Just finished another book that I would like to share with ya’ll:
Title: For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage
Author: Tara Parker-Pope
Publisher: Dutton Adult (May 6, 2010)
Rating: 9.7 / 14.0
Pros: I really enjoyed the author’s examination of the abuse of statistics that is so rampant now-a-days and how detrimental it can be to the individual’s perceptions. Not enough can be said about this subject and it was a great way to open this book. Some great insight into marriage types, tactics, pitfalls, and history. The exercises, quizzes, and decent consideration of ecologies involved in marital decisions were good.
Cons: Can be a bit TOO scientific at times. I am almost wholey disturbed by any literature on such a HOLY union as marriage without any real reference to one of the ultimate goals of marriage: mutual assistance on the path to the Beatific Vision. However, I acknowledge that this book’s scope was purposefully chosen to avoid this major facet of marriage. So be it, but it may turn some people off. I also picked up on a bit too much bias towards not having children… again… kind of minimizing one of the main gifts of marriage.
Assessment: Worth the buy. I would lean toward the printed version as the quizzes really must be seen / worked to be effective.
My notes for this book are below and I have a Scribd version available, too:
“The real soulmate is the one you are married to.” -J.R.R. Tolkien
Statistics of Marriage:
– Some say the odds of staying together are no better than a coin toss, but this is a faulty statistical interpretation
– There are changing patterns in:
- Decades married (70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s)
- Focus on careers (school, advancement)
- Age of couple
– Divorce rates from previous generation have no real relevance to current age due to these changing patterns
Divorce Rates for Men:
– 1970’s, College Grad: 23% / HS: 26%
– 1980’s, College Grad: 20% / HS: 25%
– 1990’s, College Grad: % / HS: % (oops… forgot this one… sorry… it was lower)
Typically, the divorce rate numbers advertised for any given year is based on the number married for that year compared to number divorced that year. The overall rate of marriage is dropping, life expectancy rates are increasing, and divorce rates are increasing. This method of statistical analysis is not logical and gives no useful information. These misleading statistics whittle away at the collective confidence of the married and potentials.
- Those who marry early and drop out of school is much higher (~51%).
- Serial marriages skew statistics, too – those who continue to remarry / divorce.
- Author claims love had little to do with marriages of history until the 18th century. Land, success, wealth, alliances were driving factors of pre-18th century marriages.
- Lobsters are not monogamous – Phoebe from Friends was wrong.
- Swans are not monogamous.
California mice & Prairie Voles mate for life, help out, and return to mate. The Prairie vole GREATLY differs from its cousins. Vasopressin & Oxytocin are the “cuddle hormones” that seemed keep them together. A drug injected into the vole to block vasopressin made the vole become a jerk. An injection in a ‘cold’ pair turned them into lovey-dovey-fun-time voles.
Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC): partners with very similar MHC questionnaire responses reported less compatibility in many ways (namely sexually), while those with different MHC responses reported better cuddly-goodness.
Trends on social influence on a relationship / marriage do affect fidelity. For instance, those who cohabitate before marriage have a higher divorce/unfaithfulness rate than those who habitate after marriage. Less stigma now on those who are less faithful which appears to enable some.
Research shows that men aren’t necessarily less faithful than women, but that women could be more likely to lie about it. A study involving 4,884 women showed an anonymous survey response of >6% of women were unfaithful, while a face-to-face interview showed ~1% were unfaithful.
Birth control and medical enhancement also seem to make infidelity more common.
As part of resisting temptation, men tend to go about it the wrong way by saying, “resist, resist, RESIST!” The tendency with this method is to focus on how much the person wants something and then to try and convince himself how much he doesn’t want it. Instead, the man should fill his head with thoughts of the person he loves or look at his/her picture. Think of warm and loving thoughts… not sexual desires.
Search for Dr. Hatfield’s quiz on passionate love.
In order to increase the chances of females to find a genetically more compatible partner, scientists suggest getting off the pill. Hormonal contraceptives (e.g. – the pill) have been shown to blunt our natural instincts about MHC differences. Research suggests that a woman should be wary about choosing a husband if she is on the pill.
