The Number One Way to Predict If Your Marriage Will Last

A man and a woman were involved in a car crash and both of their cars were demolished. After their cars came to a grinding halt, both of them miraculously walked out from their cars, neither one of them were hurt in any way.

After both of them crawled out of their cars the women said, “Can you believe this? Both of our cars are completely destroyed, and both of us, a man and a woman, are left unharmed. This may just be me, but this seems to be a sign from God that we were to meet and live the rest of our lives together.”

The man said, “I agree! This is a sign from God!”

Then the woman continued, “And look at this, here’s another miracle. My car is completely destroyed, but a bottle of wine in my back seat didn’t break! Surely God wants us to drink this and celebrate our good fortune!”

The man shook his head in agreement.

So he took the bottle of wine from the back seat of her car, opened it, took three or four big swigs, and then handed it back to the women.

But the woman took the bottle and immediately put the cap back on and handed it back to the man.

He asked, “Aren’t you having any?”

The women replied, “No, I think I’ll just wait for the police.”

How couples get together never cease to amaze any of us.

How they break up, though, often does.

Psychologists Cliff Notarius of the Catholic University of America and Howard Markham of the University of Denver discovered that none of the factors that one would guess might predict a couple’s durability actually does: not how in love a newlywed couple says they are; not how much affection they exchange; and not how much they fight or what they fight about.

In fact, the researchers said that couples who endure and those who don’t look remarkably similar in the early days.

Yet when Notarius and Markham studied newlyweds over the first decade of marriage, they found a subtle but telling difference at the beginning of their relationships.

  • Among couples who would ultimately stay together, on average 5 out of every 100 comments made about each other were putdowns.
  • Among the couples who would later split, roughly 10 out of every 100comments were insults. That gap magnified over the following decade until couples were flinging five times as many cruel and invalidating comments at each other as happy couples.

The researchers commented,

“Hostile putdowns act as cancerous cells that, if unchecked, erode the relationship over time, and in the end, relentless unremitting negativity takes control and the couple can’t get through a week without major blowups.” (US News & World Reports, Feb 21, 1994, p. 67)

I’m not quite sure whether or not I believe their research (how do you accurately record the conversations of newlyweds for ten years?), but what they found sounds remarkably similar to what the Bible says in Ephesians 4:29.

It reminds newlyweds and oldyweds alike,

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

So, let me ask: how many of your comments are put-downs?

What could you do TODAY to start to begin being more encouraging and building your spouse up? 

  • As we move forward in this new year, please know we are praying for you and your marriage. We pray you’d seek to build one another up.
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POSTED ON January 29, 2018

Brian Jones is the founding Senior Pastor of Christ’s Church of the Valley, a church that has grown from 0 to 2,000+ amazing people in the northwest suburbs of Philadelphia. CCV is a church built on converts, 2,100 so far in fact. Their vision is to transform the Philadelphia metro area by growing beyond 5,000 and planting 20 campuses throughout the region. Before starting CCV, Brian served as a pastor at small and medium-sized churches. And while going through school, Brian preached on the weekends at rural churches of 25 and 50. Simply put, wherever you are, chances are he's been there and coached dozens of people just like you through it. Brian is a graduate of Cincinnati Christian University (B.A.) and Princeton Theological Seminary (M.Div.). He is the author of three books and seeks to help Christians live thoughtful and courageous lives.