I love a good journalist. Tara Parker-Pope is one of those. She’s done her research on the research, and now presents us with a thorough examination of the science of marriage. Here are my notes on For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed.
- Contrary to popular opinion, “. . . marital stability appears to be improving each decade.”
- Modern marriage is sometimes called the “soul mate marriage,” and the expectations on it are high.
- “. . . Strong marriages have at least a five-to-one daily ratio of positive to negative interactions.”
- Scientists have found a genetic link for monogamous and non-monogamous behavior.
- Hormonal contraceptives can cause women to choose the wrong partner, blunting her natural instincts.
- Marriage is a protective factor for colds, cancer, heart attacks, dementia and more.
- The longer a relationship continues, the less sex women crave. “Researchers from Hamburg-Eppendorf University in Germany interviewed 530 men and women about their relationships and interest in sex. They found that 60 percent of the thirty-year-old women studied wanted sex ‘often’ at the start of a relationship. But within four years this figure dropped to fewer than half, and by twenty years, only one in five women wanted regular sex. The sharp decline in sexual interest wasn’t seen among men in the study.”
- Researchers found that the way a partner describes how they met their spouse–whether their story of the event is tinted with optimism or with negative or regretful overtones–predicts their future with that spouse. (Happy couples also say “we” or “us” more often than unhappy ones.)
- Eye rolling is one of the most reliable body language indicators of troubled marriages.
- “Marriage researchers say that 70 percent of the time, the conflicts that arise between couples are never resolved. In one study, couples who were tracked for a decade were still fighting about the same things they had been arguing about ten years earlier . . . The lesson, say a number of noted marriage researchers, is that compatibility is overrated.”
- “Studies show that women tend to initiate about 80 percent of fights. This doesn’t mean women are to blame for causing all the trouble in marriages. It just means they are more willing to take the emotional risk of trying to resolve problems.”
- Physiologically, women respond with greater calm to conflict than do men.
- Successful arguments often start with a complaint. Unsuccessful ones often start with a criticism.
- Successful arguers know how to de-escalate a fight using calm tones and non-hostile body language.
- New parenthood lowers marital satisfaction greatly, though largely temporarily.
- A fair division of household chores is one of the best ways to avoid marital tension.
- Often, women chose to take on more responsibility at home because they don’t want to give up control. They also care more about and are better at deciphering details.
- Arguments between same-sex couples seem to contain fewer verbal attacks and less controlling behavior.
- Couples who stay married often marry after the age of twenty-five, are not college dropouts, wait ten years before deciding whether or not to divorce, marry someone with similar interests and background, and marry someone whose parents are still married.
About the Author
Tara Parker-Pope is a writer and journalist who specializes in health and wellness. She is best known for her work as a health columnist at The New York Times, where she has written about a wide range of health topics, from fitness and nutrition to medical treatments and public health policy. Parker-Pope is widely respected for her in-depth reporting, her ability to translate complex medical information into accessible language, and her commitment to helping people live healthier, happier lives.
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