Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

What factor best predicts whether a romantic relationship will succeed?

Dr. Gottman is an expert on what makes marriages fail or succeed.

A new article on Business Insider explains his research in a nutshell.

Excerpt: (emphasis mine)

Gottman wanted to know more about how the masters created that culture of love and intimacy, and how the disasters squashed it. In a follow-up study in 1990, he designed a lab on the University of Washington campus to look like a beautiful bed and breakfast retreat.

He invited 130 newlywed couples to spend the day at this retreat and watched them as they did what couples normally do on vacation: cook, clean, listen to music, eat, chat, and hang out. And Gottman made a critical discovery in this study — one that gets at the heart of why some relationships thrive while others languish.

Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife — a sign of interest or support — hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.

The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband, as Gottman puts it. Though the bird-bid might seem minor and silly, it can actually reveal a lot about the health of the relationship. The husband thought the bird was important enough to bring it up in conversation and the question is whether his wife recognizes and respects that.

People who turned toward their partners in the study responded by engaging the bidder, showing interest and support in the bid. Those who didn’t — those who turned away — would not respond or respond minimally and continue doing whatever they were doing, like watching TV or reading the paper. Sometimes they would respond with overt hostility, saying something like, “Stop interrupting me, I’m reading.”

These bidding interactions had profound effects on marital well-being. Couples who had divorced after a six-year follow up had “turn-toward bids” 33 percent of the time. Only three in ten of their bids for emotional connection were met with intimacy. The couples who were still together after six years had “turn-toward bids” 87 percent of the time. Nine times out of ten, they were meeting their partner’s emotional needs.

By observing these types of interactions, Gottman can predict with up to 94 percent certainty whether couples — straight or gay, rich or poor, childless or not — will be broken up, together and unhappy, or together and happy several years later. Much of it comes down to the spirit couples bring to the relationship. Do they bring kindness and generosity; or contempt, criticism, and hostility?

“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained in an interview, “which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”

“It’s not just scanning environment,” chimed in Julie Gottman. “It’s scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or scanning him for what he’s doing wrong and criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.”

Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it’s not there.

People who give their partner the cold shoulder — deliberately ignoring the partner or responding minimally — damage the relationship by making their partner feel worthless and invisible, as if they’re not there, not valued. And people who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them not only kill the love in the relationship, but they also kill their partner’s ability to fight off viruses and cancers. Being mean is the death knell of relationships.

Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from theirs has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved. “My bounty is as boundless as the sea,” says Shakespeare’s Juliet. “My love as deep; the more I give to thee, / The more I have, for both are infinite.” That’s how kindness works too: there’s a great deal of evidence showing the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to upward spirals of love and generosity in a relationship.

There are two ways to think about kindness. You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don’t. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people, that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise. Masters tend to think about kindness as a muscle. They know that they have to exercise it to keep it in shape. They know, in other words, that a good relationship requires sustained hard work.

“If your partner expresses a need,” explained Julie Gottman, “and you are tired, stressed, or distracted, then the generous spirit comes in when a partner makes a bid, and you still turn toward your partner.”

In that moment, the easy response may be to turn away from your partner and focus on your iPad or your book or the television, to mumble “Uh huh” and move on with your life, but neglecting small moments of emotional connection will slowly wear away at your relationship. Neglect creates distance between partners and breeds resentment in the one who is being ignored.

The hardest time to practice kindness is, of course, during a fight—but this is also the most important time to be kind. Letting contempt and aggression spiral out of control during a conflict can inflict irrevocable damage on a relationship.

“Kindness doesn’t mean that we don’t express our anger,” Julie Gottman explained, “but the kindness informs how we choose to express the anger. You can throw spears at your partner. Or you can explain why you’re hurt and angry, and that’s the kinder path.”

The whole article is worth reading. It’s very practical, I think. It’s always good to read things like this and then analyze how you are acting. That’s why it’s important to read articles like this and read books on marriage – to always hold your actions accountable to people who understand what makes a relationship work. It’s worth it to put in the time to understand these things, because relationships matter.

My Dad always used to have this habit of going after people when he was in the right, but it’s a relationship destroyer to just let loose even if you are right. To build a relationship, you have to be doing constructive things with that other person even when they have done you wrong. You can’t always be making withdrawals, there have to be deposits, too. Otherwise the relationship dies.

