ENCORE | How 'love hacks' can make your marriage better: author
Are marriages getting better or worse?
Psychology professor Eli Finkel, who has studied the question extensively, says both.
But he says, "in general people were a bit happier in their marriages in the 60s and the 70s than they are today. "
So why are people less satisfied now?
Finkel points out in his new book The All-or-Nothing Marriage: How the Best Marriages Work, it's because of the rising expectations people place on their marriages.
"We're simply asking too much and the marriage can't really accommodate everything that we're asking," Finkel tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.
"We look to our marriages to do all these emotional and psychological things for us. We make it less easy for the marriage to actually to achieve those things."
At the same time, Finkel is not a proponent of asking too little of marriage.
"Asking a lot of the marriage puts within range, puts within reach the possibility that we can achieve all that stuff through the marriage," he says.
"And those marriages really are profoundly fulfilling in a way that would have been difficult to imagine in an era where we weren't seeking as much."
Finkel runs the "Relationships and Motivation Lab" where he does research into what makes relationships work. What he found is although there are higher expectations of marriage, spouses aren't spending more time together, they're actually spending less time — what Finkel calls "a supply and demand perspective."
"You can ask for, or demand of your marriage sort of whatever you like but you're ill-advised to do it if the marriage can't supply or can't meet the demands that you're placing on it."
The solution to this beyond lowering expectations is what Finkle calls "love hacks."
'Love hacks' to try
One of them, he explains, involves investment and gratitude, "a sacrifice that you've made for your partner."
"Write about investments you've made in the marriage, and investments don't necessarily mean financial, it could be a sacrifice that you've made for your partner," Finkel says.
And then briefly write about sacrifices that your partner has made.
Finkel says according to his research, "just going through this short process of focusing on little sacrifices, little investments your partner has made in the marriage, makes you feel more grateful," Finkel explains.
"And more importantly makes you feel a bit happier and a bit more committed to the marriage."
Another tip Finkel offers is distancing yourself from conflict in the marriage through a third-party perspective — taking a step back.
He refers to Marcel Proust's quote, "Mystery is not about traveling to new places but about looking with new eyes" as a way to understand the merits of "love hacks."
"It doesn't even necessarily involve any coordination with your partner, it's something that you can do on your own."
Finkel says the "quick and dirty" tips he offers in his book aren't going to take a bad marriage and make it a good marriage.
"But they're also things that we can do pretty easily even when we're sort of worn out and there are two kids at home and there's a screaming crisis at work to make things just a little bit better."
Related: How to fix the person you love
Listen to the full conversation above.
This segment was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson.