Showing posts with label Marriage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marriage. Show all posts

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Profile of a Healthy Marriage

by F. Douglas Stephenson, LCSW, LMFT, BCD
Former President, The Florida Society for Clinical Social Work

Modern day society is filled with idealized models that define physical perfection. For most of us, these are unattainable and unrealistic. Idealized models for the perfect marriage abound, but with similar frustrating, unattainable and unrealistic results for most couples. Finding your soul-mate, spiritual and romantic nirvana, making your marriage into a blissful zone of perfect coupledom all are touted as standards for success. Little mention is made of the potential for harm that can occur when these become standards that most individual marriages cannot achieve.

Based on the pioneering and well researched work of John Gottman and associates at the University of Washington, several key factors are identified in a realistic profile of a good marriage. Describing a “Sound Marital House”, the foundation of a healthy marriage includes:

A). well articulated and detailed love maps.
B). mutual admiration and fondness between partners.
C). a strong habit of turning towards one another rather than away whenever one partner asks for attention.

Unhealthy marriages lack knowledge of spouses likes/dislikes, are weak on fondness and admiration between partners , and tend to ignore, make excuses, and not turn toward the spouse when called, thereby producing “Negative Sentiment Override”. With this, the tendency is to assume the worst possible interpretation of the spouses irritating behavior. You give the benefit of doubt with Positive Sentiment Override. Negative Sentiment requires just the reverse, where you assume that your spouse means harm.

Four problematic behaviors have been outlined in the research, and occur when couples cannot well handle insolvable problems. Referred to as the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”, these behaviors tend to accurately predict the likelihood of divorce.

1). CRITICISM: troubled couples often attack each other in global ways, defaming each others character rather than carefully describing behaviors that have been annoying.

2).CONTEMPT: Much criticism can mutate into contempt, where spouses judge each other and often assume that they themselves are morally superior to their mate.

3).DEFENSIVENESS: Becoming defensive when attacked leads to less communication, less listening, less understanding of complaints and increasing counter attacking. A vicious cycle can spiral downward rapidly, further extinguishing positive sentiment in the relationship.

4). STONEWALLING: Finally, one of the partners (usually the man) may try to escape from the fighting by Stonewalling, or remaining silent, eyes averted and arms crossed during the exchange. This behavior is guaranteed to inflame the partner (usually female) all the more. Although Stonewalling, Gottman says, appears to be only a passive-aggressive withdrawal, a highly elevated heart rate suggest that the Stonewaller is seeking escape from an intolerable stress situation .

Seeking antidotes to the Four Horsemen behaviors is the central focus of marriage and family psychotherapy. With Gottman and other therapists, global and harsh criticisms by couples are rephrased into softer, more focused complaints. Displays of contempt are combated by encouraging spouses to reconnect with their mutual fondness and admiration. By encouraging each partner to take some of of the responsibility for marital problems, defensiveness and combativeness are combated and often reduced. Stonewalling is worked on by encouraging more self expression and openness of communication.

Gottman shares the view, held by other psychotherapists as well, that a healthy marriage is simply one where spouses basically like one another and can successfully live together in relative peace.

Editor's note: If you are interested in more, I highly recommend this book.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Expressing gratitude in marital and family life is important for relationship satisfaction.

How important is the expression of gratitude in marital satisfaction? Turns out it is important.

As a family therapist, I find that gratitude is not only important between marital partners but between parents and children and between siblings as well.

It is hard for gratitude to become a family value expressed in all relationships in a family if it is not modeled first between the marital partners.

Be sure to express appreciation and gratitude for the small acts engaged in in your relationship and family life. It is a skill which becomes more natural with practice.

For more click here.

McNulty, James K.,Dugas, Alexander
McNulty, J. K., & Dugas, A. (2019). A dyadic perspective on gratitude sheds light on both its benefits and its costs: Evidence that low gratitude acts as a “weak link”. Journal of Family Psychology, 33(7), 876–881.
Research suggests gratitude benefits close relationships. 
However, relationships involve 2 people, and the interpersonal implications of mismatches in gratitude remain unclear. Is it sufficient for 1 partner to be high in gratitude, or does low gratitude in at least 1 partner act as a “weak link” that disrupts both partners’ relational well-being? 
We asked both members of 120 newlywed couples to report their tendencies to feel and express gratitude for their partner every year for 2 years and their marital satisfaction every 4 months for 3 years. 
Initial levels of own and partner gratitude interacted to predict initial levels of marital satisfaction and changes in marital satisfaction over time. 
Although own and partner gratitude were associated with higher levels of initial marital satisfaction when both spouses were high in gratitude, own and partner gratitude were unassociated with initial satisfaction if either spouse was low in gratitude. 
Further, gratitude was associated with more stable marital satisfaction when both partners were high in gratitude, partner gratitude was unassociated with changes in satisfaction when own gratitude was low and own gratitude was associated with steeper declines in satisfaction when partner gratitude was low. In fact, although initial gratitude was positively associated with marital satisfaction 3 years later if both spouses were high in gratitude, own initial gratitude was negatively associated with later satisfaction when partner gratitude was relatively low. 
These findings suggest low gratitude in one partner acts as a weak link that is sufficient to disrupt both partners’ relationship satisfaction. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Longest married couple in America

In 2015 the longest married couple in America were 99 years old and had been married 81 years.


