“It means do what it takes to make the relationship successful. That’s what commitment really means,” “In a long-term relationship, both parties cannot always get their way.”
When a couple has a dispute, they have many choices of how to respond.
“One choice,” “is if you dig your heels in, then I can dig my heels in too. I can say, ‘You’re wrong. Listen to me!’ But if this relationship is really important to me, I’m willing to say, ‘I will compromise.’ What is my goal? Is it to win this battle? Is it to preserve the relationship? The behaviors I might engage in to win this conflict are different from those that are best for the relationship. The people who think more about protecting the relationship over the long term are more likely to think this is not that big a problem.”
“When the stakes are high, our relationships are vulnerable,” “When we’re under a great deal of stress or when there is a high-stakes decision on which you disagree, those are defining moments in a relationship. What our data indicate is that committing to the relationship rather than committing to your own agenda and your own immediate needs is a far better strategy. We’re not saying it’s easy.”
How do you do this when it’s difficult?
“Find ways to compromise, or at least have the conversation that allows you and your partner to see things eye to eye,”
“Often, we don’t have the big conversations that we need in our relationship. The very act of communicating in difficult times can be as important as the outcome of the conversation. Everybody has the opportunity to engage in a conflict, or not, to say, ‘You’re wrong, I’m right.’ When people are in it for the long term, they are often willing to make sacrifices and view themselves as a team. They both are.”
The couples whose marriages lasted were better at this than the couples who divorced, Bradbury and Karney said.
“The people who ended their marriages would have said they were very committed to the marriage,”
“But they did not have the resolve to say, ‘Honey, we need to work on this; it’s going to be hard, but it’s important.’ The successful couples were able to shift their focus away from whether ‘I win’ or ‘you win’ to ‘Are we going to keep this relationship afloat?’ That is the ideal.”
In a marriage, disagreement is inevitable, but conflict is optional — a choice we make.
When the psychologists give workshops for couples, they encourage them to discuss a source of disagreement. Finding such a topic is rarely, if ever, a problem.
The psychologists recommend against “bank-account relationships,” in which you keep score of how often you get your way and how often you compromise.
The ‘invisible forces’ in your marriage
Have you ever noticed that some couples seem to be in sync with each other while other couples are much less so, and wondered why?
In another new study that used data on the couples who were still married after 11 years, suggest that some people, on the basis of their genetic makeup, appear to be more responsive to their spouse’s emotional states.
Building on prior research, the psychologists hypothesize that a gene — the serotonin transporter gene 5-HTTLPR — might play a role in making us more, or less, responsive to our spouse’s emotions. Some people have one variant of the gene, and some have a second variant.
The two variants of the gene strengthen or weaken the link between your emotions and your spouse’s emotions, the psychologists report. People with one variant (called the “short form”) tend to stay angry, sad or happy longer than people with the other variant.
“The extent to which we are connected, to which my emotions become your emotions, is stronger or weaker as a function of the serotonin transporter gene 5-HTTLPR,” .
“In the face of a negative event, your genes control how long your reaction lasts,” Karney said. “What we are showing in this paper is that if I have one form of this gene, I’m more responsive to my partner’s emotional states, and if I have the other form, I’m less responsive.”
“I think this creaks open a door,” , “to a field of psychology that helps people to realize that who they are and who their partner is, is actually in their biology. Who you are and how you respond to me has a lot to do with things that are totally outside your control. My partner’s biology is invisible to me; I have no clue about it. The more I can appreciate that the connection between who I am and who my partner is may be biologically mediated leads me to be much more appreciative of invisible forces that constrain our behavior.”
While the researchers suspect the role of 5-HTTLPR is important, they say there is probably a “constellation of important genes” that plays a role in how responsive we are to emotions.
“It’s much more complex than a single gene,” .
This research may imply that we should be forgiving of the behavior of a loved one and not demand that a spouse change her or his behavior, the psychologists said.
“If it’s so easy for you to tell your partner to change, perhaps you should just change yourself. “Go ahead and take that on, see how that goes.”
Decisions we make about our health when we’re in a relationship are closely connected with our partner and his or her health, they argue.
Perhaps all this research is a reminder than when choosing a relationship, choose carefully and wisely — and even then, don’t expect it to be easy.