Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

Does Anger Management Lead To Better Marriages?

Compatibility matters once the Honeymoon fades

A new study sent shock waves through the blogosphere with its findings about anger management and marriage. Lian Bloch, lead author of the study and assistant professor at the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology-Stanford Psy.D. Consortium at Palo Alto University found that among middle age and older couples, the marriages that were the happiest were those in which the wife regained her composure after an argument quicker. Being a sorehead is apparently toxic to your relationship.

Compatibility is crucial if you and your mate want to make it for the long run.  A household plagued with bitterness, disappointment, blame,resentment and strife can quickly lead to the partners living separate lives and seeking affection and acceptance outside the marital bond. Yet society pays little attention to such an important factor in love and matrimony.

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Men and women must take into account that many physically desirable and charming people are extremely difficult to get along with once the thrill of love dissipates. You are going to have conflict. As Professor Bloch concluded about her study, “You don’t have to have an anger-free marriage to have a happy marriage. By calming down emotionally instead of being caught up in the negative hot spots, couples are able to think and communicate solutions more clearly and this drives marital satisfaction.”

To date and mate in a healthy manner, one must assume your own incompatibility issues will inevitably surface once the newness of your romance transitions into the harsh reality of day-to-day existence. Consider the sad testimony of Academy Award winning actress Halle Berry, fresh from her messy divorce to former New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves slugger David Justice: "I've learned so much through marriage—and I've learned that, the next time around, I'm going to take the time to find out, 'Do I really like you?' Not ' Do I love you and am in love and do I lust after you', but 'Do I like who you are, and can I laugh with you and play with you?' I think I might take the time to figure that out."

One of the best ways to determine if a potential new love will be compatible to you over the long haul is to risk confrontation. The secret to this technique is to be aware of telling too much too soon. Many new lovers use everything you reveal to mimic your own tastes and views and downplay the disconnects to heighten the feeling of romance and preordained closeness.

Instead of telling this Prince Charming or Cinderella all your likes, dislikes and goals, let them go out on a limb on a subject and then tell them you don't agree with them. Watch their reaction. That will give you more insight into what they will be like as a life partner than 30 dates to the celebrity ball. Do they clam up? Do they fume?  Do they hold a grudge? Do they seek compromise? Do they accept the conflict, respect your views and move on? This is what you want to determine before lasting emotional commitment is made. A healthy relationship deals with conflict.

J.R. Bruns, M.D., is co-author of The Tiger Woods Syndrome, a book about repairing relationships.

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