Monday, March 31, 2008

Creating a Successful Marriage

The number one predictor of marriage difficulty is the chronic avoidance of conflict. What's sad is the reason that we avoid conflict is because we believe it (conflict) causes divorce. It's like the cartoon where the couple explains to the marriage counselor, "We never talk anymore. We figured out that's when we do all our fighting."

In the beginning, we avoid conflict because we are in love and we believe that
"staying in love" is about agreeing, about NOT fighting. We're afraid that if we disagree - or fight - we'll run our marriage off into the ditch.

Successful couples are those who know how to discuss their differences in ways that actually strengthen their relationship and improves intimacy. Successful couples know how to contain their disagreements – how to keep them from spilling over and contaminating the rest of their relationship.

While it's true that we don't get married to handle conflict, if a couple doesn't
know how – or learn how – to fight or disagree successfully, they won't be able to do all the other things they got married to do. Put another way, it's hard to take her out to the ball game if you're not speaking. Couples are often so determined to avoid disagreements that they shut down – quit speaking.

Couples need to know the research and understand that every happy, successful couple has approximately ten areas of "incompatibility" or disagreement that they will never resolve. Instead, they learn how to manage the disagreements and live life "around" them – to love in spite of their areas of difference.

The good news is that the skills or behaviors – behaviors for handling disagreement and conflict, for integrating change, and for expressing love, intimacy, support and appreciation – can all be learned. Couples can unlearn the behaviors that destroy love – and replace them with behaviors that keep love alive.

Successful couples also model the skills for their children which will slow the divorce rate in future generations. "Don't tell us how to have a good marriage, show us."

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