By Dr. Laurel Schwartz
What are some of the ingredients that go into a good marriage? I did an informal survey, a bit of qualitative research and asked several women of varied ages what they thought were some essentials for a good marriage. Here is what they said: compromise, flexibility, friendship, respect, having the same interests and communication.
Communication is one of those things that are often mentioned as a necessity in a good marriage. But what does that really mean? The answer to that question according to the women I interviewed is being able to talk to your spouse about anything, nothing is off limits and you don’t have to hold back or feel as though you are walking on eggshells. I’d agree an add that it’s important, at times, to be empathic and even curious about what a partner is experiencing. However, it’s also important to remember that a spouse is not a therapist. When problems are longstanding and unremitting, one spouse constantly being involved with picking up the other can weigh down a marriage. Indeed, people take on “roles” in a marriage. For example, one spouse may feel as though their “job” is to make sure their husband or wife is always happy. These kind of roles can, over time, be wearying and create resentment.
While communication is important in a marriage, equally important is, at least sometimes, to stop talking. More specifically, a spouse should take care not to turn everything into an issue. We all know the kind of person who just won’t let things go, or who needs to make a minor snafu, a major offense. Constant combat is exhausting and damaging to a marriage. Also romantic and sexual feelings are delicate. Over analyzing them or talking about them as though they are the content of an air conditioning manual can go a long way to squashing desire.
The group of women I surveyed also suggested having the same interests as a cornerstone of a good marriage. Indeed, along with communication it is a way of promoting closeness. However, as Esther Perels notes in her book Mating in Captivity, too much togetherness can lead to staleness and boredom in a marriage. There is value to separate and independent interests. In this way, each partner continues to bring something new to the relationship. Indeed, constant togetherness may not be indicative of love, but anxiety.
The women of the survey also felt a couple having fun together was an important ingredient of a lasting marriage. However, if all else fails, a good sense of humor, especially about oneself goes a long way to easing any bumps along the way.
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