I've heard enough about painful marriages to completely terrify me about the whole concept. For a long time, while many of my friends happily anticipated starting their own families, I felt apprehensive about this major life step.
Since then, I've made it a goal to understand more completely how to have hope in marriage. While research tends to focus on daunting statistics telling us that our marriage only has a 50 percent chance of success, recent research shows that these five things surprisingly remedy marriage challenges.
Embrace thoughts about divorce
Embracing your thoughts about divorce is not the same as embracing divorce itself. Many studies focus on what makes people divorce, but neglect the mindset of divorced couples.
Most people have thoughts about divorce; and this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Thinking about divorce does not make people more likely to actually get divorced, according to a recent study by The National Divorce Decision Making Project. In fact, thoughts about ending a marriage can actually be helpful in saving the marriage.
This report related thoughts of divorce to a bleeding arm. Just like bleeding motivates bandaging the arm, thoughts about divorce motivate healing behaviors.
The study states, "Divorce ideation [or thinking about divorce] is not only normal, but also may be helpful when the thoughts act as an alert system that tells people their marriage may be in trouble and gives them an opportunity to try some repair behaviors."
Some people argue that watching sexually explicit material — like pornography — is healthy for relationships. However, no research reports any positive effects of pornography. Pornography hurts your partner.
Those who watch pornography rate themselves as less in love with their partner than those who don't watch porn, according to Fight the New Drug. Porn presents an idealized version of intimacy, through Photoshop and editing, which leaves you dissatisfied with reality and destroys the intimacy you have with your spouse. By avoiding sexually explicit material in all forms, you and your spouse will find more happiness in your marriage relationship.
Many fear that talking to people about marriage concerns — especially thoughts about divorce — will legitimize marriage issues and aggravate the problem. But a Brigham Young University study revealed that people who talked to friends or family members about their marriage concerns actually made progress in improving their relationships.
Conversations were helpful, because their friends gave them perspective and advice.
"[T]hose who were thinking about divorce overwhelmingly reported that talking to others about their concerns was helpful," the study reported. "Perhaps talking to others about marital problems can be a way to work through issues and make the thoughts about divorce less scary."
While you obviously need to preserve appropriate boundaries, getting these issues out of the dark can keep them from growing bigger.
According to Amie Gordon, the lack of gratitude is the "downfall of many relationships."
"You get used to having [your spouse] in your life and forget why you chose to be with them," she said.
It may seem counter-intuitive to tell your spouse why you're grateful for him or her when you feel it would be more helpful to constantly say what he or she needs to fix. But focusing on the positive will help you remember what you're grateful for about your spouse, as well as encourage those positive attributes to thrive in him or her.
Of course you shouldn't stay in your marriage without exception; if there are issues of abuse, addiction or infidelity, divorce may be a good option. However, according to this study, the majority of people who get divorced aren't dealing with these hard issues. Interestingly enough, not only do people choose to get divorced because of more minor problems, but they don't find marriage after the divorce ultimately satisfying either.
On the flip side, it discovered that those who stayed in their marriage came out not just surviving marriage, but thriving in it. The overwhelming majority were grateful that they decided to stay in the marriage. "Nearly 90% of these respondents were thrivers, reporting that they were glad they were still married."
In a society enamored with the idea of love, it's easy to believe that when we fall out of love it means the relationship is over; but this idea is another deception. You can fall back in love with your spouse. By changing the way we approach marital issues, we can find hope and encouragement in marriage.