In 2018 a couple had been married 83 years.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Psychotherapeutic humanities - When to tell the children about the impending divorce?

Linda McCullough Moore's book of short stories, An Episode Of Grace, begins with the story entitled, "You choose," which begins with this paragraph:

"I’m driving on Route 91, going ten miles over the limit, on the way to my divorce, or, at least, to its announcement. My husband Jake and I decided we would tell the kids tonight. We’ve waited way too long. Our marriage died of natural causes years ago. We are planning that our children will be shocked beyond surprise, but we both know better. Any hesitation that we have about telling them isn’t fear of their surprise; it’s knowing that once we say the words, out loud, to them, it will be official, carved in stone, irreversible. But, of course, that’s what we want."

The childrens' names are Jonah who is 11 and Adam who is 6.

Of all the questions I get asked as a couple counselor and a family therapist by people going through a divorce are when and how to tell the kids?

My stock answer is "Don't tell them anything until you know specifically what the plan is unless they ask."

Kids being narcissistic in a healthy way first ask when told their parents are separating is "What's going to happen to me?" Parents need to have the answer to provide the child with whatever sense of security and predictability they are able.

The narrator in this story has her plan in place and has coordinated the telling the children with her husband and is on her way. But as she travels to the meeting with the children she gets stuck in a snow storm and as the various events unfold her ambivalence was divorcing her husband grows in poignant ways.

The ambivalence partners usually feel about a break-up with the concomitant anger, sadness, fear, hope, sense of failure and regret, are things the therapist witnesses and, hopefully, clarifies with the client(s) into some sort of coherent story that makes sense to themselves primarily and then to others affected.

The key question, often overlooked, in the emotional turmoil is, "What is the purpose of this relationship?" The genuine answers to this question usually lie at an unconscious level that the individual is not aware of and doesn't understand.

The understandings of one's motivations, choices, and responsibilities are key to growth towards greater maturity so that the individual does not jump from the proverbial frying pan into the fire and engage in what Dr. Freud called the "repetition compulsion" to merely re-enact the same scenario over again.

The narrator of the story recognizes that telling the children about the impending divorce is a milestone in the process which she determines as a point of no return. It is an action which will make the rupture permanent and complete. The finality and the closure seems to heighten her apprehension about the decision to divorce rather than mollify it and liberate her.

You choose is a great story and much can be learned as we puruse our study of the psychotherapeutic humanities.

This is the first article on "You Choose" by Linda McCullough Moore.

To be continued

Friday, January 25, 2019

Tomorrow, January 26, is National Spouses Day

Celebrated annually on January 26th, National Spouses Day is an unofficial holiday which encourages couples to celebrate each other on this day. On this day, people are supposed to take time out of their busy schedule to show just how important their spouse is to them. After all, the love that isn’t tended is most likely the one that doesn’t thrive. This holiday shouldn’t be confused with Military Spouses Day – a holiday which falls on May 12th.

Interesting facts about marriage:
  • The average married couple has sex once a week
  • 20% of married couples have a sex-less marriage
  • Over 300 couples marry in Las Vegas every single day
  • Every hour, there are a 100 divorces in the United States. Couples who seriously dated at least two years or more before marriage have much lower divorce rates.
  • The divorce rates for second marriages is higher than for first marriages. 
  • The symtoms of marriage becoming toxic and breaking up are hurtful criticism, and the expression of contempt and disdain.
  • Interracial marriage was banned in the U.S up until 1967. The number of mixed racial marriages has been rising since then.
  • Gamophobia is the fear of commitment
  • Wedding rings go back to Ancient Egypt
  • Marriages and families are happier when there is at least a 5:1 ratio of compliments to criticisms.
  • There are five love languages: physical touch, words of affirmation, spending quality time, acts of service, recieving gifts
  • Most important thing people want from marriage is to know that their partner is going to be there for them.
  • The best kind of marriage is one characterized by unconditional love. This kind of relationship is holy.
For more click here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Sex in long term marriage

From Science Daily 02/16/15:

While people in the early years of marriage have sex more frequently, and their sexual activity tapers off over time, a slight rebound occurs for those whose marriages endure longer than half a century, according to new research.

For more click here.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Remarrieds have less sex than those who stay in first marriage

From Science Daily 02/16/15:

The study also found that people who remain in their first marriages have sex more frequently than those who remarry. 


As to why "remarrieds" have less frequent sex than those in first marriages, "it may be that those who have been married in the past may not have as strong of a sense of permanence or lasting investment," Stroope said.

For more click here