newlyweds — conflict

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Love and marriage may “go together like a horse and carriage,” but most newlyweds set off without a shared road map. Each partner comes to the journey with their own set of directions including — assumptions about roles, expectations about how to spend time and money, and deeply held beliefs about children. Then there’s also — baggage. Experts say it takes desire, honest communication, and hard work to move a relationship from the romantic stage through the power struggles to a loving marriage based on shared meaning. Get off to a good start by avoiding these five major pitfalls:

  1. My family does it this way.
  2. Marriage will make me happy.
  3. My partner will change once we’re married.
  4. Talking about issues like his rowdy friends, her credit card debt, when to have kids, and who should clean the toilet, will take the bloom off relationships. Then he observes their verbal and nonverbal behaviors, and counts positive behaviors, such as nodding or placing a hand on a shoulder, and negative behaviors, such as whining or stern criticism. With successful couples, the ratio is five positive behaviors to one negative. What makes them successful is the ability to reduce the negative feelings.”

“Even good marriages will have criticism and defensiveness, but there’s danger when people stonewall or feel contempt. If you hold someone in contempt, you don’t think the problem can be resolved. Contempt replaces hope.”

Freeman says some important lessons emerging from the research are different for men and women. “Wives who stand toe-to-toe with their husbands and don’t give in do well. But when wives raise their tolerance levels, the marriage is doomed, because the husband makes a power play. Husbands who can calm themselves down and lower their anger are more likely to have happy marriages.”