There was a long talk about sex on interest, chemical responses, frequency, et cetera.
Better Sex Exercise: Think about 5 things you want your partner to do during your encounters that would give you more pleasure (not acts/positions – more like “talk more”, “be more adventurous”, etc.). Compare your lists and make actions to improve.
Studies on word choice can hint at how needy someone is.
Computer technology – Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count software to analyze speech for psychoanalysis purposes.
Top 3 Issues for Arguments (Women):  children,  housework,  money
Top 3 Issues for Arguments (Men):  sex,  money,  leisure
– Money and time are the key issues
In arguments, the first 3 minutes tells you everything and determines the course of the rest of the conversation. Partners will upset and annoy each other, the point it to focus on the issue and not the person. Go with ‘complaints’ NOT ‘criticism’. Avoid the word ‘you’.
Basic Advice for De-escalating Conflict:
– Speak in a slow, quiet voice – don’t speak through gritted teeth
– Look partner in the eyes
– Keep legs and arms uncrossed
– Make sure you are sitting / standing at the same level as your partner
– If needed, then take a time out to collect thoughts – no storming out – schedule time to handle later
– Carefully use humor
– Carefully display affection [don’t set up an anchor for this bad state]
Key Phrases to De-escalate:
– Summary phrases – show you are listening and interested
– Start with non-threatening words like ‘maybe’, ‘perhaps’, ‘it seems like’, ‘I wonder’
– Affirmations – ‘I know this is hard for you, too’
– Open ended questions – ‘what are the next steps for us?
Author then goes on to explain how much work being a parent can be and how much strain it can put on the relationship. [she appears to be VERY biased towards no children] She comes around and states, “the message isn’t ‘don’t have kids’ it is ‘don’t have kids to attempt to improve your marriage’.”
Lessons on How Couples can Survive and Thrive in Parenthood (according to a fancy study):
– The path to parenthood makes a difference; those that were ambivalent or ‘just let it happen’ were far more unhappy after child-birth, while those who planned were much better off
– Try to break gender roles; fathers need to step out of the “bread-winner” role and do some child-care duties and mothers need to give up some of this care and add some trust (this means not micromanaging the decisions for him)
– Talk/share/be with other parents; many parents benefited from the group effect – makes it more clear that the problems are universal
– Make time for more than parenting; “check-in” as a bare minimum and ask simple things like “how are we doing?” “what are you thinking about?” and spend 10 minutes or so actually listening/participating in the answer. Do it for the kids – studies show that a balance of time is better on your health, which directly affects the *quality* of your time with the kids.
– Hope in the pre-school years; most data shows the stress/time levels don’t go down until the kids are out of the house, but that there is some relief at 3-5 years old as school begins.
Chores can be another big issue in the marriage. Studies show that men don’t have as acute an ability to notice details, colors, textures, etc. and might not necessarily notice a mess in the home. This hints that there may be a physiological explanation of why men don’t feel a constant urgency to maintain the house.
The Maternal Gatekeeper Theory: the wife asks for a chore to be done and then micromanages how it is done. The theory holds that men shun housework because women insist on controlling it. Women claim they want help with the chores, but the men say that the women also want to dictate how the chores are done. When a man doesn’t do it the right way, the woman gets upset, nags, and/or does it herself, and then the husband gets upset, stops doing it, or does it unwillingly. It is reported that “gatekeeping” ends up making the husband more lazy and helping less.
The Pros & Cons of Hiring Help: Studies show that farming out duties to hired help is not always the right solution. It was also noted that those that hired help showed less marital happiness, but for not entirely obvious reasons.
Couples where the woman is the primary bread-winner show that the husband has less overall satisfaction, is less physically, and less mentally healthy. The same is not true for the wife is the husband is the primary bread-winner.
Tightwads (TW) vs. Spendthrifts (ST): It turns out that TW are attracted to ST.
5 Types of Marriages:
- Cohesive / Individuated: balance cohesiveness and individuality – don’t spend every waking moment together but still seem quite bonded to each other. The cultural ideal for a good marriage – and old fashion sense of marital duties mixed with individual interests. These types have been shown to be 2nd least likely to divorce. The stressful time in this marriage is when a partner starts to focus more on individuality and lax up on the cohesiveness.
