I’m going to take a little twist on the intensity of the subject matter I have been writing about so far to talk about how to have a lasting, happy marriage.
Is that even remotely possible in our current divorce culture mindset?
It seems like more and more, we just quit when it gets too hard and communication seems too difficult and never productive.
This week I’ve been reading a book I wish I had discovered years ago in the early days of my marriage.
In this book, Dr. Gottman dispels the myths that have been prevalent in most marriage therapy practices and outlines a program to help heal even the most damaged marriages. He has a proven algorithm for predicting divorce. I’m only on chapter 3, but I can already highly recommend this book. If your marriage is struggling, or even if your marriage is relatively happy, this book can help.
Take a look at this presentation to one of the most important concepts that has come out of Dr. Gottman’s research is his theory on “The Four Horseman”. Dr. Gottman refers to these behaviors as the most destructive and his biggest predictors of whether a marriage will end in divorce.
How has the Four Horseman theory played out in your marriage ?
Criticism: Statements said to your spouse that imply something is wrong with them. These statements typically begin with an absolute like, “You always” or “You never”.
Defensiveness: An attempt to defend oneself from perceived attack by employing a counter complaint.
Contempt: A statement or a nonverbal action that attempts to place you on a higher ground than your partner. Examples include; mocking, name calling, rolling your eyes or sneering. Disgust or contempt is known to be one of the most serious of the horsemen.
Stonewalling: This behavior happens when the listener withdraws from the conversation, either physically leaving the room or emotionally tuning out and refusing to respond.
It seems pretty incredible to think that just these 4 behaviors could be the root cause of marital discord and potential divorce.
A marriage relationship is one of the most important relationship we will ever have. It is worth all the time and effort we put in to cultivating and caring for it. The promises and covenants we make to one another should not be taken lightly.
Elder Russell M. Nelson said of marriage, “Marriage is the foundry for social order, the fountain of virtue, and the foundation for eternal exaltation. Marriage has been divinely designated as an eternal and everlasting covenant. Marriage is sanctified when it is cherished and honored in holiness. That union is not merely between husband and wife; it embraces a partnership with God” (Ensign, May 2006, 36)
What would you do to have a marriage that lasts?
I Googled “how to have a happy marriage” to see what the trending advice was on the topic. Not surprisingly, I got everything from 7 tips to 60 tips on how to have a happy marriage. There are gender specific tips; tips for husbands or for wives. Even WebMD chimes in on the topic.
A similarly quick search on lds.org lead me to the best advice: “Marriage, my beloved young brothers and sisters, should not be just taken for granted. It must be worked at, but realize that you can have the kind of marriage that you earnestly desire and for which you are willing to work” (Elder Henry D. Taylor, General Conference Oct. 1973).
Notice the date in the quote above? 1973. This conference address, and the counsel it contains was good advice then and even better advice now in the societal cultural in which we all live. “Realize that you can have the kind of marriage that you earnestly desire and for which you are willing to work.”
I’ll ask my question a different way…
How hard will you work to have the marriage you want to have?
Dr. Scott Braithwaite, A psychology professor at BYU in Provo shared some great advice on a Mormon Messages interview. It’s worth listening to (Listen for his reference to Dr. Gottman).