Тем не менее, некоторые результаты этого опроса все же дают повод для "осторожного оптимизма", например, тот факт, что пары достаточно редко (никогда или реже раза в месяц) вступают в жаркие споры - представления 60 х - 70 х годов о том, что правильнее "излить свой гнев" сейчас уже не считаются правильными.
Большинство пар считает коммуникационные навыки самым большим приоритетом. Причем исследователи говорят о том, что умение "решать проблемы" не является таким уж важным - меньше трети разногласий между супругами или партнерами могут быть разрешены в результате обсуждений. Чаще проблемы лежат в реальных различиях между людьми, в их ценностях, в личностных характеристиках. Поэтому основное внимание пар должно быть направлено не на "разрешение противоречий", а на "принятие различий". По-моему, это самая важная мысль этой статьи!
Еще там говорится, что сейчас больше пар, чем прежде, нацелены на то, чтобы их взаимоотношения были "хорошими", а не "неплохими". И еще - что взаимоотношениям очень помогает, когда пара начинает вместе какое-то сложное дело или проект ("не обязательно прыжки с парашютом" :))
Asked, "When was the last time you and your partner argued?" Jason Keller, 31, didn't hesitate:
"Five minutes ago," he responded, while shopping with his fiancee, Christina Rosemeyer, 29, over the holidays at their local supermarket in Kansas City, Kan. "It was about how much the turkey cost" — more than Keller expected.
"By the time we got through the checkout line," he said, "we were fine."
They drove home, bird in the back, Keller still counting himself among the 94 percent of respondents to a recent poll who said they were very or somewhat happy in their relationship.
Completed by 1,783 adult Americans either married or living with their partner, the survey offers a glimpse of today's relationship priorities and practices. It was commissioned by Thomson Reuters and conducted by the global research company Ipsos for the Chicago Tribune.
The responses paint a rosy picture of committed partnerships, one in which grievances are aired, chores are shared and intimacy is enjoyed — in short, one that clashes with a 45 percent U.S. divorce rate.
The results are cause for cautious optimism, researchers and therapists say, but to conclude that all of the "happy-nows" will lead to more "happy-ever-afters" is premature.
Self-reports in surveys often accentuate the positive, said Donald L. Cole, a certified couples therapist with the Seattle-based Gottman Institute, which provides science-based support for marriages (gottman.com).
"Direct observation and analysis of the interactions is the way to really learn what's going on in a relationship," Cole said. "But this is a good starting point."
He sees positive signs in some of the more specific survey responses, such as how often partners have heated arguments.
Two-thirds of respondents said "never" or "less than monthly."
"People are learning to stop the escalating kinds of quarrels, where I say something negative and then she says something more negative," Cole said. "It's that cycle of escalating negativity that really messes us up. That '60s and '70s idea of venting anger, we now know, doesn't make things better."
A "very happy" survey respondent, Calvin Gibbs, 54, attests to that. He and his wife, Ansonia, who works for a suburban Chicago school district, are buying a house about two miles from their town home in Aurora.
"Moving is a very stressful project," said Gibbs, a former insurance consultant who is shifting to motivational speaking. "What I found is, if she's upset and I get involved and try to calm her down, I usually end up getting upset. And two upset people cannot have a decent conversation. So one of us takes a walk, and when we're calm later on, we approach it again."
After dinner is OK for tough conversations; right after work or at bedtime isn't.
"When I was out working 9 to 5 and had a bad day, as soon as I walked through the door, the last thing I wanted to hear was more bad news," he said.
More than 80 percent of survey respondents rated good communication as the top priority.
That doesn't mean conflict never flares. But successful couples apply repair skills, Cole said, whereas unsuccessful couples tend to withdraw, disregard or escalate.
"Research shows only 31 percent of our problems are solvable; 69 percent are perpetual," said Carrie Cole, also a certified couples therapist with Gottman and Donald Cole's wife. "They're basically differences in personality, in values."
"Problem-solving is highly overrated," Donald Cole said. "It's really accepting the differences."
Men and women in the survey reported no significant difference in the importance of physical intimacy. More than half of respondents said they engage in physical intimacy weekly or daily.
"That's a barometer," Donald Cole said. "Their physical intimacy is going to directly correlate to their friendship. When people are emotionally on the outs with each other, physical intimacy is one of the first things to go."
Among the "very happy" respondents, Traci Vanchure, 44, of Ashley, Pa., rated physical intimacy "very important." She and her husband of 13 years, who have five children between them and care for their autistic grandson, define intimacy broadly.
"The main thing is, we kiss each other every morning, and every night say 'I love you.' We usually sit down and watch a movie together," Vanchure said. "That's what's most important, being able to sit and snuggle. The other stuff happens when it happens, when you have time."
