By Aly Walansky
Here are 5 surprising ways to have a better marriage.
I’m single, and nowhere near marriage — that said, I’ve seen the signs of good (and bad) relationships, and the same holds true for marriages.
A lot of research has gone into this, and we all know it to be true: Being in a happy marriage contributes to better health. For example, happily married spouses have better immunity and lower rates of cancer and respiratory diseases, less mental illness and longer life, and fewer migraines. They are more likely to be physically active, and they even heal faster from wounds and injuries!
What many people don’t realize is that unhappy marriages can make you unhealthier as well. One study showed that unhappy marriages can increase your chances of becoming ill by 35 percent!
If you want to be healthier, you need to make your marriage healthier and happier too.
Here are 5 surprising ways to do it, shared by Psychologist Terri Orbuch PhD, known as The Love Doctor, the project director of the landmark, NIH-funded Early Years of Marriage Project.
Don’t shy away from conflict.
Couples were asked if they have tensions or differences about 6 topics: money, own family, spouse’s family, how to spend leisure time, religious beliefs, and children. Those couples who said “no” or “we never disagree” to all six topics were also the couples who were not very happy over time! The take away: Learning to face conflict and deal with it in a healthy, productive manner makes marriages happier.
Keep relationship talk to a minimum.
The happily married couples in the study do not spend a lot of time in conscious relationship maintenance or talk. In fact, the study showed that men, in particular, do not enjoy relationship talk, and associate it with marital problems, blame, or unhappiness. Women, on the other hand, have a positive association with relationship talk. The take away: Wives should pick their battles when it comes to talking about the relationship and their feelings.
Verbalize feelings you think he/she already knows.
A whopping 74 percent of the happy couples in the EYM study said their spouses “often” made them feel good about the kind of person they are (as opposed to 27 percent of moderately happy or unhappy couples). The take away: Even though it seems obvious that you’d pick him/her all over again if given the chance, let your spouse know, on a regular basis, that you like, adore, admire, and respect lots of different things about him or her.
Focus on good sex, not lots of it.
In a surprising finding from the marriage study, 75 percent of happy couples reported that sex became less frequent over time, but the same number (75%) said they were satisfied with their sex life. Why? Because 8 out of 10 couples felt that sex was just as enjoyable as it was when they first met — and in most cases, more enjoyable. The take away: Sex is essential to marital happiness, but quality is more important than quantity.
Live in peace with in-laws.
Although in-law relationships can be stressful and challenging, when a spouse doesn’t get along with his or her partner’s family, it’s detrimental to the happiness in the marriage. For the happy couples in my study, both wives and husbands got along (or at least felt close) with their in-laws. The take-away: Patching up your in-law relationships strengthens your marriage bond.
Aly Walansky is LovingYou.com’s senior editor. Follow her on Twitter at @alywalansky.