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Bruce Feiler and his wife have twin daughters, and every morning was a madcap rush to get everybody out the door on time. January 1, 2014 • In softcover nonfiction, Sonali Deraniyagala writes about losing her family to the 2004 tsunami, Nick Turse explores civilian deaths in Vietnam, David Esterly shares his path to becoming a master woodcarver, and Bruce Feiler collects tips for building a happier family. February 17, 2013 • What makes some families stronger, more harmonious, and just plain happier than others? Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive. Loving couples: In a world where 40 percent of marriages end in divorce, you can't help but notice them. Of course, no intimate relationship ever is, especially once you factor in life's built-in pressures, like work deadlines, laundry and your daughter's orthodontist appointments. Sure, you may find it cloyingly sweet when you overhear other couples talking like 2-year-olds, but endearments are actually a sign of a healthy rapport.
These same feelings of intimacy can also come from using a special tone of voice with each other, sharing silly "inside jokes," or pet-naming your spouse's intimate body parts.
When that pheromone-crazy feeling of falling in love passes and happy couples no longer spend all day in bed, they look outward. The first task facing all young couples is separating from their families of origin, points out San Francisco-area-based family researcher Judith Wallerstein, Ph.D.
It's no secret that most wives continue to do more in the housekeeping and child-rearing departments than their husbands.
Humor, as many psychotherapists have observed, is the Krazy Glue that keeps a couple together. Contented couples encounter their share of life's miseries whether it's the car breaking down, a nasty cold or a missed promotion but they help each other get through.
Marriage, Life Satisfaction and Educational Differences in Australian Couples", doctoral candidate Shane Worner of Australian National University reports that married people are happier than unmarried people. The bad news is that I'm totally swamped with email and comments, and so I have had to take the hard decision not to answer comments here any more.However, the community here is really helpful and you may well get better advice than I could give you from someone else, so do make a comment if you feel you need help. Feiler is a New York Times columnist and the author of several books, including The Council of Dads and Walking the Bible. To find out, Bruce Feiler asked parents and experts from a wide variety of fields for advice that parents could apply to improve life at home. There they are, finishing each other's sentences or laughing in some dusky corner of a Chinese restaurant. You could probably predict the list: trust, mutual respect, commitment and a strong sense of "we" in the relationship.
The point is to connect with some private message system that's meaningful to you alone, as a couple not to the outside world.
3: You can talk with your mom every day and still be clear about where your attachment to her ends and your love for your mate begins.
Still, when partners become double-entry bookkeepers, adding up every dish washed and every diaper changed, they may be headed for trouble.
When couples start yelling and throwing things, when they dredge up every single complaint they've ever had (or "kitchen-sinking," as marital experts typically call it), you can be sure that they won't be celebrating their silver anniversary together.
Markman, whose research has demonstrated that it's possible to predict whether or not a couple will divorce after watching them argue for 10 or 15 minutes.
Sarah sometimes comes home from work to find that her husband has prepared a candlelight dinner. You don't, for example, hear them say, "How could you let that happen?" when a spouse loses a job. Hypnosis is great for this sort of thing because it's a natural and powerful way of positively changing the way you think and feel.
Worner surveyed 5,000 Australians, asking them to rank their level of happiness on a scale from one to ten, then inquired as to their marital status. If you want a response from me, then you can contact me here at Ask Mark on my main site Hypnosis Downloads.
So he set out on a mission to gather advice for how to build a stronger, happier and healthier family. We have nuclear families that live in separate houses as well as divorced families that nest in the same house. They seem so wonderfully in sync, and they make the work of being a couple seem effortless. What is surprising, experts point out, is that when you ask loving husbands and wives about the key to their devotion, over and over you'll hear the same things, specific habits that mirror these values.
Markman, is an "investment in the relationship"; it provides a relaxed intimacy that strengthens the bond between two people.
But if there's a crisis over whether to have a second child or relocate for a new job, or even if there's good news about a big raise or the results of a medical test, the couple should talk about it together first before dialing Mom. In strong marriages, he says, the partners take control of their disagreements by establishing ground rules. Moore says, it's a signal that the soul has gone out of their marriage and they are headed for trouble.
In general, Worner found that married men are 135% more likely to report a high happiness score than single men.
The result is The Secrets of Happy Families, a collection of more than 200 strategies culled from conversations with, among others, business branding experts, sports coaches and even the team behind Modern Family.

We have families with one parent, two parents, three parents, or more, and families with one, two, or three faiths, and some with none. They may, for example, call a mutually agreed-upon time-out if the conflict is escalating and unproductive, agreeing to continue the discussion after a cooling-off period. They also truly listen to each other and won't prematurely try to solve the problem before they've heard each other out.
