For about two marriages there is a divorce. This is the reality in France, according to the justify site. The number of divorces varies from year to year, but on average almost 130,000 divorces are granted each year. In recent years, the number of divorces has increased significantly.
In addition, marriages last less and less: 15 years on average, the time that elapses between the date of the formal union and the date of the divorce decree. The period is shorter than previously: In 2007, for example, the average period was 17 years.
What makes a marriage last?
According to Business Insider, science has been searching for this answer since the 1970s. At the time, couples in the United States were divorcing at an alarming rate, prompting psychologists to study the effects of such separations on children from marriages.
John Gottman was one such psychologist and wrote The Science of Happily Ever After: What Really Matters in the Quest for Enduring Love. Over the past four decades, he has studied thousands of couples to find out what makes a marriage last. In 1986, he founded the Love Lab with his colleague Robert Levenson from the University of Washington. It was a room where the newlyweds were monitored using electrodes responsible for providing the participants’ physiological data. The researchers asked the couples to talk about the relationship, and they separated the subjects into two groups based on the physiological responses they got in the tests:
Couples apparently are calm during the dialogue, but whose bodies reacted differently, with elevated pulses and sweat glands (responsible for sweat) constantly working.
Couples who appeared calm and without noticeable physiological reactions. After six years, the researchers visited their “guinea pigs” and noted that the “champions” lived happier married lives, while the “disaster” couples had either gone through a divorce or an unhappy marriage. Physiological responses showed that ‘disasters’ responded to dialogue with the same tension as a person facing a threat.
By observing couples’ behavior and physiological responses, Gottman was able to identify 94% of future couples, regardless of whether they were straight or gay, rich or poor, with children or not.
What destroys marriage and what strengthens it:
Disapproval is the biggest factor in breaking up couples.
People who focus on their partner’s faults miss 50% of the positive things their partner does because they see negativity in everything. Ignoring your partner also greatly damages the coexistence of a relationship. This behavior makes the other person feel invisible and worthless – in addition, it would lower their immunity and deteriorate their health.
Happy marriages are built on kindness.
It is the most important factor in the satisfaction you feel in a relationship. There is plenty of evidence to show that the kinder we are, the more kindness we create in the world. It is a positive chain reaction, also in marriage.
One way to show kindness is to be generous.
Not necessarily on the material level, but rather in that which is priceless, such as attention.
In 1990, when Gottman wanted to further his education in relationships, he invited 130 newlyweds to an experiment: accompany them for a while in a room simulating a house. The couples did joint activities (cooking, talking, listening to music, etc.) while Gottman watched their actions.
He noted that couples are “always asking for things in relationships”—for example, when a woman sees a beautiful sunset from her window and says, “Hey honey, come see this! It’s a way of ‘asking for a connection,'” which the husband in this case can accept (for example, getting up from the armchair and watching the sunset with his wife) or not.
How you respond to it plays a big role in the well-being of your marriage, Gottman found. Couples who divorced sometime after the experiment consented to relationships 33% of the time; couples who stayed together, 87%. It is a clear example that being generous also means taking time for someone.
Another thermometer of a happy relationship is the ability to share everyday joys. In a 2006 study, researcher Shelly and her colleagues brought young couples into the lab to discuss recent positive events in their lives. They found that couples generally respond to each other’s good news (eg, “I got a promotion at work”) in four ways:
It is the couple that ignores news from the partner, often revealing a fact about themselves to silence the other. For example: “And I managed to lose 1 kilo! ”
This reaction diminishes the relevance of the good news and often imposes negativity. The other answers something like “But isn’t that more responsibility? With so much to do besides work, can you handle it? This promotion may not have come at the right time…”
The person acknowledges the good news but seems unconcerned, saying something like, “It’s okay, honey,” while texting his friend.
It is the couple who devote themselves to listening to the news and are able to share the joy of the other. The partner answers e.g. “That’s good news my love! I am very happy. Now tell me how the conversation about your promotion went…”
The only way to respond healthily to good news is to be active-constructive. The study found that couples who showed genuine interest in each other’s pleasures were more likely to stay together. Why ? Because sharing the couple’s joys increases the intimacy and quality of the relationship.