- Traditional: maintains traditional marriage roles and is viewed as the least likely to divorce / had lowest divorce rate. Both partners need to be happy with their role and feel respected for their contributions. This marriage can be extremely stressed if one partner decides to change their role, especially if the wife decides to go back to work.
- Pursuer / Distancer: 80% of the time the Pursuer is the woman and is eager to discuss problems. The man is typically the one to withdrawal/deflect/ignore/resist. Eventually the distancer gets tired of the nagging and gets angry and it all goes downhill from there. Studies have shown that 75% of all Harlequin romance novels detail this type of relationship. This is the highest risk marriage and is most prone to unhappiness and divorce. The good part is that the start of this pattern is a tell-tell sign that the pattern needs to be broken… a signal… a warning. The person who needs something (pursuer) needs to be given something by the person who is content (distancer).
- Disengaged: Two self-sufficient individuals who don’t need intimacy to achieve a sense of well being. Dissimilar interests, family backgrounds, etc. Don’t argue much and would pretty much have the same lives if they were single. These have the 2nd highest divorce rate.
- Operatic: dramatic highs and lows. Arguments often lead to sex and this type reports the highest frequency of sex. The danger is in the fighting style. These relationships usually run into real trouble when one partner decides that the passion is not worth the pain.
Conflict: those that avoided problems for a while were shown to have had a less happy marriage or breakup later as no issues were resolved. Couples who had more frequent (but ultimately beneficial… rightly ordered… handled safely) arguments showed greater happiness and togetherness later on as they had addressed most of their biggest concerns.
Top 10 Most Stressful Life Events:
- Death of spouse
- Marital Separation
- Going to jail
- Death of a relative
- Personal injury or illness
- Getting fired
- Reconciling with a spouse
7 Strategies / Small Changes that Couples can Make to Increase Satisfaction within Marriage:
– Amount of fun you have & strength of your friendship is very important in future marital health
– Help is needed to repair / better handle conflict
- Genuinely celebrate good news: this brings about higher levels of trust, excitement, and satisfaction. Capitalization. Make a big deal out of the good moments of your marriage! (start a book of accomplishments and good times?)
- Know the mathematics of marriage: positive interactions should outweigh the negative interaction by 5 to 1. When you make a mistake, tell yourself you are going to do at least 5 things to make up for your mistake and then DO THEM! Don’t wait until you make a mistake to do them… just do them now and forever. A single “I’m sorry” after the mistake is just not enough.
- Keep your standards high: there is a quiz associated with this, but studies showed that instead of saying you just expect too much and lowering your standards, if you keep them high and continually try to work towards them, then the end result it better / happier marriage.
- Pay attention to family and friends: some couples might tend toward cutting back on family/friend time in order to spend more time on the marriage. The happiest couples do have some interests outside of the immediate circles – the interaction with family, friends, and society is good for your marriage (done together or not).
- Don’t expect your spouse to make you happy: note that 5 of the 10 most stressful life events involve marriage. Individual happiness levels / skills are the greater influence in personal happiness. Those that are happier are more likely to get married. As a human being, we are not dependant on marriage to be ultimately happy, but it *can* be a great factor.
- Just do it: sex won’t solve all of the marital problems. Sex, even when not in the mood, stimulates the body and brings about the important chemicals that DO increase bonding qualities between the couple. Do it the right way for both of you, but just do it!
- Reignite romance: the decline of romance over time appears to be inevitable. Safety, familiarity, settlement, comfort grows. This could lead to boredom and discontent, but it doesn’t have to happen. Embark on a regular date night, but make it involve new and sometimes unusual experiences / build up these new mental pathways and fire off the brainy goodness stuffs with each other. Make a list of 10 fun and exciting Date Night activities you haven’t done together within the last 6 months. Compare lists and do the activities you are both interested in. Once a week for at least 10 weeks was recommended. Try something new and fun and attempt to avoid familiarity.