Tags: Health Topics | healthy marriage | commitment

The Science of a Healthy Marriage

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By    |   Wednesday, 19 June 2019 08:39 AM

Are some people born cheaters while others are born faithful? According to research there may be science behind commitment.

Researchers are examining biological factors and psychological responses in an attempt to see if either influence marital stability. Their findings may suggest that some people are more likely to succumb to temptation, but can train themselves to remain faithful and monogamous.

A Swedish biologist at the Karolinska Institute studied sets of male twins and the bonding hormone vasopressin in the pairs. Biologist Hasse Walum found that the twins who carried a variation of the gene were less likely to be married or more likely to have marital discord.

Marital problems were even worse among those who carried two copies of the gene variant. Walum told news outlets that while it’s difficult to use the information to predict any future behavior in men, his team is working to replicate their findings in women.

Meanwhile, psychologists at McGill University in Montreal studied how individuals in committed relationships respond to temptation. Study authors planted attractive men and women to flirt with study participants in a waiting room. The participants were later asked about their marriage or relationship and how they would react to their partner being late or forgetting to check in.

Men who were flirting with the actors reported that they would be less forgiving of the behavior while women who were flirting said they were more likely to be forgiving. Study authors suggest that in the case of men, the flirting impacted their sense of commitment. For the women, they say the flirting made them want to protect their relationship.

Dr. Kathryn Smerling, a marriage and family therapist, tells Newsmax that this research isn’t necessarily surprising as most couples have at least 10 challenges that they’re dealing with at a time, from money to time management.

“So it’s to be expected that you’re going to encounter all sorts of issues when you’re married, but it’s how you face those issues together that determine whether or not your relationship will flourish,” Smerling says. 

So while some may be “coded” to cheat, is there a way to curb that predilection? Smerling says the answer is yes.

“A growing body of science suggests that we’re likely to be born non-monogamies, but we choose to be monogamous because of children, property, societal values, etc.,” she says. “From a biological and environmental standpoint, certain people are at higher risk to cheat; it’s simply in their genes.

“For example, one study found that individuals with a particular dopamine-receptor gene reported being more sexually inclined and 50 percent more likely to cheat on their spouse! But just because those individuals are “wired” to be unfaithful doesn’t necessarily mean they will act on it. Our experiences early in life and our own moral compass and willpower determines what we decide to do.”

Smerling says the foundation of an emotionally healthy marriage is being attuned to your partner, resilient in the face of adversity and constantly curious about each other.

“Emotionally attuned spouses listen with greater consideration, are extremely mindful, emotionally engaged, and regularly practice caring acceptance,” she says. 

The happiest couples, says Smerling, remember the little things that make a relationship work -- holding hands with enthusiasm, practicing a three-second delay when having an argument, and not overthinking things. She says it’s also beneficial for couples to “change it up” and never allow themselves to get bored in the relationship.

She stresses the importance of avoiding the blame game and overlooking tiny shortcomings while reminding yourself that you’re on the same team. Prioritize what’s important and what’s worth debating and what’s not. 

Smerling says that these practices lead to emotionally healthy marriages and can safeguard against divorce and infidelity. However, in the face of infidelity she says it is possible to recover as a couple. 

“You’d be surprised how many couples I’ve met with who simply give up and believe it’s the end of their marriage. Trust that you can survive this and even come out stronger afterward -- some couples end up developing a closeness and intimacy after working through the pain of infidelity that simply wasn’t there prior to the affair.”

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Are some people born cheaters while others are born faithful? According to research there may be science behind commitment.
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Wednesday, 19 June 2019 08:39 AM
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