To help your marriage survive after 20 years, act in your partner's best interest.

How to Stay Married After 20 Years

by Katrina Miller

Your desire to stay married for more than 20 years demonstrates that you embrace commitment. Commitment is the most powerful predictor of whether you will be able to keep your relationship going for 20 years or even more, according to Jeffrey A. Simpson, professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota. Simpson summarized the idea behind commitment as “more constructive behaviors and fewer destructive ones.” If you want to stay married after 20 years, back your desire with behaviors that will help your marriage survive.

Use Empathy

Overwhelming and chronic stress is one of the biggest predictors of divorce, according to Guy Brodenmann, professor of psychology at the University of Zurich. Effective coping is empathic and uses your knowledge of how your partner experiences stress to find or create ways that will help you both survive the stress. Sometimes, this means buffering your partner from stress by minimizing worries, suppressing anger or letting your partner decide what to do. Other times, you will need to engage in honest discussion of difficult feelings or constructive problem-solving.

Let Go of Grudges

Relationships last longer when either person is able to control the urge to keep arguments going when the argument is inappropriate, according to research by Jessica E. Salvatore of the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota. People who let go of grudges quickly may be better able to control the impulse to strike back. Alternatively, they may be better able to restore their emotional equilibrium after an upset. One spouse who has this strength to recover quickly from conflict can compensate for the vulnerabilities of a more volatile spouse.

Your Sex Life

Not feeling emotionally or physically ready for sex does not make you or your spouse an underachiever. But having sex just because your spouse wants it is good for the health of your relationship, according to Amy Muise, fellow at the University of Toronto, Department of Psychology. It will also keep your own feelings of desire alive.

Long-term Marriage and Happiness

Marriages tend to become happier after about 15 years, and this is true even if the marriage is relatively low in happiness, according to research done by Claire Kamp Dush, assistant professor of human sciences at Ohio State University. Dush studied couples over a 20-year period, from 1980 to 2000, and found that the amount of happiness of couples varied from high happiness to low happiness. About four out of every five marriages that survive long term can be considered to be average or high in happiness. The best way to ensure that your long-term marriage is high in happiness is to keep yourself happy on an individual level, according to Dush’s research.

About the Author

Katrina Miller is a medical writer specializing in behavioral health. She has been published in "Family Perspectives" and the "Salt Lake Tribune." She has a doctoral degree in Family and Human Development from Utah State University.

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