What Does Science Have to Say About How to Make Your Marriage Better? A Lot.

Whatever happened to "happily ever after"? It seems like most places you look in mainstream society, everyone is shaking their heads at the thought and advising you to take your head out of the clouds and prepare yourself for the worst. Sometimes it seems like the worst is what's expected.

Which is why when I first read about For Better by Tara Parker-Pope, I was relieved. Even though she herself has gone through a dissolved marriage (which is what prodded her to research and write this book in the first place), she is refreshingly optimistic about the state and success of matrimony.

Parker-Pope writes about marriage from a strictly scientific vantage point, using medical studies and research findings to probe into what makes love and marriage work. She looks at what research has to say on a variety of topics, including:
  • How marriage affects your health (married folks’ are healthier and live longer);
  • How to make conflict work for you rather than against you (and why the first three minutes of an argument matter the most)
  • The science of passion, romance and commitment
  • How children and parenting affect marriage
  • How the division of housework plays into a marriage—and what women need to learn if they want their husbands to help
  • How finances affect marriage (“debt is the number one source of marital strife for newlyweds”)
  • How researchers can tell which marriages are destined for trouble and which will last based on ten innocent questions about how the spouses met. 
It was incredibly enlightening to read what research studies have to say on these kinds of topics, especially in areas of conflict (which I’ll share more about later; the research was fascinating regarding what makes conflict work and what doesn’t!) and childrearing. The thing that struck the most as I read through much of the research was how it makes sense. It makes sense that you don’t roll your eyes at your spouse when you’re arguing. But the statistics that support that? Wow. Eye-rolling is one of the greatest signs of contempt, and contempt is the greatest predictor of divorce. When you have research to back these kinds of things, it makes it all the more real.

And there were so many others, such as the fact that studies have shown that merely holding her husband’s hand reduces a wife’s stress levels. Or that “Among couples who score high on marital happiness tests, a distinguishing characteristic is that they typically do not have major debt problems.” Or, since housework is one of the biggest complaints women have, that wives need to learn how to ask for their husband’s help around the house—and not micromanage or critique how he gets those things done. Or that the best way to take care of your children is to take care of your marriage.

What I also appreciated is that Parker-Pope didn’t just drop the research on the table and then walk away, but she analyzed and translated the findings so that readers can put them to use in their own marriages. She also includes quizzes that mimic the scientific research questionnaires, making the science interactive and personal. (You can find some of these quizzes on her website.)

While I was reading For Better, I found myself reciting many of the statistics and findings to Michael because they were so intriguing. My copy is filled with post-it notes and underlining, proving to be a nontraditional relationship book that I’ll keep on my bookshelf and doubtlessly refer to in the future.

Find For Better by Tara Parker-Pope on Amazon. 

Related Posts 
Notes from Love and Respect: Insights for Wives
This is Your Brain in Love Book Review


  1. I just put this book on my library hold list. Thanks :)

  2. Absolutely! Let me know your thoughts. I found it a very insightful read!


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