A new book applies rigorous research to the modern marriage

Margaret Eby in Salon:

Md_horiz As it turns out, much of what you think about the state of the American marriage is wrong: Half of marriages don’t end in divorce; married people don’t have less sex than their single counterparts and — surprise! — fighting can actually be beneficial to your relationship. That is what Tara Parker-Pope, a health journalist and the woman behind the New York Times' Well blog, discovered while researching her new book, “For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage.” In the book, Parker-Pope argues that the marital bond isn't nearly as mysterious as you might believe, and unlike the vast majority of authors on the subject, she uses credible scientific research to back up her claims about everything from sex to housework.

As “For Better” points out, researchers found that couples in lasting marriages have at least five small positive interactions (touching, smiling, paying a compliment) for every negative one (sneering, eye rolling, withdrawal). When the ratio drops, the risk of divorce increases. Snoring and other sleep problems can contribute enormously to marital unhappiness. How you treat your partner during the first three minutes of a fight determines whether the argument will be good or bad for your marriage — launching a volley of personal criticisms is worse than opening up a discussion with a complaint. It’s these small but recognizable actions, claims Parker-Pope, that distinguish a marriage bound for splitsville from couples who stay together.

More here.