Another "very happy" respondent, Larry Ottolini, 67, a former field engineer who lives in Mineral, Va., said he would prefer more physical intimacy with his wife.
"We both have a few more bulges in the wrong places than 34 years ago," he said, "but it still drives me wild when my wife comes out of the shower and into the bedroom to dress."
He also worries more than his wife does about having enough money to last through retirement.
But they're unfailingly there for each other, he said, whether after surgery or on a summer afternoon.
"We'll take the pontoon out on Lake Anna and listen to the radio and watch the sunset, or take the grandkids out to swim or fish," Ottolini said.
Accepting differences isn't the same as "settling," anathema to the "Sex and the City" generation.
"What research shows is that couples who set the bar high are couples who succeed," Donald Cole said. "They have high expectations that I'm going to love my partner, and my partner is going to love me. Marriage is supposed to be fulfilling, it's supposed to be beneficial."
About 66 percent of women in the survey said they handle the majority or all of the household chores. About 35 percent of men report they handle about half or more of child-rearing duties.
"Men still may be behind the curve, present company included, in terms of day-to-day washing dishes," Donald Cole said. "But the survey showed a high level of mutual parenting. That is huge."
A "very happy" respondent, Patricia Brown, 29, of De Leon, Texas, said she and her partner of three years have four children, ages 8, 6, 2 and 8 months, two of whom are from her previous relationship. Her partner loves all of the children equally, she said.
"He cleans house, he does dishes, he helps with the kids," she said. "We do almost everything together, and it's kind of great."
Survey respondent Mercedes Behzadi, 38, who is rearing three young children with husband Dara in New Buffalo, Mich., said she and her husband support each other's interests and priorities.
"My family is in Argentina, so two years ago the children and I went and stayed for two months, and he was really a trouper, with an empty house, knowing that sharing time with extended family is so important," said Behzadi, who is "very happy" with her marriage.
The Tribune survey results echo findings of recent decades, in which most Americans have reported very high levels of relationship quality, said Susan L. Brown, co-director of the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
"What's interesting is it's not as highly predictive of divorce as we would think," Brown, a professor of sociology, said. "The divorce rate has been quite stable since the '80s."
One ray of light has emerged from recent research, she said.
"For young people, the divorce rate has been decreasing compared to prior generations. That reflects fewer people getting married these days, with many cohabiting instead," Brown said. "But we also are starting to see evidence the divorce rate might be declining modestly for people in their 20s and 30s."
Because barriers to divorce have fallen, those who remain in committed relationships are more likely to be happy, skewing survey results, said Arthur Aron, a social psychologist and relationship researcher at Stony Brook University and the University of California at Berkeley.
"Also, people want to believe they're happy," Aron said. "But, controlling for tendencies such as self-deception, happy marriages really can exist."
Research in past decades focused on identifying relationship problems.
"Now we're looking more at how to make things good, not just OK," Aron said.
There's solid evidence that a couple's relationship benefits when they do novel, challenging, exciting things together, he said.
"It doesn't have to be parachuting," he said.
It can be starting a vegetable garden, which the Behzadis did together last summer. (Tomatoes flourished; cucumbers didn't.)
Celebrating a partner's success, what researchers call "capitalization," also correlates with happiness, Aron said.
"Your partner gets a promotion or just finds something that was lost, and you celebrate it," he said.
Recognizing his wife's artistic talents, Dara Behzadi, a high school teacher, encouraged her to paint an umbrella for a charity auction in a neighboring town a few years ago.
"I don't think I would have done it if he hadn't pushed me," Mercedes Behzadi said. "He said, 'You can do it!' "
She has now, for five years.
Just being noticed and appreciated contributes to happiness, said Terri L. Orbuch, who has followed 373 couples over 27 years in a study called "The Early Years of Marriage Project," funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.
"What I found is small gestures, like saying 'thank you,' 'I love you,' 'you're special ,' 'you make my life exciting' — affirmation and validation — are really important," said Orbuch, who wrote "Five Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great." She's a professor of sociology at Oakland University in Michigan and a research professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.
Together for seven years now, Jason Keller and Christina Rosemeyer each have two children from prior relationships. Learning from their pasts, they share a belief that relationship success requires talking turkey.
"No matter how big or small or stupid it is, you have to be able to talk about it: 'I felt this way about it,' 'Well, I felt this way,' and 'I didn't mean to make you feel that way,'" Keller said. "If you're arguing, and the hallway is so long, and by the time you get to the front door you've made up, that shows you can talk to the person. You have to find someone to communicate with, not just be with."