George and Joanne Nicholson had been happily married for over 30 years. Every night before bed, they tell each other how much they love one another. They embrace, they kiss and they go to sleep.
They have done this over 10,000 times. pretty incredible, right?
The big question is, what is the secret sauce to having a long lasting marriage like George and Joanne’s?
My name is Brad Browning and I have been a marriage coach for the last 10 years. I’ve helped thousands of ailing couples save their marriages from the brink of divorce.
Today I’m going to talk about the secret ingredients to a long lasting and loving marriage.
Every year in the US, around 2.3 million couples get married. That breaks down to about 6200 marriages every single day.
Unfortunately, over half of these unions end prematurely. The percentage of marriages that end up in a divorce or separation is steadily increasing.
The Ashley Madison hack exposed millions of people around the world that were at least interested in having an affair behind their partner’s backs.
And, this begs the question, is marriage really this difficult?
How can people go from wanting to spend the rest of their lives together to calling it quits in just a few short years? How do the remaining 40% of marriages the ones like George and Joanne’s end up staying strong and resilient?
Well, of course you might guess that the secret to a loving marriage is to trust, loyalty and shared interests and you’d be right to a certain extent.
Research has shown that the secret to a lasting and loving marriage comes down to just two simple traits, kindness and generosity.
That sounds a little too easy, right?
The Gottman Institute conducted a study involving hundreds of married couples.
With the help of a team of researchers, they hooked up all their subjects to electrodes and begun asking them a series of simple questions in front of their spouses. For example, they asked questions relating to how they met, what they did that week together, what their social lives were like and they answer these questions in a calm and controlled manner.
As the subjects answered the questions, the researchers analyzed the subject’s heart rate, blood flow and sweat production. After collecting the data, they sent all the couples home and followed up with them six years later to see which couples had stayed together and which couples had separated or divorced.
The researchers divided the group into who they called masters: the couples that ended up staying together after six years AND the disasters— or the couples that have broken up.
The disasters, the couples that broke up after six years or less showed many signs of physiological arousal during the Q and A session, meaning that when the disasters were asked questions about their marriage, their heart rates increased, they began to sweat more and they were sent into fight or flight mode.
In short, the disasters were fearful of their partner’s reactions to their answers.
Instead of expecting to receive kindness, each of the disasters expected their spouse to attack them or belittle them during the interview process.
The masters on the other hand, showed extremely low levels of physiological arousal during the interview period.
This calmer energy translated into more affectionate behavior even during times of argument.
The masters were able to create a sense of comfort and ease that resulted in a more relaxed environment. Instead of expecting to be attacked during the interview period by their spouses, they expected kindness and respect.
How does this information help you?
Will treating your spouse with kindness and respect help you fix your marriage overnight?
While it’s possible but obviously it’s quite unlikely. A marriage must be built from the ground up. Think about the house you live in. It doesn’t matter how well built the kitchen is— if the foundation of your house is built on quicksand— your house will collapse.
How do you rebuild the foundation of your marriage?
That’s a question obviously I don’t have time to answer in this article. If you want to learn more, simply head on over to my website and watch the free video presentation there on my website.
In it, I explain you three things that you must do right now if you want to get your marriage back on track.
Back to the topic at hand, there are a few small changes in behavior that you can make right now to start improving your marriage.
Let’s shift our focus back to the Gottman Institute study. After the first test, they decided to run another experiment. They invited over 100 married couples to a gorgeous bed and breakfast retreat to study their behaviors over the course of a few weeks. They analyzed specifically how each partner reacted to their spouse’s attempt to connect with them.
For example say a husband was trying to connect with his wife during the breakfast, he might say something like, “Aren’t these pancakes bloody fantastic?”
And at this point, his wife has one or two choices to make:
She can acknowledge and engage with her husband in a positive manner— what the study called turning toward her spouse. Or she can choose to either ignore or belittle him— what the study called, turning away from her spouse.
For example, to turn towards her husband, she could say something like, “Yes love, these pancakes are just delicious.”
In contrast, she could also say something like, “Don’t you have anything better to say?” or outright ignore her husband and turn away from him.
Like the first experiment, the researchers followed up with every couple six years later to see which couples had stayed together and which couples had separated and divorced.
The findings in this study told a similar story to the first study I talked about.
The couples that ended up getting divorced or separated responded negatively to their spouses more than 70% of the time.
The ones that remained happily married responded positively or turn towards their spouse almost nine times out of 10.
Of course, like I said, changing your behavior overnight probably not solve all your marital problems. Kindness and generosity are some of the most important traits to have in a marriage and it’s important to keep that in mind moving forward.
If you are in a rocky marriage and you’re worried that you and your spouse might be calling it quits soon, then I highly recommend that you head over to my website and watch the free presentation there.