The Five Love Languages is a useful book for knowing how to love someone else. Even in the middle of a fight, it’s good to speak encouraging words, good to give gifts, good to touch, good to serve, good to spend time together. It takes work to be intentional about doing things that convey love to that other person – even when there are conflicts in the background.

 

Filed under: Commentary, , ,

Domestic violence rates are higher for homosexual couples than for heterosexual couples

From the left-leaning Atlantic Monthly.

Excerpt:

Data on the rates of same-sex partner abuse have only become available in recent years. Even today, many of the statistics and materials on domestic violence put out by organizations like the Center for Disease Control and the Department of Justice still focus exclusively on heterosexual relationships, and specifically heterosexual women. While the CDC does provide some resources on its website for the LGBT population, the vast majority of the information is targeted at women.  Materials provided by the CDC for violence prevention and survivor empowerment prominently feature women in their statistics and photographs.

In 2013, the CDC released the results of a 2010 study on victimization by sexual orientation, and admitted that “little is known about the national prevalence of intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and stalking among lesbian, gay, and bisexual women and men in the United States.” The report found that bisexual women had an overwhelming prevalence of violent partners in their lives: 75 percent had been with a violent partner, as opposed to 46 percent of lesbian women and 43 percent of straight women. For bisexual men, that number was 47 percent. For gay men, it was 40 percent, and 21 percent for straight men.

The most recent statistics available on same-sex intimate partner violence from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, which focuses on LGBT relationships, reported 21 incidents of intimate partner homicides in the LGBT community, the highest ever. Nearly half of them were gay men and, for the second year in a row, the majority of survivors were people of color—62 percent.

In 2012, NCAVP programs around the country received 2,679 reports of intimate partner violence, a decrease of around 32 percent from 2011. However the report noted that many of the NCAVP’s member organizations were operating at decreased capacity due to limiting the number of cases they were able to take. The report said that excluding data from organizations, there was actually a 29 percent increase in reports of violence from 2011 to 2012.

That article comes from a source with a very clear pro-gay-agenda bias, so let’s take a look at an article from the Family Research Council to balance it out. They rely on mainstream data sources as well, like the CDC, the DOJ, the US Census, etc.

Excerpt:

A study in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence examined conflict and violence in lesbian relationships. The researchers found that 90 percent of the lesbians surveyed had been recipients of one or more acts of verbal aggression from their intimate partners during the year prior to this study, with 31 percent reporting one or more incidents of physical abuse.[69]

In a survey of 1,099 lesbians, the Journal of Social Service Research found that “slightly more than half of the [lesbians] reported that they had been abused by a female lover/partner. The most frequently indicated forms of abuse were verbal/emotional/psychological abuse and combined physical-psychological abuse.”[70]

In their book Men Who Beat the Men Who Love Them: Battered Gay Men and Domestic Violence,D. Island and P. Letellier report that “the incidence of domestic violence among gay men is nearly double that in the heterosexual population.”[71]

[…]Homosexual and lesbian relationships are far more violent than are traditional married households:

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (U.S. Department of Justice) reports that married women in traditional families experience the lowest rate of violence compared with women in other types of relationships.[72]

A report by the Medical Institute for Sexual Health concurred,

It should be noted that most studies of family violence do not differentiate between married and unmarried partner status. Studies that do make these distinctions have found that marriage relationships tend to have the least intimate partner violence when compared to cohabiting or dating relationships.[73]

In lesbian relationships, the rate of domestic violence is extremely high, from 17% to 45%, depending on the study. I do think that men exert a calming influence on women’s emotions, helping them to channel their feelings into words and reasoned arguments. That short-circuits the tendency toward violent outbursts. That’s why I urge men, if they must marry, to practice disagreeing and debating with women before the marriage is actualized. You need to find out what this other person does in a conflict situation before you commit to her for life.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Christian philosopher William Lane Craig offers marriage advice

This post is a 3 in one: one lecture, one question and answer, and another lecture – all on different topics.

First, I’ve got a lecture from the Reasonable Faith web site.

Dr. William Lane Craig is the top living Christian apologist and debater in the world today, and has 2 Masters degrees and 2 Ph.Ds. He also has scores of academic publications including books from Oxford University Press, etc.

