The study, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family surveyed older adults who were participating in the National Social Life Health and Aging Project and compared the characteristics of husbands and wives between the ages of 63 and 90 years old whose marriages had lasted an average of 39 years.
The study discovered that when the husband showed a higher level of positivity, the wife in a couple reported less marital conflict. Interestingly, positivity levels had no effect on their husbands’ reports of conflict.
According to Professor of Urban Sociology and director of the Center on Aging at NORC Linda J. Waite, the conflicts examined by the study primarily revolved around whether a spouse makes too many demands of their partner, perpetually criticizes the other, or gets on the others nerves.
Furthermore, men who described themselves as extroverts or as neurotic tended to have wives who had more complaints about the quality of the marriage. In marriages where the wives were self-described as neurotic, however, the husbands reported more emotional support.
The advantage of this study is that it examined individual marriages, as opposed to married couples in general. This allowed researchers to obtain reports on the quality of the marriage from each participant, as well as individual health and personality.
From the above study, it is reasonable to suggest that a positive man greatly increases the chance of a successful marriage. On the other hand, there are probably a lot of husbands out there who can make the opposite case. On a practical level all of this misses the point, however.
The point is, who makes or breaks your marriage? And what can you do to remain positive? Can you go a day, week or month without focusing on your partner’s faults? When you do, does it create a positive loop between you? This is very important to know.
Here is a good test to find out where you stand:
1. Without reservation, invest your conscious effort over time, focusing on your partner’s positive attributes, giving warm feedback, showing appreciation and being a GREAT person to be around. (If you simply cannot do this, then you know where to begin – with your self-sabotage or psychological attachments).
2. Notice what happens over time. Most likely, one of the following scenarios will happen:
A. Your partner will respond in kind, increasing happiness and fulfillment in your relationship. This is a WONDERFUL sign. You now know what you can do to increase your mutual joy and create positive loops in your relationship.
B. Your partner will not be affected, or may pretend not to notice.
C. Your partner will resist your efforts and become even more negative or troubled.
If you know you’ve been a great partner, yet cannot create a positive loop in your relationship that allows both of you to be happy, then there are deeper issues to look at. For example:
Are the boundaries clear enough to honor each individual in the relationship, or are you trying to control each other?
Self-Sabotage and Psychological Attachments
Self-Sabotage compels people to do the opposite of what makes the happy. It is driven by psychological attachments to old, familiar states of misery that we are not yet strong enough to let go. We unwittingly sabotage our happiness and chances for success by subconsciously clinging to an old story, a familiar misery or what we’ve always known.
It could be that both you and your partner are simply not compatible. In other words, it is nobody’s fault. You just don’t see life the same way. Of course, choosing and clinging to an incompatible person could be an example of self-sabotage.
The best way to assess overall compatibility and learn to honor differences is through Jake and Hannah Eagle’s Dating, Relating and Mating online program. It’s superb.
Where do you stand in your relationship? The first step to making relationship life better is to know how to answer this question.
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Last reviewed: 9 Apr 2014