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“Marriage today is, in some senses, better, and in other senses worse than it’s ever been,” says Eli Finkel, a professor of social psychology at Northwestern University who studies marriage.
“The best marriages today appear to be better than the best marriages we have ever seen —that humans have ever seen," Finkel notes. "At the same time, the average marriage is actually a bit worse today than it was a generation or two ago.”
In a recent paper, Finkel notes that we’re living in the age of the “all or nothing marriage.”
People want their spouses to be their best friends, rock stars in the boudoir, and life coaches, encouraging them to be better. The more people expect of their marriages, the more likely that these marriages can’t live up to expectations.
And the demands of modern life can make marriage seem like a tough endeavor.
“We’re spending more time at work, more time with our children doing intensive parenting. And then in the middle comes this problem of there’s not enough time for each other,” says Finkel.
Yet having high hopes doesn’t mean a marriage will fail. Finkel provides three tips to keep a marriage strong.
- Write it up — For seven minutes, three times a year, couples should write down their disagreements as if they are an impartial third person looking at the relationship. This amounts to only 21 minutes a year.
- Talking it out — Communicate with each other regularly. Listen and respond.
- Rework expectations — A spouse can’t be everything all the time. Try setting realistic expectations.
The strongest marriages are between spouses who love and encourage each other through the journey.
People in those kinds of unions "are through the roof in terms of how happy they are," says Finkel.