married couple

I just read an article by John Gottman in the Washington Post (Marriage Myths) about 5 things many people believe… but are untrue about marriage, click on the link if you want to read the whole article.

Untruth #1 – Common Interests keep you together

“It is not what you do but how you interact while doing it that matters.” Imagine playing cards together and all the other person does is belittle every move you make. Gottman says the stronger predictor of togetherness is the ratio of positive to negative interactions.  (He says it needs to be 20 positives to each negative.)

Untruth #2 – Never go to bed with unresolved issues

This advice tries to get couples to solve their problems right away. Everyone has their own methods of dealing with disagreements, and Gottman’s research shows that about 2/3rds of recurring issues in marriage are because of personality differences — you probably will not quickly work out how much money you should be saving. When you are mad it is hard to think rationally. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed during a disagreement, take a break and come back to it later, even if that means sleeping on it. After your body calms down, it is easier to discuss it.

Untruth #3 – Couples therapy is for broken marriages

Many marriages can benefit greatly from “regular maintenance”. In a counseling office, spouses can learn conflict-management skills and ways to connect and understand each other.

Untruth #4 – Affairs are the main reasons for divorce

Let us understand that an affair is a traumatic event for any marriage. Affairs can destroy the foundation of trust upon which a marriage is built, but the cause of the divorce typically precedes the affair. 80% of divorced men and women indicate growing apart and loss of a sense of closeness to their spouse as the reason for divorce.

Untruth #5 – Marriages benefit from a relationship contract

While it is important to do nice things for your spouse and to do your fair share around the house, do not jump on the bandwagon (as the New York Times puts it) of an increasing number of couples that have decided to formalize it with a contract. Couples need to act in kind and loving ways, intentionally and attentively, as often as they can. Some things simply cannot be mandated, not even by contract. Many times, a contract breeds resentment when someone is extremely busy and forgets or gets overwhelmed.

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