discovered ways to be themselves and together at
the same time: That means sometimes she knits on the sofa to keep him company
while he watches the Reds battle the Mets. In fact, experts say, shared
interests or even similar temperaments are no assurance of marital longevity.
"If these factors were truly important," Gottman says, "couples who
meet through matchmaking services, which frequently try to pair singles
according to hundreds of points of compatibility, would have a better chance of
staying married than those who meet randomly. They don't."
New rule: A marriage doesn't run on feelings — it thrives because both spouses work hard on it.
"We need to give long-term partners credit for their marriages,"
says Diane Sollee, M.S.W., director of smartmarriages.com. "These couples
have probably worked their way through hundreds of disagreements, illnesses,
financial problems, kids' issues, maybe even an affair. They survive because
they understand that they are a team, and they work to find ways to come
together, whether in a crisis or in good times."
The truth is, we all change constantly, and that's a blessing. "If you
sprayed fixative on people during their wedding ceremony," says Sollee,
"life would just be too boring." But make sure you and your husband are
checking in regularly with each other, and that all the little marital
compromises and negotiations are making you both feel happy and involved in
each other's evolving lives. That way, you can grow together, rather than
apart, and, if anything, feel more in love than ever.