Making a modern marriage work

Marriage: It's supply and demand (WTOP's Rachel Nania )

WASHINGTON The institution of marriage is one that is constantly evolving.

Centuries ago, people married for basic needs: food, clothing, shelter. Then, over time, marriage shifted to fulfill a desire for love and companionship.

But in today’s society, that’s no longer enough.

“We’re looking for marriage not only to meet our love needs, but also our personal growth needs. We want to live an authentic life, and we’re looking for a spouse to help us do it,” said psychologist Eli Finkel.

In his book, “The All-or-Nothing-Marriage,” Finkel turns to research-based studies to uncover what makes modern marriages work. It turns out, it’s all about supply and demand.

With expectations for marriage higher than ever before, success lingers on what individuals are willing to invest in the relationship, Finkel explained.

“You can demand a lot from your marriage, but if you’re not spending any time together, not really working on trying to understand each other very well, then the marriage is going to fall short of those demands,” he said.  

It makes sense, but with busy couples consumed by work schedules, child care duties and other demands of daily life, carving out quality one-on-one time with your partner isn’t always possible. For these couples, Finkel suggests a few science-grounded “love hacks.”

“They aren’t going to make a bad marriage a great marriage, but they really can make a noticeable difference,” Finkel said about the number of hacks he outlines in his book.

One such hack is to adopt an attitude of gratitude. Studies show that increasing one’s own feelings of gratitude can improve a relationship. Letting your spouse know how much you appreciate all the little things he or she does can go a long way.

Another hack is to celebrate the small things with your partner, whether that’s a promotion at work or a personal accomplishment. Touching your partner having a frequent physical connection can also help to strengthen your bond.

A second strategy couples can utilize is to think of ways to ask less of the marriage.

Finkel said, “Are there specific domains in which we are asking things of our marriage that don’t make sense, in light of our partner’s skills, or in light of the way that we communicate together?”

If the answer is yes, consider looking elsewhere, outside of the marriage, to fulfill some of these expectations.

For couples planning to tie the knot, Finkel said you don’t have to focus on any one thing.

“You get to choose, for you, what is important that you’re going to ask of the relationship,” he said. 

Then, calibrate your expectations to what you’re willing to invest in the marriage.

“And once you’ve decided these are the things that are really crucial to me in the marriage, then you need to say, ‘Alright, for the marriage to be able to fulfill those needs, what do we need to do to make sure the marriage is strong enough?’”

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