Positive Psychology Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Positive Psychology / Positive Relationships

Marriage and Well-Being

In the book, Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness and Flourishing, 2nd Edition, the authors explain that "…frequent findings in the literature on subjective well-being" reveals that there is a strong link between "marriage and self-reported happiness and life satisfaction" (Compton, et al., 2012, 103). The authors insist this is true no matter what age groups are involved in the research; studies referenced by Compton (Argyle, 1987; Diener et al. 1999; Myers, 2000) show that "…married people are consistently happier and more satisfied…" with their lot in life than single people are (103).

In fact, Compton asserts that "…marriage is the only really significant bottom-up predictor of life satisfaction" for males and females in matrimony (103). When a couple enjoys "quality" in their marriage, that situation is what Compton calls "…a significant predictor of subjective well-being" (103). That said, Compton adds that the effect that marriage has on well-being "…is stronger for men than for women" -- and while single men are not as happy as women that are single, married men are "…as happy or happier than married women" (103).

Psychology professor Howard Markman and colleagues explain that a "…great and happy marriage" has more power to "enhance your life" than almost anything else (Markman, et al., 2010, 68). The authors add that a good marriage is among the best things you can do to "…enhance your child's well-being" (68). Moreover, women are just as likely as men to say that their marriage "…enhances their overall well-being"; and both men and women are not as likely to become depressed "…if they are married" (Markman, 68).

In the peer-reviewed American Journal of Family Therapy the authors report on a study involving fifty-one Israeli couples who were married for at least 40 years. They were given questionnaires with itemized questions about all aspects of their marriages and "global questions about their marital satisfaction" (Cohen, et al., 2009, 299). The results of this survey showed that the marital satisfaction reported by husbands was "…dependent largely on the content of the marital relationship" but not necessarily related to "…their general well-being" (Cohen, 299). On the other side of the report, for wives, marital satisfaction was affected by "…both the content of their marriage and their global well-being" (Cohen, 299). In the article the authors reference a study by Williams (1993) that indicated "with few exceptions" that the effects of marital "status" and marital "quality" vis-a-vis the "psychological well-being" were the same for men and women (Cohen, 301).

Triangular Theory of Love

Robert J. Sternberg, Yale University professor of psychology explains that the triangular theory of love has three main components: a) intimacy (which connects people and bonds them in relationships build on love); b) passion (human drives bring people to others through physical attraction and also "sexual consummation"); and c) decision / commitment (when the decision is made that one loves the other, a commitment logically follows) (Sternberg, 2004, 258).

Those three components are placed in specific spots on the triangle, Sternberg relates. Intimacy is at the top vertex of the triangle; passion is on the left-hand vertex of the triangle; and decision / commitment is on the right-hand vertex of the triangle. While Sternberg writes that the placement of these three components is "arbitrary," he goes on to discuss the intimacy component as "…giving rise, essentially, to the experience of warmth in a loving relationship" (259).

When it comes to stability in a relationship, the intimacy component is "moderately high," passion is "low" and the decision / commitment component is "moderately high," Sternberg explains on page 260. In "short-term" love relationships it makes sense that passion is "high" and intimacy is "moderate" while decision / commitment is "low"; and in a love relationship that is "long-term," intimacy is "high," passion becomes "moderate" and decision / commitment is "high" (otherwise the relationship wouldn't be long-term (Sternberg, 260).

Flourishing Marriage

There are several definitions of flourish presented by Merriam-Webster: a) to grow "luxuriantly" and to "thrive"; b) to "achieve success: prosper" (their marriage flourished); c) to "reach a height of development or influence"; d) to be in a state of high-energy activity.

Meanwhile Martin Seligman's book Flourish engages the reader on the subject of well being. It is not a step-by-step instructional guide to helping a marriage flourish, but Seligman, who is viewed as one of the founders of positive psychology, uses approaches to optimism, motivation, and positive thinking to help the reader understand what it means to flourish as a human being. What is it the each person on the planet has that helps that person to flourish (to cultivate one's greatest talents; to build "…deep, lasting relationships with others" (Seligman, 2011).

Of course, as part of the reader's need to understand "flourish," Seligman references his "five pillars of positive psychology" (PERMA): a) positive emotion; b) engagement; c) relationships; d) meaning; and e) accomplishment. By "engagement" he isn't alluding to being engaged to be married; rather, he is talking about engaging seriously with other people, not just in the sense of interacting on a social level but being deeply interested and involved in another person, in this context, one's spouse. Is this book the ideal source for learning how to flourish in marriage? No, it is not. But Seligman's book, Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, offers a great deal of useful insight on optimism and positivity, both deemed vital for a marriage to flourish. Optimism and hope, he writes, can cause "better resistance to depression when bad events strike," and of course in any marriage there are going to be challenging, even dark, events that will occur (Seligman, 2002).

Communication, Capitalisation - Recommendations

Communication -- real communication, not just the sound of two voices speaking -- is absolutely imperative for a marriage to be fruitful and sustaining for both parties. "Many essential messages are transmitted through attitude, facial expressions, and body language," and there is also a different kind of communication when words are left "unsaid" (dummies.com). Indeed, communication in a marriage involves not just listening but paying attention to what your partner is saying through "…moods, attitudes, gestures, movements, and actions" (dummies.com). Every loving couple should be able to capitalise on the opportunity to create a bond that survives the most severe challenges; loving one another isn't enough, carrying through with honest communication brings joy and contentment and a sense of satisfaction to the marriage.

Adult Attachment Styles

John Bowlby explains that adult romantic relationships in a real way emulate the attachment patterns that children experience with their parents. A responsive partner should have the same attraction to his or her partner -- and hence, experience a powerful sense of attachment -- that a child has towards the mother (or parents) (Fraley). The individual differences in the way in which couples relate to each other are called "attachment styles, attachment patterns, attachments orientations," and when an adult romantic relationship (i.e., marriage or cohabitation) is an attachment relationship, the way it works should be the same as the attachment between an infant and his or her mother (or parent, or caregiver). It is desirable for adults in attachment relationships to be available and always response to the other partner's needs (Fraley).

Also the following attachment styles are relevant to this paper: a) secure attachment (trusting, long-term relationships have secure attachments); b) ambivalent attachment (reluctance to get too close to another adult); c) avoidant attachment (this means there is reluctance to become intimate or share); and d) disorganized attachment (self-explanatory) (Cherry, 2010).

Recommendations and Conclusion: this paper believes that seeking perfection in marriage is unrealistic, but by using all available skills and emotions -- and concentrating on creating a bond that is based on communication and trust…

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