Newlyweds' 5 Biggest Pitfalls
Experts say unrealistic expectations, avoiding conflict after marriage can lead to disaster.
We Should Avoid Conflict at All Costs
He leaves and goes for a drive when she confronts him about
viewing computer porn. She learns to stifle her feelings about computer porn
and keep quiet.
Couples who claim "we never fight" are missing an
opportunity to build their relationship. "It's how couples handle the
conflict that matters," says Freeman. "Do you de-escalate situations?
Can you repair the relationship? Do you validate your partner after a big
fight? When people give up on each other, it's usually because they've stopped
trying to resolve conflicts."
The research of John Gottman, PhD, has had a profound impact on
the field of marriage counseling. Freeman says Gottman can tell with 95%
accuracy which couples will stay together. "He puts them in a room and
videotapes them discussing their relationships. Then he observes their verbal
and nonverbal behaviors, and counts positive behaviors, such as nodding or
placing a hand on a shoulder, and negative behaviors, such as whining or stern
criticism. With successful couples, the ratio is five positive behaviors to one
negative. What makes them successful is the ability to reduce the negative
"Even good marriages will have criticism and defensiveness,
but there's danger when people stonewall or feel contempt. If you hold someone
in contempt, you don't think the problem can be resolved. Contempt replaces
Freeman says some important lessons emerging from the research
are different for men and women. "Wives who stand toe-to-toe with their
husbands and don't give in do well. But when wives raise their tolerance
levels, the marriage is doomed, because the husband makes a power play.
Husbands who can calm themselves down and lower their anger are more likely to
have happy marriages."