The MP3 file is here. (14.5 Mb, about 41 minutes)

Topics:

  • the stresses of ministry on marriages
  • the Christian position on divorce
  • balancing marriage with academic pursuits
  • the importance of marrying the right person
  • Dr. Craig’s politically incorrect advice for choosing a spouse
  • Advice for men: Marry someone who believes in you and who supports you in your calling
  • Advice for women: Be the kind of person who can commit to being a helper and supporter
  • Advice for men: Beware of the career woman who will put their career over supporting you in your calling
  • Advice for women: Be careful about marrying if you think that your goals are more important than your husband’s goals
  • Advice: Don’t try to find the right person for you but instead focus on learning about marriage and preparing for marriage
  • Advice: Flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, love and peace
  • Advice: God intends for sex to be within the bounds of marriage, so you need to guard yourself against unchastity
  • Advice for men: be careful what images and movies you see with the goal of keeping your chastity
  • Advice: your highest responsibility after your relationship with God is your spouse, and your studies are third
  • Advice: it’s better to drop classes or give up your graduate studies entirely rather than destroy your marriage
  • Advice for women: understand that you have to work at the marriage in order to help your man finish his studies
  • Advice: set aside a period of the day for communicating and bonding with your spouse
  • Advice: cultivate the ability to talk with your spouse on a personal level, and maintain eye contact
  • Advice for men: do not break eye contact with your wife, and also hold her hand when communicating
  • Advice: do not be embarrassed to seek out a marriage counselor, but make it a good counselor
  • Advice:  don’t just be doing stuff for your mate, but also be vulnerable and transparent with your mate
  • How your relationship with your wife helps you with your relationship with God
  • How do you handle the rebellion of children without being overbearing and authoritarian?

There is a period of Q&A at the end. There is another piece of advice that comes out in the Q&A for women: take an interest in your spouse’s work even if you don’t care about it, and ask him about it every day and try to understand it. Go to the man’s workplace and see what he does. Go to his presentations. Get involved in the man’s ministry and help him in practical ways. Another piece of advice is to not paper over the differences – it’s good to argue, because it means that problems are being confronted and worked through. Husbands should have a good male friend to talk to, and wives should have a good female friend to talk to.

I like how Dr. Craig has thought about how to have a successful marriage, how to choose the right woman, and how to love his wife. I like how he calls out men on the chastity thing. I think that chastity is more important for men than for women, because it’s the men who take the lead in choosing and pursuing the right woman for their plan.

Secondly, here is my previous post on Dr. Craig’s advice for married couples, where he gives 5 points of advice for married couples.

Here are the main pieces of advice Dr. Craig gives:

  1. Resolve that there will be no divorce
  2. Delay having children
  3. Confront problems honestly
  4. Seek marital counseling
  5. Take steps to build intimacy in your relationship

And here’s the controversial one (#2):

2. Delay having children. The first years of marriage are difficult enough on their own without introducing the complication of children. Once children come, the wife’s attention is necessarily diverted, and huge stresses come upon you both. Spend the first several years of marriage getting to know each other, working through your issues, having fun together, and enjoying that intimate love relationship between just the two of you. Jan and I waited ten years before having our first child Charity, which allowed me the finish graduate school, get our feet on the ground financially, establish some roots, and enjoy and build our love relationship until we were really ready to take on the responsibilities of parenthood. The qualifier here is that if the wife desperately wants children now, then the husband should accede to her wish to become a mother, rather than withhold that from her. Her verdict should be decisive. But if you both can agree to wait, things will probably be much easier.

Third and finally, here is a previous post on Dr. Craig’s advice for choosing a good spouse, with illustrations from his own marriage.

For example, Bill’s first story about Jan occurs early after their marriage while he is working on his first Masters degree at Trinity:

And it was also at that time that I began to see what an invaluable asset the Lord had given me in Jan. I remember I came home from classes one day, and found her at the kitchen table with all the catalogs and schedules and papers spread out in front of her and she said, “look! I’ve figured out how you can get two Masters degrees at the same time that it would normally take to get one! All you have to do is take overloads every semester, go to all full-time summer school and do all these other things, and you can do two MAs in the time it takes to do one!”

And I thought, whoa! Are you sure you really want to make the commitment it takes to do this kind of thing? And she said, “Yeah! Go for it!” And it was then I began to see that God had given me a very special woman who was my supporter – my cheerleader – and who really believed in me. And as long as she believed in me, that gave me the confidence to dream bigger dreams, and to take on challenges that I had never thought of before.

