As if pursuing a phd in communication wasn’t a clear indication of my worldview, let me lay it out for you: I really do think communication is the key to life. And apparently, after reading this article on MSN today, it is the key to a great marriage.
The article lays out research from a longitudinal study of married couples and comes up with four key secrets: understanding each other, affirmation, TALKING and focusing on the good things. I had to laugh because while the article is not written from a communicative perspective (I would guess that the author, Terri L. Orbuch, Ph.D, is probably a sociologist), it clearly talks about communication concepts, even while claiming not to. I will explain.
1. Understanding each other- The author suggests that we should make a point to understand our partners and to close the gap between our expectations and everyday reality (the actual cause of our frustrations apparently). She says we should share our expectations and check in at least annually. (Really, only once a year??) While she states that communication problems aren’t the key to marital discord, I really do think her underlying claim–understanding–is addressed by communication, by talking, by writing, by arguing, etc.
2. Affirmation- Dr. Orbuch actually says that wives should make a point to give their husbands extra affirmation because men don’t get as much in their day to day interaction. While I do agree with this generally (T has the hardest time taking compliments!), I think affirmation and affection is a two-way communicative street. In fact, affection exchange theory (coined by Dr. Kory Floyd, a comm prof in my department at ASU) states that affection has social AND biological benefits for couples. Giving affection (hugs, kisses, caresses, compliments, verbal affirmation) and even WRITING positive affirmation, has decided health benefits. These actions lower cortisol in the blood stream and can lower blood pressure and cholesterol among other things. Amazing. Direct health benefits from communication!
3. Talk, even just a little bit- Dr. Orbuch references her “10 minute rule” which basically means taking time to talk with each other, even as little at 10 minutes per day. If we are to understand each other (see #1), we must chat. I love it! Orbuch advises at least 10 minutes of talking about anything, except chores, responsibilities, work, kids, etc. I think 10 minutes is pretty scant for a whole 24 hours, but I like the idea of making a point to connect.
4. Accentuate the positive- For a truly great marriage, we need the good to outweigh the bad according to Dr. Orbuch. (Groundbreaking, huh?) She says that although we certainly need to process negative elements, we should reframe things that happen and infuse our relationships with positive energy. This is the vaguest point of the article, but generally speaking, it sounds good to me. Invoking some thoughts from my dear Shannon, I think putting positive energy into the universe (and a relationship) is a decidedly great thing.
So go! Go forth and talk, give affection, understand each other and be positive! (And maybe sing a chorus of “Don’t worry, be happy”)