Marriage and Other Intimate Relationships

According to Dr. Martin Seligman, the author of Authentic Happiness, marriage is robustly related to happiness. A survey of 35,000 Americans over 30 years revealed 40 percent of married people said they were “very happy,” while only 24 percent of unmarried, divorced, separated and widowed people said this. The happiness advantage for the married holds controlling for age and income, and it is equally true for both men and women.

Having observed many hundreds of permanently single, unhappily married, separated and divorced people over the years I am completely convinced that who you marry is the most important decision you will ever make; a decision more important than your choice of career or even whether to have children. A happily married person travels with a partner who shares all of the joys and grief associated with life’s twirling journey.  If I succeed in convincing you to invest nearly everything you’ve got into your most intimate relationship I will feel completely fulfilled.

Who Should You Marry?

The more alike you are the better in terms of age, social status (white vs. blue collar), education and religion. Though opposites attract, large differences tend to drive partners apart over time.

Before you begin your search for a partner please consider reading Who Am I? The 16 Basic Desires That Motivate Our Actions and Define Our Personalities by Dr.Steven Reiss a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Ohio State University.  Spend the money, spend the time – you will be richly rewarded!

Dr.Reiss spent five years developing and testing a new theory of human motivation. After conducting studies involving more than 6,000 people, Reiss found that 16 basic desires guide nearly all meaningful behavior. Who Am I? contains self-tests designed to identify your basic desires.  With this self-knowledge at hand your search for a mate will be far more precise. If you wed someone with similar desires you are far more likely to remain together indefinitely.

If you decide to skip the book you may test yourself on line here. You may ask a potential partner to take the test too and it will provide the two of you with critical information to ponder prior to making permanent plans together.

Gottman’s Marriage Tips 101 (from his website

Since 1973, Dr. John Gottman has studied what he calls the “masters and disasters” of marriage. Ordinary people from the general public took part in long-term studies, and Dr. Gottman learned what makes marriages fail, what makes them succeed, and what can make marriages a source of great meaning. By examining partners’ heart rates, facial expressions, and how they talk about their relationship to each other and to other people, Dr. Gottman is able to predict with more than 90% accuracy which couples will make it, and which will not. What advice does Dr. Gottman have to offer? Below are some of his top suggestions on how to keep your marriage strong.

Seek help early. The average couple waits six years before seeking help for marital problems (and keep in mind, half of all marriages that end do so in the first seven years). This means the average couple lives with unhappiness for far too long.

Edit yourself. Couples who avoid saying every angry thought when discussing touchy topics are consistently the happiest.

Soften your "start up." Arguments first "start up" because a spouse sometimes escalates the conflict from the get-go by making a critical or contemptuous remark in a confrontational tone.

Accept influence. A marriage succeeds to the extent that the husband can accept influence from his wife. If a woman says, "Do you have to work Thursday night? My mother is coming that weekend, and I need your help getting ready," and her husband replies, "My plans are set, and I'm not changing them," this guy is in a shaky marriage. A husband's ability to be persuaded by his wife (rather than vice-versa) is so crucial because, research shows, women are already well practiced at accepting influence from men, and a true partnership only occurs when a husband is able to do so as well.

Have high standards. Happy couples have high standards for each other even as newlyweds. The most successful couples are those who, even as newlyweds, refused to accept hurtful behavior from one another. The lower the level of tolerance for bad behavior in the beginning of a relationship, the happier the couple is down the road.

Learn to repair and exit the argument. Successful couples know how to exit an argument. Happy couples know how to repair the situation before an argument gets completely out of control. Successful repair attempts include: changing the topic to something completely unrelated; using humor; stroking your partner with a caring remark ("I understand that this is hard for you"); making it clear you're on common ground ("This is our problem"); backing down (in marriage, as in the martial art Aikido, you have to yield to win; and, in general, offering signs of appreciation for your partner and his or her feelings along the way ("I really appreciate and want to thank you for.…"). If an argument gets too heated, take a 20-minute break, and agree to approach the topic again when you are both calm.

Focus on the bright side. In a happy marriage, couples make at least five times as many positive statements to and about each other and their relationship ("We laugh a lot") as opposed to negative ones (“We never have fun”). A good marriage must have a rich climate of positivity. Make deposits to your emotional bank account.

Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage summarizes the Gottmans' most recent research and is a priceless resource for couples who wish to stay married for good. If you'd like to test your relationship online click on relationship quizzes.



But let there be
spaces in your
togetherness and let
the winds of the
heavens dance
between you. Love
one another but
make not a bond of
love: let it rather be
a moving sea
between the shores
of your souls.
Kahlil Gibran














Being divorced is
like being hit by a
Mack truck. If you
live through it, you
start looking very
carefully to the
right and to the

Jean Kerr






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He is
happiest, be
he king or
peasant, who
finds peace
in his home.
Wolfgang von









One advantage
of marriage is
that, when you
fall out of love
with him or he
falls out of love
with you, it keeps
you together until
you fall in again.
Judith Viorst