The Marital Poop Detector

Some marriage “experts” claim that a significant cause of unhappiness in marriage is that husbands and wives just have overblown expectations of each other. By lowering these expectations, the argument goes; you become less likely to feel disappointment.

But Donald Baucom, Ph.D.” of the University of North Carolina has debunked this idea thoroughly by studying couples’ standards and expectations of each other. He has found that people with the highest expectations for their marriage usually wind up with the highest- quality marriages. This suggests that by holding your relationship to high standards, you are far more likely to achieve the kind of marriage you want than you are by looking the other way and letting things slide.

Our research on newlyweds confirms what Baucom found. The couples we studied who adjusted to high levels of negativity (irritability, emotional distance) in their marriage ended up less happy or satisfied years later. Those who refused to put up with lots of negativity—who insisted on gently confronting each other when, say, contempt or defensiveness threatened to become pervasive, wound up happy and satisfied years later.

These findings suggest that every marriage ought to be equipped with a built-in early warning system that lets you know when your marital quality is in danger of deteriorating. I call this system the Marital Poop Detector because it’s really a way of saying something just doesn’t smell right!

Someone once said that to men the five most frightening words in the English language are “Let’s talk about our relationship.” Truth is, those words can be just as frightening to plenty of women. The best way to conquer this fear is to talk about issues in your relationship while they are still minor, before they build up steam and become combustible. A Marital Poop Detector lets you do that. Usually one member of a couple tends to take the lead in sniffing out trouble. More often than not it is the wife. When her husband gets cranky or withdrawn, she calls him on it and finds out what’s wrong. But there’s no reason why you both can’t perform this function in your marriage.