The Science of Marriage

The Science of Marriage Marital researchers can predict with an 80-85% accuracy which couples will divorce based on self-reporting information about themselves and their partner. These scientists have looked at the following predictive scales: realistic expectations, communication, conflict resolution, personality, and religious orientation. In contrast to couples that divorce, happily married couples score strongly on these five scales.


Realistic expectations are closely linked with acceptance. Acceptance is probably the single greatest factor in predicting marital satisfaction and stability. There are two parts to "realistic expectations." First, a couple must be aware of and flexible about the natural changes that occur as the relationship and family go through normal transitions and maturation. It is impossible to think about, feel about, and experience one's partner the same way during courtship, as the first year of living together, as after 30 years of marriage. Families, like children, go through distinct stages of development. Each stage has its own challenges and goals. Secondly, it is essential to marital happiness that each partner tolerate the other's peculiarities and idiosyncrasies. "He may never be the best communicator but it is OK," may be the wife's attitude. "She may never be well organized and tidy, but I can live with it," may be the husband's attitude.


Dialogue about one's feelings, dreams, fears, and ideas are what builds bridges between people. It is essential that husbands and wives share their inner lives with each other. In order for this to happen, there must be a feeling of safety to support self-disclosure, which comes from respectful and validating communication. Physical intimacy is also a vital means of physical and emotional communication. Providing mutual pleasure to one’s spouse is very basic and its importance cannot be underestimated. Research has shown that one negative interaction such as anger or criticism can nullify five to twenty positive interactions. For the most part, daily communication is what makes or breaks a relationship. The challenge is to produce the greatest number of positive interactions to the fewest negative interactions. Scientists observing couples in action have seen how just a few negative comments can spoil an entire day or week.

 Being married will at times involve conflict. Two people – two minds – two temperaments. Successful conflict resolution requires three criteria. One, keep the dialogue respectful, no name calling or humiliating etc. Two, keep it contained; the words should only last a few minutes and the feelings an hour or two at most. Three, don't change topics; stay focused exclusively on the issue at hand, and resist dragging in every perceived failure or imperfection of your partner.

 It is important that over all you like your partner's personality. Unless it was a "shotgun wedding," liking your partner’s personality is probably true for most people. If you didn't like your partner's "personality," why would you marry them? During courtship there was a strong attraction. Even after many years of marriage that attraction it is still there, being either actualized or hidden in potential. Years of misunderstanding and conflict can build enormous resentment within a person, and this accumulated emotion can actually change a person's perception of their partner, leaving one unable to accurately see what he or she is truthfully like.

 Spiritual and cultural differences place major obstacles between couples. Religious orientation is the context in which the couple builds their lives and their family. Being on a different "wavelength" can undermine many otherwise appropriate and reasonable efforts. It may be compared to trying to build a house on sand. In the classical Biblical text on proper ethics the question is asked, "which is the right path that a person should choose for himself?" The answer, "that which is honorable to himself/herself and brings honor from other people..." This passage is explaining that it is the middle path that is correct. It is only this way that promotes good personal feelings as well as creating happiness in others. The above scale, using scientific methodology, presents the middle way to success. It describes the way to relate with one’s spouse that is pleasing to both partners and will lead to a satisfying and healthy relationship. Couples that score high over all, although not perfect, have happy lives together.

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