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The Psychology Behind Long-Term Marriages (Essay Sample)


The present paper is about the psychological background of healthy and long-term marriages. Because no other person has as much influence on our health and well-being as our spouse, love and marriage are undoubtedly the most researched themes in psychology. Some persons who have been married for a long time admit that the intensity of romantic love in long-term partnerships lessens when compared to couples who are initially in love. Despite the fact that many marriages are failing, there are many happy and contented families out there. The purpose of this study is to discover what characteristics make a marriage last and to explain the behavior patterns that lead to long-lasting and happy relationships. Its goal is to answer the question of how pleasant and long-lasting relationships are formed and maintained.


Scientific paper
Meri Arsenyan
HDP 281
Professors: Khachatur Gasparyan, Tatevik Arakelyan
April 26, 2020
Long-lasting Marriages and the Psychology Behind Them
Love and marriage are probably the most studied topics of psychology, because no other person influences our health and well-being as much as the spouse does. Some people in long-term marriages confess that in lasting relationships the intensity of romantic love decreases compared to couples newly in love. Despite the fact that a lot of marriages are breaking down, there are also many cases of happy and contented families. The present paper is intended to find out what factors make a marriage last and explain the behavior patterns behind long-lasting and rewarding marriages. The question it aims to answer is the following: how happy and enduring relationships are built and maintained.
A couple in love and looking forward to their wedding, can never imagine a day when they will not be happy together. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, social intimacy is one of the basic human needs and contributes to physical and mental well-being CITATION Jil15 \l 1033 (Leeuw, 2015). Still, not everyone who has found his/her love, also gets the chance to keep it throughout lifetime. It may seem that if you love a person, nothing will be changed no matter how many years pass, however, sharing one’s daily routine with another person for a long time may be challenging. Nearly half of the marriages in the US ends up with a divorce and among the ones who stay as a family, marital unhappiness is widely-spread CITATION Car14 \l 1033 (Gregoire, 2014). In long-term relationships, love commonly turns into companionship and friendship. The good news is that according to scientific research; love can endure throughout many years after marriage. Long-lasting and happy relationships are not just a matter of luck; those are the result of two-way effort and commitment CITATION The \l 1033 (The Keys to a Successful Marriage, 2020). Psychologists, observing marriage and love, compiled a list of factors and theories contributing to marital happiness and satisfaction.
It is scientifically proven that we have a chance of keeping lifelong romance. Oxytocin, labelled as “cuddle hormone”, boosts happiness in our bodies when we hug our partner and makes us feel closer. Our brain requires more of that hormone, and makes us stay with our partners CITATION Kor20 \l 1033 (Miller, 2020). In a study done in 2012, involving couples married for a decade, 40 percent of participants reported being intensely in love. Furthermore, among the couples that were together for more than 30 years, 35 percent of men and 40 percent of women stated they were strongly in love CITATION Car14 \l 1033 (Gregoire, 2014). Surveys are not the only source of evidence of long-term love: research in neuroscience revealed that deep romantic love can remain even after many years of marriage. A study conducted in 2011 examined the brain sections responsible for love and affection of those people who were in long-term marriages (with an average of 20 years) compared to people who had recently fallen in love. The brain activity was similar in both of the groups. According to psychologist Adoree Durayappah, “Our brains view long-term passionate love as a goal-directed behavior to attain rewards" CITATION Car14 \l 1033 (Gregoire, 2014), which includes decline in anxiety and stress level, and increased feeling of safety and calmness.
Quality communication between partners is a fundamental component for building a lasting relationship. Talking with your spouse is one of the best ways to keep your marriage healthy. Having intimate conversations with each other helps to feel emotional closeness and understand what can you expect from a person. The problem with many couples is that years after marriage, the list of conversation topics narrows down to kids' problems and bills. Psychologist John Gottman suggests couples to build ‘love maps’. In other words, to know each other better, it is essential to communicate by asking deep questions CITATION Kor20 \l 1033 (Miller, 2020). According to marital therapist Edward Waring, “intimacy is the dimension which most determines satisfaction with relationships which endure over time” CITATION Jil15 \l 1033 (Leeuw, 2015). He suggests Cognitive Self-Disclosure as a way of increasing intimacy. This theory includes open conversations about one’s beliefs and attitudes, needs and ideas. So, it is about knowing each other better and also increasing self-awareness CITATION Jil15 \l 1033 (Leeuw, 2015).
Finding the balance between togetherness and independence is another the key aspect of harmonious relationships. Happy couples spend a lot of time together, while at the same time each of the partners maintains his/her autonomy. Boredom is a major problem in long-term relationships, so finding ways to keep things interesting strengthens the bond between partners. According to a research done by The Pew Research Center, 64% of Americans said that having shared interests helps them stay married CITATION Kor20 \l 1033 (Miller, 2020). Learning new skills, for example, snowboarding, or going on a trip together would be a wonderful idea, however doing daily activities like cooking or exercising together is also very beneficial. The above-mentioned research also found out that 56% of U.S population does housework together to upkeep the relationship CITATION Kor20 \l 1033 (Miller, 2020). No matter the activity, it’s the sense of togetherness and shared memories that strengthens the couple.
While intimacy is extremely important for a healthy relationship, having some “me time” is also essential. According to O’Leary’s study, people who are generally pleased with their life, bring that happiness to the relationship CITATION Whi12 \l 1033 (Whitbourne, 2012). In other words, it may sound selfish to enhance one’s well-being through time at gym or walking all alone, but the happiness of each partner improves the quality of a relationship. So, being happy outside the relationship, brings happiness to the relationship.
Gratefulness is like a nurturing pill for a relationship. When people live for long years together, sometimes they stop noticing things they used to value and take those for granted. Showing gratitude and thinking positively about one’s partner is one of the central pillars of a happy marriage. Appreciating the little pleasant things about partners every day increases the intensity of love CITATION Par02 \l 1033 (Parker, 2002). Saying ‘thank you’ for simple things like preparing dinner, washing the dishes or looking after the children improves the quality of the relationship. Even in the times of disagreements and crises, lifelong couples focus on the favorable traits of the partner. By appreciating all the good in each other, it is easier to resolve a problem CITATION Jil15 \l 1033 (Leeuw, 2015). Moreover, according to Gottman, criticism and resistance to discuss problems are severe pressures on a marriage. There are misunderstandings in every family, having disagreements is natural, however it is important to separate fair arguments from subjective and disrespectful remarks. Couples who know how to argue constructively and compromise tend to stay together in a marriage for a longer time CITATION Kor20 \l 1033 (Miller, 2020).
Decades of psychologists’ efforts have provided us with a list of recommendations on how to live a happy marital life. One of the most extensive theories is the “Triangular Theory of Love” developed by Sternberg. This theory is like a guide to a happy marriage, because it explains three concepts on which the relationships are mostly dependent. All of the advices described in this paper are a part of one or more of these elements. Those are commitment, intimacy and passion. Commitment is the decision to love and to keep it even in the times of difficulties. Passion is responsible for the “butterflies in the stomach”, and physical desire. Third element of the triangle, intimacy, stands for the emotional attachment CITATION Jil15 \l 1033 (Leeuw, 2015).
In order to be harmonious, a relation

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