6 Research-Proven Habits for Happy Marriages Research proves that anyone can have a happy, successful marriage. Use these tips to make it a reality. BY DR. MICHELLE GANNON
Making time for one another is one of the six research-proven habits for a happy marriage.
“ Happily married couples respond to one anotherís bids for attention 86 percent of the time.”
Recently, I attended a seminar called, "The Science of a Great Relationship" at the Greater Good Science Center. Two experts at the seminar, sociologist and happiness expert, Dr. Christine Carter, and Stanford forgiveness expert, Dr. Fred Luskin, spoke on the latest research regarding marriage and marital happiness. Here are some of my favorite reminders and research-proven habits I took away from the seminar, as well as a few of my own.
1. Be One Anotherís Biggest Fan
Show admiration and fondness for one another. Share good news and celebrate often. Be a cheerleader for the relationship. Interestingly, the happiest couples maintain positive illusions over the years and even exaggerate the positive qualities in one another. Being "realistic" and "pessimistic" is not nearly as helpful to relationship happiness as being "optimistic." Go ahead and see the glass half-full rather than half-empty, especially when you are thinking about your spouse.
2. Respond Positively to "Bids for Attention"
Happily married couples respond to one anotherís bids for attention 86 percent of the time. They ask one another questions, communicate understanding and respond positively when their spouse asks them to. They say "Yes" to one another as often as possible. However, research has found that in unhappy marriages, couples respond to one another only 30 percent of the time. The next time your partner asks you to watch that silly YouTube video or listen to their favorite music, just do it!
3. Prioritize Affection and Sex
Research has found that the more sex couples have, the happier they are. Good sex is close, connecting and trusting. Ideally, sex is playful and intimate and allows for those wonderful bonding hormones (chemicals in your body that connect you with your spouse) to be released. Couples who have intimate conversations about their sexual relationship with one another are also more happily married.
4. Make Time for One Another
Have a weekly date night. Take the time for reconnection by spending 30 minutes daily chatting about one anotherís day. Show daily appreciation and gratitude. Have reunion and goodbye rituals. Make sure you know that you really matter to one another, and that you are there for one another.
5. Cultivate Forgiveness
According to Dr. Fred Luskin of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, there are some important steps to forgiveness.
You need to first remind yourself that we are all flawed human beings. Successful forgiveness requires that we allow ourselves to feel deeply our hurt, disappointment and anger. We need to ask ourselves whether the betrayal or disappointment is a deal breaker or not? If we stay in the relationship, we need to allow ourselves to feel our pain, soothe ourselves, and then be willing to widen our hearts, surrender and risk pain and disappointment again. All of this can happen even if our partner is not willing to take responsibility and change. According to the research, forgiveness is essential in successful, happy marriages. When we trust someone in a marriage, we are always vulnerable and risk getting hurt.
6. Help One Another Grow
In happy marriages, couples need to support one anotherís personal growth and development. In my own marriage, my husband and I find that when we are interested and supportive of one anotherís personal growth, we are much happier as both individuals and as a couple. We need to have a strong "me" in addition to a strong "we." When it comes to happiness, we need to take responsibility for our own self-care and growth. We also need to support one anotherís growth.
Which habit do you need to work on to make your marriage happier and stronger? Please, share your ideas on the Married Life network (click here).
Dr Michelle Gannon is a San Francisco-based psychologist specializing in relationships, women's health and wellness. She is an individual and couples therapist in private practice in San Francisco for over 20 years, couples workshop founder and media expert. She specializes in relationship issues, self esteem, health and wellness, work/life balance, communication, intimacy and sexuality, parenthood and life transitions. She also leads award winning Couples Workshops: Marriage Prep 101 for engaged, newlywed and seriously dating couples with her husband, Dr. Patrick Gannon. Dr. Michelle Gannon has been featured on CBS Early Show, The Kathleen Show, Sex with Emily Show, Evening Magazine TV, Ronn Owens Radio, TIME, PEOPLE, San Francisco Chronicle, SF Gate and many more. She blogs at www.DrMichelleGannon.com and www.MarriagePrep101.com. Dr. Gannon lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two sons, dog and cat. She is delighted to be an expert on Hitched.