Lanie the Myth-Buster
Pop the Champagne
Rumor has it that as we get older, the more we get set in our ways.
You know the old saying that barring chemical disturbances or disease, we just become more of who we are. My husband certainly got that sense during the time he managed an assisted living community.
But like everything else, there is room for dispute and enough exceptions to disprove any rule. Certainly learning and growing and changing our minds about long-held opinions is part of the fun of growing older; challenging ourselves might keep our minds more elastic and youthful.
So I was pleasantly caught off guard to read some new information in “For Better or Worse: The Science of a Good Marriage” by New York Times journalist Tara Parker-Pope.
Here I was, it seems, even in my profession, buying into some myths about marriage that apparently just aren’t true. My graying hair suddenly got browner and my gray cells got a quick workout:
the divorce trends showing up now are more hopeful than they were previously. According to Parker-Pope’s research: “People married in the 1980’s and 1990’s are getting divorced at lower rates than their counterparts married in the 1970’s. In fact marital stability appears to be improving each decade.”
Why most of us have bought into the myth that divorce is on the rise appears to be due to the skewing and complexity of statistics, which I won’t bore you with here.
More good news: research shows that most people do not cheat and that second marriages might fare even better than first marriages.
By now, after reading this new information, my hair was going back to baby blonde. I am aging backwards: think Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Inflated and skewed statistics are useful to both ends of the political spectrum in terms of discussions, funding and programs. (I’m trying not to take this personally since I am to the left of the political left.)
Unfortunately, these inflated statistics regarding divorce and infidelity actually put couples at risk, and undermine marriage. “If we believe that most people divorce or that most people cheat, we tend to become ambivalent about fidelity and marriage and our own behavior.”
Now the burden is on me, Myth-Buster Lanie, not to spread these rumors with one more client, or I will become part of that very problem.
There is so much interesting information in this book. Research to back up things…you should buy this book.
Until you do, here are some pointers from it that can enhance your chances of staying happily married. Or becoming happily married.
1. Marry after the age of 25. I have so many friends still happily married 40 years later, who married right after college. Looks like they deserve even more credit than I imagined. And some of them got to be very young grandparents.
2. Don’t marry a college dropout. (Better to have never started college than to drop out. Even better still to
finish.) Don’t panic, remember that there are a gazillion exceptions to these rules.
3. Stay married at least 10 years. (barring abuse, etc.)
4. Marry someone with similar interests and backgrounds. Now that, at least, is something even I have been saying in this column for a long time. Harder for opposites to sustain.
5. Marry someone whose parents are still married. Or at least one person’s parents in the couple should be.
Some other good tips I gleaned:
Celebrate good news . Make a big deal of the small positive news.
Have at least 5 times more positive interactions than negative ones.
Keep your standards high. Expect good treatment.
Pay attention to family and friends.
Happiness is an inherent trait. Your life events won’t change your set point.
Re-tell stories of how you met with warmth and humor.
Know the difference between complaint and criticism. De-esculate arguments. Never roll your eyes or speak with contempt. Watch your body language. But eye-rolling is the worst, the predictor for trouble ahead.
Use “we’s” and not “I’s” when talking about yourselves as a couple.
And here’s a good one for women: do not self-silence. Speak your minds during a fight or it will not only be bad for your marriage but your health. (been there, done that.)
So much more to think about here, so read the book yourself. It’s a holiday weekend, a lovely day and the column is done. Hope Bud wants to celebrate with his now youthful, mind-changed bride!
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