If you're being abused and bullied then your spouse has defaulted on 'the deal' anyway (remember the 'to love and to cherish' part of the vows?). Above all, no matter how angry they get, they don't resort to name-calling and insults key danger signs, says Dr. But our 'throw away society' may mean that perfectly good relationships are too quickly discarded because they don't seem ideal.The irony is that the modern obsession with 'personal fulfilment' - the importance of the self at the expense of the other - has left more people unfulfilled, sad, and lonely. Study after study confirms that the number one predictor of life satisfaction comes from spending time with people you care about and who also care about you. Bazzini of Appalachian State University and three of her former students, appears in the January 2007 issue of the journal Motivation and Emotion. Simply put, happiness is other people, and the other people we hang around with most are our family. Exercising together, browsing in antiques stores, or renting a classic movie can help bring the two of you closer. Have the ideas of commitment, duty, and responsibility been ditched at the expense of happiness?A happy marriage is healthyMarriage may seem as old-fashioned as sepia tone, but repeated research shows that people who remain married to one partner are the happiest (1) and that married people are statistically happier and live longer (2) than their non-married counterparts.
The last decade has seen a stunning breakthrough in knowledge about how to make families, along with other small groups, run more smoothly. We now know what happy marriages should avoid and also what needs to be encouraged to make marriages healthier and happier.Of course no marriage is perfect, but many are happy.
Myth-shattering research from neuroscience to genetics has completely reshaped our understanding of how parents should discipline their children, what to talk about at family dinner, and how adult siblings can have difficult conversations.
Happy marriages have difficulties, but there is an abiding sense of 'us', not just 'you and me'.
Cutting-edge innovation in social networking and business has transformed how people work in groups. But you are going to have years with your spouse, so you need to be able to except some imperfections.
In the first throes of passion, the object of our romantic focus may seem perfect but then we discover their 'feet of clay'. At this point, for the marriage to last we need to see beyond personal weaknesses and foibles - after all, no one is perfect.
Well, those are the ones who are much less likely to become or stay marriedA survey conducted in San Francisco (3) found that people who stay happily married are twice as likely to be able and willing to apologize to their partners as divorced or single people are. The survey found happily married people are 25% more likely to apologize first, even if they only feel partially to blame. The harder divorced and single people found it ever to apologize or make conciliatory gestures, the more likely they were to stay single.Romance and passion may bring couples together, but compromise and respect will keep them there. Learn to say sorry.3) Drive those relationship-ruining riders out of townSome couples argue passionately but still have a happy marriage. What's the difference?It's not whether you argue but how you argue that determines the likelihood that your marriage will survive long-term. US psychologist John Gottman has spent almost two decades studying the interaction of couples. He can now reliably tell (with up to 95% accuracy!) which couples are destined for relationship breakdown and which are likely to stay together by listening to the first five minutes of a contentious discussion.Gottman highlights four factors that rot relationships. Contempt: Name calling, face pulling, cursing at and insulting your partner, and basically behaving as if you are revolted is 'contempt'.
Gottman and his researchers in Seattle (4) found that if this was a regular feature in the start-up phase of a disagreement, then the relationship's days were very likely to be numbered. I sat down with top game designers in Silicon Valley to see how we can make family vacations more fun. Women who looked contemptuous whilst their husband was talking were six times more likely to be divorced two years later.2. The most popular show on American television captures many of the crosscurrents in families today.
What's your problem?!""But I was just offering you a cup of tea!"Another major predictor of eventual relationship breakdown is over-defensiveness.
If someone begins yelling as soon as their partner broaches a subject and feels overly threatened or attacked, and this is a continuing and regular feature of the couple's interactions, then the relationship is in crisis. For example: "You are such a lazy ?"*tard!" implies they are always like that and that it's a fundamental part of who they are. I talked to the cast and creators about what the success of Modern Family says about modern families and whether we should all live our lives more like a sitcom.
That's not like you!"Some partners feel they are trying to 'improve' their spouse by constantly pointing out what is wrong with them. Criticizing partners publically is humiliating (for both partners), but saying nice things about them when in company is a wonderful thing to do.People in happy marriages feel appreciated, loved, and respected. Remind your spouse of their talents, strengths, and what you love and like about them much more.
Of the nearly two hundred books I read, the ones by therapists, counselors, child-rearing experts, or other traditional "authorities" on family life were by far the least helpful. Withdrawal or 'stonewalling'Emotionally withdrawing or stonewalling, 'closing your ears' or 'shutting off' when a partner is complaining is another huge predictor of breakdown.

