Statistics shows that half of every marriage ends in divorce. Keeping that in mind, one is forced to ask, why do some marriage last while others struggle and fail? We’ve found the latest research on what really helps couples stick together, and clues can be seen in everything from old school photographs to the furniture in your living room.
1. Be ready to kiss and make up
Are you always the first to apologise after an argument? A study earlier this year found if one of you bounces back quickly after a row, moves on and avoids sulking, your marriage is likely to be stronger and happier. Interestingly, you don’t both have to behave like this to reap the benefit – so if your partner’s the mature sensible one, a little sulking can’t hurt!
2.Spend more time in the real world than the virtual one
According to lawyers, Facebook has a lot to answer for. ‘We deal with 5,000 divorce petitions a year,’ says Amanda McAlister from solicitors Russell Jones & Walker. ‘Facebook and Friends Reunited are cited as grounds in one-third of cases. Social networking sites can be addictive, and sometimes it’s hard to resist a first love who gets in touch after 30 years.’ Experience has taught her honesty is the best policy: ‘Be upfront about who you’re in touch with online’ – many of my clients hit trouble when they start keeping secrets.
3. Exercise Your Brain With Intelligent Materials
It’s said only fools fall in love, but intelligent people are better at staying in love. A US study found those of below-average intelligence are 50 per cent more likely to divorce than those with a higher IQ. So exercising your brain – whether it’s Sudoku, evening classes or conversation – boosts more than just brainpower.
4. Stand up for your individual rights
There was much talk a few years ago about the Surrendered Wife movement, in which women just did exactly what their husbands said in order to make them happy. But a recent survey found that women who see themselves as feminists are more likely to have stronger relationships and enjoy a better sex life.
5. Laugh at his silly jokes
That’s a good sign. ‘Laughter lowers our levels of stress hormones, which impacts on how irritable we feel,’ says Trudy Hill of introduction agency Seventy Thirty. ‘Stress can turn off your sex drive and make you put up a barrier. So rent a film that cracks you both up – you’ll feel refreshed and happier.
6. The power of yes, yes, yes! (It’s not what you think)
How often do you say yes – or another positive phrase – to your husband? Psychologist John Gottman says he can predict whether a marriage will end in divorce by listening to just a few conversations and counting how many positive things are said compared to negative ones.
If you say five nice things for every snippy or downbeat comment, the marriage is likely to stay strong.
6. You’ve got a good work/life balance
There are some careers, such as nursing and teaching, where divorce rates are very high. ‘Those in the caring professions often find it hard to switch off at the end of the day, and may be psychologically exhausted,’ says Hemmings. ‘Rather than changing careers, aim for a balance between communicating with your partner and burdening him, so you both can switch off when you’re at home.’
7. You finish each other’s…sentences
Shared speech patterns show you’re on the same wavelength. Psychologists found that compatible couples use similar phrases or synchronise their speech without even noticing.
8. You always get a good night’s sleep…
A bad night’s sleep can ruin your day, but more than a few of them can also ruin your relationships, according to psychologists. ‘There seems to be a vicious cycle,’ says Brant Hasler, who carried out the research. ‘Sleep affects the next day’s relationship functioning, and the relationship functioning in turn affects the next night’s sleep.’
9. The bedroom isn’t just for sleeping
We’re not saying you should swing from the chandeliers five nights a week, but researchers at the University of Tennessee recently confirmed what we already suspected: regular sex counteracts the ‘happiness deficit’ that sometimes creeps into a marriage as the years go by, and makes couples more content. ‘Keep it spontaneous,’ says Hemmings. ‘There’s no use doing it every Sunday at 10am on the dot – it’ll get predictable. Find the level that’s right for you.’
10. You’re grateful
Happiness comes down to three little words: ‘Thank you for’. Couples do little things for each other all the time, and simply expressing gratitude produces a little happiness boost that can last for days. ‘Couples often stop bothering to do this as the years go by,’ says Hemmings. ‘But if you get praise for something, you feel happy and want to do it again. It creates a kind of cycle of contentment.’