4 Ways to Strengthen a Second Marriage
As director of the landmark Early Years of Marriage (EYM) project, funded by the National Institutes of Health, I and my team of researchers interviewed 373 couples in the first four years of their marriage (and for the next two decades after that--continuing up to the present). There has never been a marriage study of this scope. From these observations and interviews, I uncovered fresh information about what makes marriages strong and happy, and what keeps married couples together.
The good news is that you can greatly increase your chances of having a successful, healthy, happy marriage the second time around, by implementing a few positive behaviors. Here are four that you can try early on. My study shows that they both strengthen marriages and are predictive of long-term marital happiness.
- Know what he/she expects. What do you expect from your partner? That you enjoy leisure time together? That you are completely open and honest? That you are each willing to compromise when you disagree? That you share household chores or keep your money separate? What's important to your partner? Before you tie the knot again--or spend years in your marriage--each sit down and list your top marriage expectations, then exchange lists and discuss. My study found that knowing your partner's expectations is essential for a happy partnership--and it's even more important to be fully aware of his or her expectations than to share similar expectations
- Celebrate gender differences. Relationship talk is an aphrodisiac for women but a turnoff for men. Women remember details of arguments; men forget the argument even happened. Women like emotional support and empathy; men like active support--the kind that solves the problem. Women don't need reminders that they are valued as frequently as men do. Women express love with words; men tend to do it through deeds. Get to know how your partner is wired differently than you, and look for benefits in those gender differences.
- Deal with minor annoyances. One of the key findings from the EYM project was that small annoyances--not large ones like illness or job loss--are what erode marital happiness over time. If you don't like that he leaves his socks around, talk about it by telling him how it makes you feel. If you don't like that she buys household items without consulting you, let her know why it upsets you. If you don't sweat the small stuff, you're more likely to be unhappy down the road.
- Dump your baggage now. The EYM study showed that couples who brought heavy baggage into the second marriage--past issues from the first marriage, family issues, and trauma--had difficulty with honest, open communication, which is necessary for marital happiness. I recommend that you dump that baggage as soon as possible by: getting rid of physical reminders of old wounds, purging your unresolved anger, forgiving yourself, not repeating patterns from past relationships, and asking for help.
About the Author: Terri Orbuch PhD, known as The Love Doctor, is the project director of the landmark, NIH-funded Early Years of Marriage Project, the longest-running study of married couples . Her new book is 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great (Random House). You can find out more about her at www.drterrithelovedoctor.com.