Couples who stay together become happier over time

| November 2, 2013 | 0 Comments


Chaplain (Maj.) Stephen Hommel
500th Military Intelligence Brigade

“Is there hope for my marriage?”

Unhappy married couples often think they have one of two options: stay together and continue to be miserable, or get a divorce. However, there’s a third option for happier and more fulfilling marriages.

In the National Survey of Families and Households, conducted by the University of Chicago, Dr. Linda Waite asked couples to rate their marriages on a scale of one to seven, with one being very unhappy and seven being very happy. The survey found that for couples that rated their marriages as very unhappy ones but were still together five years later, 77 percent of those formerly very unhappy campers later rated their marriages as very happy sevens when re-interviewed.

What was the reason for the dynamic turnaround in these marriages after only five years? Was there a special cutting-edge marriage therapy that they had all received? No. In fact, accorded to Waite, many did relatively little — they just stuck it out, and things got better over time.

The most important thing that was learned from this extensive survey was the importance of just hanging in there.

All relationships go through emotional ups and downs — times of happiness and excitement, and times of boredom and fatigue. Life is hard, and the pace is often very fast, but many of the problems that affect couples can be traced to outside pressures like finances, job loss, illness or the demands of young children. As with the surveyed couples, the simple passage of time changed those circumstances. Over time, as they held on, the relationship naturally got better as the outside stresses and pressures abated.

In addition to “sticking it out,” researchers found three other things that most of the couples said helped improve their marriages.

The first was improved communication skills. Many of the couples told researchers that their marriages got better as they started really listening to each other (sometimes a difficult task), with husbands learning to compliment and appreciate their wives, and wives learning to encourage and support their husbands.

The second thing researchers found was how helpful it is when either the husband or wife changed his/her perspective and adjusted his/her attitude by being kinder, less critical and more accepting of his/her spouse. This is one area that deployment and long separations can help focus military couples on what’s really important. It also provides the opportunity for couples not to base all of their happiness on the moods of the other person, or to expect their spouse to make them happy. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

The third change that improved these marriages was that the couples had worked out agreed-upon boundaries and standards of acceptable behavior.

Yes, there is hope for your marriage!

In the military community, there are many good resources and programs to strengthen your marriage. Perhaps the best thing you can do for long-term marital happiness is a commitment to simply hold on and hang in. The results of the survey offer strong evidence that many of the stresses marriages face are external, and when conditions change, happiness in marriage dramatically improves over time.

If you would like help in saving a troubled marriage, contact your unit chaplain for confidential pastoral counseling to help you get your marriage back on track.


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Category: Footsteps in Faith, News, Standing Columns

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