Men's biology is less able to cope with strong emotion than women's, so men may instinctively try to avoid entering arguments or becoming highly aroused by stonewalling.The partner may withdraw during conversations by 'switching off' or ultimately spend more and more time away from the relationship as a way of 'escaping'.
The questions seemed retread from thirty or even forty years ago; the answers seemed stale. Does your marriage contain any of these 'riders'?And how else can you make your marriage happier?4) Know what not to talk about in your marriageYounger couples often want to 'dig deep' to unearth all their 'issues', to be entirely open with one another, and to 'talk everything through'.But studies of elderly couples who have been happily married for decades show that these couples often don't listen very carefully to what the other is saying when expressing negative emotion. They also tend to ignore their own feelings about the relationship unless they consider that something absolutely must be done. This threshold is set much higher than in younger couples.So the typical advice of agony aunts to 'air issues' and get 'everything out in the open' doesn't, after all, make for healthy long-term relationships. Agreeing to disagree and knowing which subjects to steer clear of is a key relationship skill.5) Work out problems but keep a lid on themAnother key factor in arguments within relationships that survive is the habit of changing the subject once the discussion has 'run its course'. Early on, I set the goal of speaking with the leading lights of technology, business, sports, and the military about the innovative ideas they bring home to their families.
This 'quick shift' lessens the amount of negative emotion experienced and decreases the likelihood of later rumination. Anyone who's stepped into a bookstore or scanned the Internet in recent years knows a new field emerged in the early twenty-first century called positive psychology.
But regularly laughing together may be even more powerful.According to recent research, couples who laugh together and regularly reminisce about funny times tend to be much more satisfied with their relationships (5). Pioneered by a group of visionary scholars, the movement shifted attention away from the longstanding focus on individuals with mental illness or other pathologies and concentrated on high-functioning individuals and what the rest of us could learn from them.
The field exploded, and I, like many, have learned a tremendous amount from this exciting literature. Lack of fun can wilt a marriage like a flower denied water.7) Ensure 5 good times for every bad timeAccording to Dr Gottman, stable marriages need five good interactions for every not-so-good one.
A primary tenet of most happiness books, for example, is to figure out what makes us happy. This will work even better if you follow the next tip.8) Can you read (love) maps?Remember the old Mr. Yet among the things proven to make us the least happy are raising children, tending aging parents, and doing household chores.
For example: "Where in the world would your wife most like to travel?" or "What drink would your husband most likely order in a restaurant?" The idea was that the more correlated the answers, the stronger the relationship.
And research seems to bear this out:The more you know your partner's tastes, aspirations, whom they like and dislike at work, and so on, the better 'love map' you have.
Knowing the details of your partner's inner and outer life (whilst allowing for some privacy) makes for a stronger bond. The last few years have seen an outpouring of books, articles, and magazine covers wrangling over the issue of what's the proper way to raise children. One woman I worked with didn't know the name of her (underappreciated) husband's company and one husband couldn't tell me the name of their family dog! I have a question: What do happy families do right and how can the rest of us learn to make our families happier?
In 1989, Stephen Covey published The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the most successful self-help books ever written. The book spawned countless imitators seeking to identify "5 Easy Steps" or "Six Simple Truths." The Internet, with its emphasis on bite-sized wisdom, has only accelerated this trend. I've certainly digested my share of such lists (and generated more than a few myself), but secretly I hate them.
They stress me out because I'm always worried I'm going to forget number 4 or disagree with number 2. I've strived to generate a fresh gathering of best practices for each of the subjects I tackled. My goal was to create The List to End All Lists, more than 200 bold new for improving your family. Do I have to use the word vagina when giving my daughters a bath instead of the more demure "privates"?
I'm almost prepared to guarantee that you've never encountered at least three-quarters of the ideas in this book. My hope is that if you take just one idea from each chapter in this book your family will be transformed in less than a week. For all the lip service we pay to families in our culture, most of us have a nagging fear we're not doing it as well as we might.
We know our families are the single biggest influence on our well-being, yet we spend surprisingly little time trying to improve them. Having beaten the biological clock to have our kids; now we race a different ticking clock to help convert those kids into a family.
Everything I've learned persuades me it's possible to give our children a secure, loving family culture they can carry with them throughout their lives. It's possible to include grandparents, siblings, even bumbling Cousin Joe in an extended community of nurturing and support. Is it possible, all these years later, to say Tolstoy was right: All happy families do have certain things in common?

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