Renowned Sex Therapist Shares Her Take on Startling New Study Findings
New research from The Marriage Foundation has showed that couples who stay married during a rough patch in their marriage reported being happy in their relationship years down the line. In other words, working through the difficulty rather than ending the marriage led to happiness down the road for both partners.
Dr. Laura Berman, nationally recognized sex therapist, television personality, radio host and New York Times bestselling author, says, “The researchers found that the majority of couples who went through an unhappy stage felt fulfilled in their marriage a decade later. They discovered that 70 percent of couples stayed together despite feeling unhappy, and…ten years later, 68 percent of these couples felt happy in their relationship.”
What does this mean for couples? Should you stay in a marriage even if you are unhappy, hoping that the future will bring brighter days? Dr. Berman, author of new book Quantum Love hesitates to offer such advice.
“It’s important to examine the study findings closely,” she says. “Each of the couples studied had just welcomed a newborn baby into their family. A new baby can put incredible stress on a marriage, but as the child grows and matures, the parents get more sleep, more time together, and they feel more confident in their new roles. However, not all relationship issues can be solved with the passing of time. If, for example, the main bone of contention in your marriage is infidelity, financial strain, poor communication or another common issue, then the problem won’t be resolved with time and more sleep.”
So, what is the right answer for couples going through a tough time? Is it better to stay in an unhappy marriage or head for the door?
“Previous research shows that women report higher levels of happiness after getting a divorce, and there is a low incidence of women saying that they regret breaking up. However, men tend to be less happy after their divorce, and they even turn to unhealthy behaviors like gaining weight and getting less sleep. We know that being married is good for men’s health, and not as beneficial for women’s health (single women report better health and happiness than married women) so this could be part of the issue.
“For me, this points to a rarely-discussed but important problem: Women are unhappy when they don’t prioritize their own needs, and their health suffers as well. When married, they caretake their spouse like another child, and they often don’t focus on their own needs until they get a divorce and are forced to spend time alone and facing their own issues.”
To this end, Dr. Berman doesn’t believe divorce is necessarily the answer, but rather honest communication about equal expectations and support.
“Staying in a bad marriage is a bad idea, but that doesn’t mean you have to get a divorce,” she says. “Instead, you can work with your partner to improve your marriage so that you both get your needs met. Women, stop trying to do it all, and let your partner step up and help you. It can do wonders for your marriage and your sex life. In fact, another recent study found that one of the best predictors for a middle-aged woman’s sex life is how much sleep she gets. In other words, more zzz’s equal more O’s!”
Photo by Tom Pumford