The Science Behind a Good Marriage

by | Feb 15, 2012

Science can do many things.� It can create cures for what used to be incurable diseases; it can tell us who was at the scene of the crime; it can explain the mating habits of Emperor Penguins.� But can it really be used to define what a good marriage is and offer guidance to couples whose marriage is in trouble?� Tara Parker-Pope thinks so and in her new book, For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage, she tells the reader why, deftly translating the science into practical advice.

Parker-Pope was driven to research the science of marriage when she found her own marriage crumbling after seventeen years.� Local bookstores were filled with marriage advice books and self-help books but she found most of them full of platitudes and clich�s.� Parker-Pope wanted the same “objective, evidence-based advice” about her marriage that she would receive in answer to a health issue.� As author of the New York Times\’ “Well” blog, Parker-Pope was used to approaching health issues using science. So why not approach her emotional issues using science as well?� And as there was no book out there providing this approach to solving marriage issues, Parker-Pope decided that she would write one herself.�

Interviewing dozens of the world\’s top marriage and relationship researchers and poring over hundreds of published research studies, Parker-Pope\’s extensive investigation into the science of a good marriage has produced, For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage.� And don\’t think that this is some dry old science textbook.� Parker-Pope make the science accessible to the everyday reader, using the studies and their results to draw up strategies for a wide range of couples; not just the ones who fear their marriage is on the rocks but for those who are concerned they are in a rut, or just want confirmation that they are doing the right thing.

A Magic Formula?
So is there a magic formula created by scientists for a “good marriage”?� If so, what is it?� Well, you will need to read the book to find out but some of Parker-Pope\’s recommendations for a “good” (read “happy”) marriage include:

  • �“Celebrating the good news”; in other words, rather than focusing on what is wrong, focus on what is right too
  • Understanding and implementing what she calls the “Mathematics of Marriage,” meaning that it is okay to argue occasionally or lose your temper with your partner as long as you outweigh the negativity with positive actions and words, ideally with a five-to-one ratio
  • “Just do it!” �According to Parker-Pope, “Sex won\’t solve all your problems but it will certainly help.”� Low-desire couples are advised to have sex even if they don\’t feel like it. After going through the motions for five minutes, the sexual activity will release “bonding chemicals” which enable the couple to start to enjoy the act and continue.

So can science really help your marriage?
Parker Pope\’s advice resulting from her scientific research is full of good tips, strategies and common sense.� Whether her approach will work for every struggling couple, I\’m not sure, but science has certainly got something right.� Parker-Pope writes “?research shows that couples in stable relationships have more sex, more money and live longer, healthier lives.”� Amen to that.


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