"It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages," wrote philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Contemporary research seems to back up this claim - many of the factors that make a good friendship also make a good marriage. The key to a successful marriage is to stay positive and to have fun despite the pitfalls and conflicts involved in sharing a life.
Researcher John Gottman found that the greatest predictors of divorce lay in the way couples argue. He called certain argumentative tactics the "four horsemen of the apocalypse" because couples who use them are likely to divorce: criticism, or blaming your partner for what's wrong; defensiveness, or offering counterattacks in lieu of taking responsibility; contempt, such as calling names, rolling eyes or making faces; and stonewalling, or withdrawing from or refusing to engage in a conversation. Successful couples listen, show respect for one another and take responsibility, even during disagreements.
Maintain Clear Expectations
Successful couples make their expectations clear - preferably before marriage. This means couples agree on how they plan to share financial and household responsibilities. It also means they decide together what kind of life they want to lead - for example, it's a good idea to know your partner's thoughts on where he wants to live, if she wants to have children and other factors that will affect your life together.
It's good to be a team and to depend on your partner, but it's not good to be completely dependent. Spending too much time with any one person can cause conflict or make a person feel trapped, so you should have friendships and hobbies that you do by yourself. Couples should support each other in individual goals. If your partner has a goal that isn't your goal, that's fine - be a champion of your partner and cheer your partner on.
A successful marriage is not without some conflict, but you should have more positive than negative interactions - specifically, at least five positive interactions for every one negative interaction. Remember what attracted you to your partner in the first place. Don't forget the niceties you engaged in when you first started dating. Although even small gestures count as "positive interaction," it's also important to spend time together doing fun activities that you both enjoy. Even married couples should make the time to go on dates.
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