In this 'Marriage Help' video, Mark Tyrrell talks about the research showing the beneficial physical effects of a happy marriage, on both physical and psychological wellbeing. He also goes into what has been shown to help marriages work, and what sort of behaviours are toxic to marriage.
He discusses the fact that people who are unwilling to ever apologise are have been shown to be unlikely to ever get married, or to stay married if they do. He talks about the reaserch done by John Gottman, the 4 'Riders of the Apocalypse' for an unhappy marriage: criticism, contempt, stonewalling or withdrawal, or over-defensiveness. These all undermine the stability of a relationship and Gottman was able to predict marriage breakdown based on observations of them in couples.
Mark talks about the magic ratio of 5 good interactions to every 1 unpleasant interaction. Arguing itself is not a problem, but it's the way couples argue that predicts whether they will split up or not.
Transcript of Marriage Help video
Many people feel that marriage is a wonderful institution. And then many other people feel that they're just not ready to live in an institution! ...I'm sorry, that's an old joke and I couldn't resist.
Actually, research does show us that people who are enjoying happy marriages do actually live longer, enjoy better immune response in their body, feel happier, are much less prone to depression and other psychological difficulties, and so forth. So there does seem to be a protective mechanism within marriage that helps people thrive. But, of course, an unhappy marriage helps nobody.
What has research shown us that indicates what actually makes a happy marriage and also what makes an unhappy marriage?
First off, some very interesting research done in the States discovered that people who are unwilling ever to apologize are very unlikely ever to get married or, if they do get married, very unlikely to stay married for very long. The willingness to be able to compromise, to say sorry - from both partners in a marriage - is a strong indicator that the marriage will be happy and be a lasting marriage, which is interesting.
John Gottman, the famous marriage researcher from Seattle, discovered that there are four key components that drive out happy marriage. First off, he discovered that marriage partners who are prone to criticize their spouse are much less likely to remain married. Marriage partners who show contempt - continuous contempt, not just occasionally - are much less likely to stay married. Women who, in his research, looked contemptuous when their husbands were talking were six times more likely to be divorced two years later. Partners who stonewall, or withdraw from interacting with their spouse, are more likely to fail in the marriages; and often, this is more of a typical male feature - withdraw into the other room, behind the newspaper, rather than confronting a contentious issue within the marriage. Or people who are very defensive - you discuss something with them and they become very upset very easily, perhaps in an exaggerated way. So criticism, contempt, stonewalling or withdrawal, and defensiveness: 'Four Riders of the Apocalypse', as John Gottman called them, which undermine the stability of marriage - or any relationship, in fact.
Now, the one aspect that really indicates that a marriage is stable and happy is what we call the 'Five to One Rule': there need to be, for a relationship or a marriage to stay stable and happy, five good interactions for every one less good interaction. So five good interactions could be laughing together, spending happy time together, having a good conversation, having great sex, and so forth; as opposed to one argument or one bad atmosphere or one disagreement and so forth. Gottman found it wasn't whether a married couple argued, but the way they argued which is vital. If it's very personal and very critical, then it's more destructive, more toxic.
Happy married couples tend to laugh together, to focus on stuff from the past that was good and enjoyable (rather than all the times they argued before), and to be able to say 'sorry' to one another, and to have less of these Four Riders of the Apocalype within their marriage. And these aspects, together, go to make for long-lasting, happy marriages. So it's not just chance or luck; we can actually learn these skills to maximize the possibility or the chances of being in a happy marriage.