If you want to hear another Christian husband talk about how his wife supports him, listen to this lecture called “Giants in the Land” with Dr. Walter Bradley. It’s actually my favorite lecture. I also really like his testimony lecture. If you’re looking for guidance, these are some of the people I would recommend.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

New study: couples that delay sexual activity experience higher quality relationships

Relationship stability, quality, communication, satisfaction

Relationship stability, quality, communication, satisfaction

From Family Studies, news about TWO new studies.

Excerpt: (links removed)

[T]wo recently published studies call into question the validity of testing sexual chemistry early in dating.

My colleagues and I published the first study a few years ago in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Family Psychology. This study involved a national sample of 2,035 married individuals who participated in the popular online couple assessment survey called “RELATE.” We found that the longer a dating couple waits to have sex, the better their relationship is after marriage. In fact, couples who wait until marriage to have sex report higher relationship satisfaction (20% higher), better communication patterns (12% better), less consideration of divorce (22% lower), and better sexual quality (15% better) than those who started having sex early in their dating (see Figure 2). For couples in between—those that became sexually involved later in their dating, but prior to marriage—the benefits were about half as strong.

[…]These patterns were statistically significant even when controlling for a variety of other variables such as respondents’ number of prior sexual partners, education levels, religiosity, and relationship length.

The second study, by Sharon Sassler and her colleagues at Cornell University, also found that rapid sexual involvement has adverse long-term implications for relationship quality. Using data from the Marital and Relationship Survey, which provides information on nearly 600 low- to moderate-income couples living with minor children, their study examined the tempo of sexual intimacy and subsequent relationship quality in a sample of married and cohabiting men and women. Their analyses also suggest that delaying sexual involvement is associated with higher relationship quality across several dimensions.

They discovered that the negative association between sexual timing and relationship quality is largely driven by a link between early sex and cohabitation. Specifically, sexual involvement early in a romantic relationship is associated with an increased likelihood of moving more quickly into living together, which in turn is associated with lower relationship quality. This finding supports Norval Glenn’s hypothesis that sexual involvement may lead to unhealthy emotional entanglements that make ending a bad relationship difficult. As Sassler and her colleagues concluded, “Adequate time is required for romantic relationships to develop in a healthy way. In contrast, relationships that move too quickly, without adequate discussion of the goals and long-term desires of each partner, may be insufficiently committed and therefore result in relationship distress, especially if one partner is more committed than the other” (p. 710).

The rest of the post talks about two reasons why this works: improved partner selection and prioritizing communication and commitment.

That’s two studies, and there’s a third. Dina sent me this article from the UK Daily Mail about a new study showing the importance of chastity for relationship quality and stability.

Excerpt:

New couples who jump into bed together on the first date do not last as long in relationships as those who wait a new study has revealed.

Using a sample of almost 11,000 unmarried people, Brigham Young University discovered a direct correlation between the length and strength of a partnership and the amount of time they took to have first have sex.

The study showed that those who waited to initiate sexual intimacy were found to have longer and more positive outcomes in their relationships while those who couldn’t help themselves reported that their dalliances struggled to last more than two years.

‘Results suggested that waiting to initiate sexual intimacy in unmarried relationships was generally associated with positive outcomes,’ said the report authored published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.

‘This effect was strongly moderated by relationship length, with individuals who reported early sexual initiation reporting increasingly lower outcomes in relationships of longer than two years.’

The study examined four sexual-timing patterns: Having sex prior to dating, initiating sex on the first date or shortly after, having sex after a few weeks of dating, and sexual abstinence.

Each one of these fields yielded different results in relationship satisfaction, stability and communication in dating situations.

Here’s another recent study that shows that if a woman has more than her husband as a premarital sex partner, her risk of divorce increases.

His findings:

Using nationally representative data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth, I estimate the association between intimate premarital relationships (premarital sex and premarital cohabitation) and subsequent marital dissolution. I extend previous research by considering relationship histories pertaining to both premarital sex and premarital cohabitation. I find that premarital sex or premarital cohabitation that is limited to a woman’s husband is not associated with an elevated risk of marital disruption.However, women who have more than one intimate premarital relationship have an increased risk of marital dissolution.

Here’s another study that makes it even more clear.

