Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Do You Need a Marital Checkup?

Study: An Annual Tuneup Could Improve Your Relationship
When most people hear the word checkup, they might think of semi-annualdental visits or physicals, but it turns out an examination might also helpimprove the health of your marriage.
Psychologist James Cordova is convinced annual marital counseling canimprove relationships, and he said a recent study he led proves it.

"Essentially, what we've discovered over time is that marital health, reallyis a health concern. The qualities of a person's marriage and the extent towhich they are doing well in that marriage have a dramatic effect onphysical health and mental health," said Cordova, an associate professor ofpsychology at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.

The Study

In a two-year National Institutes of Health study, Cordova followed 68couples, who varied in age, for six months. On average the pairs had beentogether for 15 years, with the husbands' ages around 47 and the wives' 44.

Half of the married couples were given marriage checkups, which includedtherapy once a year, and the other pairs received no therapy at all.

Cordova found that the couples who participated in the two-session checkupintervention, which included completing a battery of questions andface-to-face assessment, fared better.

"Marital satisfaction improves for couples who have been through counselingonce a year, while control couples didn't improve at all," Cordova said."People that have been through the marriage checkup are improving in allkinds of ways in comparison to couples who haven't."

Participants David Bayer and his wife Kay said they've seen a difference intheir marriage since they joined the study. The two, who have been marriedfor 23 years, said they decided to participate because they were worriedabout the future.

"We had two really close friends get divorced and it sort of hit us whenthey got divorced: 'What happened to them?' So, we're trying to improve onwhat we saw go wrong," Kay Bayer said.
The Bayers said their biggest weakness was communication, but both havelearned to find more effective ways to talk to each other because of thestudy.

Marriage Concerns

"You don't realize the little things that may affect your marriage," KayBayer said. "[I was] learning to speak more clearly to him so he couldunderstand where I was coming from. I tend not to think before I speak onsome issues."

The Bayers' experience was typical of what other couples who took part inthe checkups found, Cordova said.

"They feel more intimate in their relationship," Cordova said of the coupleswho engaged in therapy. "They feel more accepting of each other, more ableto accept one another's warts and all. They're more active in takingdeliberate care of their marriage."

Common Complaints

Cordova said the most common complaint he hears from couples involves notbeing able to fit their marriages into a hectic lifestyle.

"[The] things we help them with [are] to notice that it's an issue, tonotice they're suffering from it and figure out ways to make time," he said.

Cordova said he hopes more couples will focus on what's right in theirmarriages and build on those strengths.

Click here for more information about Cordova's study:http://tinyurl.com/5o89bu

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