If you're like just about everyone we know, this was a really strange and difficult year.
And, again, if you're like just about everyone we know, the challenges of civil unrest, a divisive election, and (let's not forget) a global pandemic may have taken a toll on your marriage.
Maybe you fight more.
Maybe you're frustrated more easily.
Maybe you feel like you have no space and that you're living on top of each other.
Or maybe you find that, like the economy, your sex life has fallen into a deep recession.
We've heard variations on all of these themes from numerous couples. And now that we're finally about to turn the clock, from 2020 to a new year, we think it's time to invest in building new habits in marriage that will help you make the most of 2021.
So here's our list of the five most powerful habits to begin building in your life together as we start this new year.
John Gottman, a preeminent marriage researcher, purports to be able to predict the likelihood of divorce with over 90% accuracy. How does he do it? It all comes down to what he calls the 5-to-1 ratio. Couples that interact with five positive interactions for every one negative interaction are likely to stay together. Couples that get caught in a cycle of negative interactions, on the other hand, seem destined for divorce or lifelong unhappiness.
University of Utah Sociologist Daniel Carlson's research points to another foundational marriage skill: communication. His studies show that communication leads to a more egalitarian division of labor, which in turn leads to greater relationship satisfaction as well as more and better sex.
It's great to interact positively and communicate well. But recent polling shows that an equal distribution of household labor ranks among the top three reasons people cite as keys to making marriage work. The Pew Research Center notes that over 60 percent of married people view sharing household tasks as essential to the success of marriage. In one woman's words, "I Like Hugs. I Like Kisses. But What I Really Love is Help with the Dishes.”
Gottman's research points to one other important insight: couples with deep friendships report higher levels of marital satisfaction. The reason? Friendship is correlated with deeper levels of understanding, admiration, and mutual respect.
Researchers have long suspected that sex is correlated with relationship satisfaction. However, the research of psychologist Amy Muise shows that the link between sexual frequency and relationship wellbeing stops at having sex once per week. It's what researchers call a "curvilinear" association. The more sex you have, the more your relationship satisfaction improves -- that is, until you hit once a week. From there on out, relationship satisfaction stays the same, no matter how much mind-blowing sex you have.