Findings:

Data from the 1988 US National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) were utilized to assess the impact of premarital sexual activity on subsequent marital stability. Among white NSFG subjects first married in 1965-85, virgin brides were significantly less to have become separated or divorced (25%) than women who had not been virgins at marriage (35%).

[…]The lower risk of divorce on the part of white women with no premarital sexual experience persisted even after numerous intervening and background variables were controlled.

This study supports what the Bible says about chastity and premarital sex:

1 Cor. 7:8-9:

8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to stay single as I am.

9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

The idea of “burning” here has to do with sexual desire. Here Paul tells all unmarried people that if they cannot control their sexual desires, they need to get married. Why? Because Paul assumes that one cannot fulfill this sexual desire outside of the marital bed. While Paul would love for them to remain single (1 Cor. 7:7), he believes that sex outside of marriage is a destructive sin and cannot be used as a gratifying release of our sexual passions.

Although young people like to complain about “manipulation” and “controlling” when they are approached with facts, presenting evidence is really the only way to persuade them. Although they may respond with anecdotes to refute studies, studies are important because they represent LOTS of data points, not just one or two cherry-picked cases. Hit them with the evidence before they make the wrong decisions.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , ,

What does the new Guzzo study tell us about the instability of cohabitation?

I blogged about a new study on cohabitation earlier in the month, but I only had the abstract. Now more details are out, from Family-Studies.org.

First, some context:

In a new paper, Bowling Green State University sociologist Karen Guzzo analyzes how the odds of cohabitation leading to either getting married or breaking up have changed over the years. Before getting to her findings, let’s review some of the cohabitation trends she highlights in her report (based on prior studies).

  1. The majority of people in their 30s have lived with someone outside of marriage.
  2. Cohabitation, rather than marriage, is now the more common form of first union.
  3. Fewer marriages than in the past start out with the couple having intentions to marry.
  4. People are more likely than ever to cohabit with multiple partners in succession—what I have called “CohabiDating.”
  5. More children than ever before are born to cohabiting couples, and this explains most of the rise in the number of children being born out of wedlock.

Guzzo notes, as have others, that cohabiting has become a normative experience in the romantic and sexual lives of young adults. As young adults put off marriage until later in life, cohabitation has inhabited much of the space that used to be made up of married couples. I think this dramatic change in how relationships form matters for at least two reasons. First, many cohabiting couples have children, but they are less likely than married couples to have planned to have children and they are much less likely to remain together after having children… Second, most people want lasting love in life, and most people still intend to accomplish that in marriage.

Here is the main finding of the new paper:

To simplify and summarize, what Guzzo found is that the increasing diversity in the types of cohabitation and cohabiters does not explain much about why things are so different from the past when it comes to increased odds that cohabiting couples will break up or not marry. Rather, on average, all types of cohabiting couples have become more likely than in the past to break up or not transition into marriage.

Here’s a quote from her paper (pg. 834):

Relative to cohabitations formed between 1990 and 1994, cohabitations formed from 1995–1999, 2000–2004, and 2005 and later were 13%, 49%, and 87%, respectively, more likely to dissolve than remain intact. The lower risk of marriage over remaining intact occurred only for the last two cohabitation cohorts (2000–2004 and 2005 and later), which were about 18% and 31% less likely to marry than remain intact, respectively.

Moving in together is becoming less and less likely to lead to having a future together. That’s not to say that all cohabiters are in the same boat regarding their destination. Those who are engaged (or have clear plans to marry) before moving in together are far more likely to eventually marry—but as Guzzo shows, even they are becoming less likely to do so. Related to this, my colleagues and I have shown, in numerous studies, that couples with clear plans to marry before cohabiting, along with those who marry without cohabiting, tend to have happier marriages and lower odds of divorce than those who move in together before having a clearly settled commitment to the future in marriage. (We believe this is largely because, while cohabiting unions obviously break up often, they are harder to break off than dating relationships because it becomes harder to move out and move on. So some people get stuck in a relationship they would otherwise have not remained in.)

[…]Cohabitation is fundamentally ambiguous. In fact, that is part—but just part—of why I believe it has become so popular. Sure, there are many cohabiting couples for whom living together was understood as a step-up in commitment, but, on average, research shows it is not associated with an increase in dedication to one’s partner.

So those are the findings from the latest study. You can find more studies on cohabitation linked here in my previous post on this topic.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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