by Dr. Lorin Bradbury
Question: Are there things a couple can do to reduce the chances of divorce?
Some time in the past, I shared some personal thoughts on how to have a happy long-lasting marriage, and received a number of compliments on that article. I wrote suggestions that were simply based on my experience and not on empirical data.
In responding to the above question, I will begin by reviewing the suggestions I previously made. (1) Marry for life—divorce is not an option. (2) Work at it (someone recently told me “work at it” made it seem to hard; so maybe “nurture your marriage” is closer to what I meant). (3) Eliminate selfishness.
That having been said, the path to a happy and successful marriage doesn’t have to be a chore. Making a conscious effort to nurture the relationship (courting) goes a long way. By being aware of the kind of marriage you want, and by making the contentment of your spouse a priority in your life, you can greatly increase your chances of a happy and successful marriage. Also, by not giving vent to every irritation (overlooking the broken gate, while enjoying the rose blooming in the garden), the path to marital bliss will have fewer bumps (many created by unnecessary comments).
Several years ago, I came across Ten Steps to Divorce-proof Your Marriage by Allison Pescosolido, M.A., co-founder of Divorce Detox. In response to the above question, I will share her ten suggestions and add my own comments.
1. Get emotional support from someone other than your spouse. It’s great if your spouse is a good sounding board, but often they tire of hearing all of your problems. Be careful how much negativity you bring into your marital relationship. I once heard of a man who brought a friend home for supper, but before going inside his house he stood outside the door appearing to be picking things off of him and putting those invisible things on a bush outside his front door. His friend couldn’t help but see what he was doing and enquired. The man simply stated, “Oh, that’s my trouble bush, I put all my troubles on that bush before going inside.” Good Advice! The home needs to become a little haven of heaven on earth.
2. Create magic moments. “Keep the courtship in the marriage and you will keep the marriage out of the courts.” Remember what it was like when you first started courting. Remember how everything else became less important than winning the heart of that “someone special.” Be silly again, be charming, dress up, be your best for the other person. Plan some fun activities and special times TOGETHER.
3. Make the relationship a priority. Work is important, but not as important as your marital relationship. Children are important and must not be neglected, but they are not as important as the relationship between you and your spouse. I strongly believe the greatest thing you can do for your children is to demonstrate love and harmony between you and your spouse. Your children will never be second if you make the relationship with your spouse number one.
4. Take responsibility for your own well-being and happiness. Happiness is a choice; don’t expect your spouse to have to be the one to make you happy. Once you are capable of being happy as an individual, you also can be happy in relationship with your spouse.
5. Compliment rather than criticize. It’s amazing how your spouse will become the person you want him or her to be when you compliment rather than criticize. I’m not advocating being dishonest, but there’s almost always something you can compliment your spouse for. Along the same vein, don’t fish for compliments or demand them. Instead, begin by complimenting, and see if it isn’t reciprocal.
6. Go from boring to intriguing. Develop new interests and hobbies. Share the excitement of your expanded horizons with your spouse. Your excitement may very well make you more exciting to be around.
7. Be affectionate in your words and actions. Remember to always treat your spouse like the special individual he or she is. Everyone likes to feel loved and appreciated. Find ways to touch appropriately on a regular basis in various settings. Look for ways to say “nice” things, regularly.
8. Brush up on your bedroom skills. Much has been said about today’s sexual liberation, but there’s indication that our parents and grandparents who wouldn’t even use the word “pregnant” in public (using code words like “pg”) may have been more skilled and satisfied in the bedroom than many today. So maybe instead of being so vocal about sex in public, or on social media, you might keep it a secret—just between the two of you. And when you wink at one another in public, you communicate the thought “we’ve got something special that nobody else can be a part of; it’s our little secret.”
9. Say “no” to others so that you can have more time alone as a couple. You cannot be everything to everyone, or be a part of every club and still have time to nurture your marital relationship. So start saying “no” to others and demonstrate to your spouse that he or she is more important than anyone else.
10. Learn to listen more and talk less. You will be surprised what you will learn if you learn to listen. Talking is a skill that is developed, but so is listening. The next time you are together, make it a point to listen to your spouse and reflect back what was said. You would be surprised how great an aphrodisiac listening is.
There are things you can do to reduce the potential for divorce. Next month, my wife and I will celebrate our forty-seventh wedding anniversary. And in three more years, I hope you will join us for fiftieth. It actually gets better and better with time if you nurture it.
Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected]