From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Improving Your Marriage
Not long ago, I conducted marital research on spouses in over 200 different marriages
as part of my doctoral dissertation. The purpose of this research was to identify the relationship
ingredients necessary to achieve marital satisfaction. This article is the first of a
series in which I will share with you the results of this research. Below are six
categories of behaviors which can lead a couple to marital satisfaction or bust!
- Expression of Affection. Affection in a relationship is expressed through both
words and actions. In the early stages of relationships, partners usually pay a great deal
of attention to each other and behave thoughtfully in a variety of ways. No doubt, this is
a major selling point in attraction to a relationship. But while affection in new
relationships seems to come easy, the real trick is to develop and sustain a genuine level
of affection over time.
- Communication. Early in relationships, partners often describe their ability to
talk endlessly. But over time, communication involves much more than generating an
interesting dialogue. Communication becomes a matter of listening to one
anothers thoughts, ideas, feelings, and opinions. Communication involves trust, a
desire to confide, and an ability to express ones self without fear of harsh
- Consensus. While it is actually quite dull to agree on everything,
partners in relationships must have a basic level of agreement on matters of lifestyle. As
relationships develop, partners establish understandings between them about issues such as
money, recreation, their home environment, parenting, and relationships with others in
their lives. While it may not be necessary to agree on all matters of politics and
religion, it is tiring when every discussion results in conflict. A certain level of
agreement is necessary for partnerships to function well, and this usually requires a
willingness to compromise.
- Sexuality and Intimacy. Among the most important ingredients in a marriage are
the elements of sexuality and intimacy. Sexual love is a crucial and binding force in
marital relationships. Sexuality and intimacy reassure partners that they are loved,
valued, and attractive. Over time, these two elements create deep personal bonds, or
convey the height of personal rejection. In addition, sexuality and intimacy provide
relationship security by satisfying this basic human need.
- Conflict Management. When partners disagree, the disagreement itself is usually
not the biggest problem. Rather, the greater problem may be the fall-out from ways in
which partners struggle to get their way. In general, humans hate the feeling of giving
in, and they seek revenge for the loss of face. As such, it is wise to consider how
conflicts are handled in your marriage.
Some spouses manage conflict by habitually giving in to the wishes of their mate,
regardless of their own feelings. While on face value this seems like a peaceful tactic,
it generally results in built up anger which will surface in some other destructive way.
In other relationships, conflicts are resolved through bullying behavior which often turns
from verbal to physical violence. When conflicts escalate into domestic violence, they
leave permanent scars on the relationship.
- Distribution of Roles. Marital satisfaction is also related to spouses
satisfaction with the roles they play in the marriage. The problem is that roles change
quite a bit over time due finances, work schedules, children, and the needs of other
family members. Over a period of years, spouses will play a variety of roles in relation
to each other. Sometimes, roles change in ways that are less than desirable due to
circumstances beyond our control. At other times, each of us wants to grow and change what
we do in life. The trick to maintaining happiness in this unique partnership is learning
to work well together, being supportive, and remaining flexible. When change is supported,
marriages typically become more solid and loving. Life is just not as predictable as it
once was, so we must all be prepared to take our turn at washing dishes and cleaning the
In short, marriage is teamwork and when team members take good care of each other, the
rewards are great. Take a few minutes to review these six categories with your partner.
Together, you may be able to make your new years resolutions come true!
ęCopyright, 1999, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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Last Updated February 27, 1999 by Gary M. Grandon,