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Ben Nadel at BFusion / BFLEX 2010 (Bloomington, Indiana) with: Michael Labriola
Ben Nadel at BFusion / BFLEX 2010 (Bloomington, Indiana) with: Michael Labriola ( @mlabriola )

For Better: The Science Of A Good Marriage By Tara Parker-Pope

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Last week, I blogged about the Love Scale quiz by Dr. Hatkoff as discusesd in Tara Parker-Pope's book, "For Better: The Scinece of a Good Marriage." This weekend, I finally had a chance to finish the rest of the book and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. I think the book has a tremendous amount of interesting information in it and I'm sure that I will have to read it a second time before I can truly start to internalize much of what was covered.

The book discussed the biological basis for animal behaviors, trends in marriage, statistical analysis, reviews of many studies, and tons of great insight - like I said, there was a lot of interesting information. One section that I found particularly insightful, however, was what Gay and Lesbian relationships teach us about heterosexual relationships. Studies of gay and lesbian relationships reveal that same-sex couples (and same-sex marriages) have all of the same ups and downs and disagreements that straight couples have. This transcendence of behavior above the gender lines reveals to us that problems in relationships are not gender specific - no one is who they are, or behaves as they do simply because they are a man or a woman.

While this might seem obvious on one level, I think it shifts the perspective of relationships in a very profound way. It's not men and women, or Mars and Venus - suddenly this point of view feels very archaic; relationships are about the interactions between two committed individuals, regardless of gender and gender stereotypes. Combine this with the women's Working movement and the relatively recent prioritization of love in marriage and we find that the reality of relationships start to clash with many of our preconceived notions.

Now, the beauty in this revelation is certainly one of hope and possibility. When we see that everyone is suspeptible to the same problems, we realize that we can do something about it - that we can work towards a better future. And, when we embrace the fact that very little of our behavior is codified in our gender, it gives us the freedom to become the best people that we can be.

The section on gay and lesbian relationships also provided a lot of information about conflict resolution and the tremendous importance of an extended social network in the context of love-based marriages; but, I don't want to give you the wrong idea - this book wasn't a study of non-heterosexual relationships. This section just happend to be one of many very interesting explorations into relationship dynamics and happened to be one that provided me with a very fresh perspective.

No one goes into relationships an expert; and, as modern couples start to expect more from their life, their marriage, and from their significant other, it has never been more important to understand the science of a successful relationship. And, like all activities that we engage in, a successful relationship is one that is built on top of hard work, dedication, and deliberate practice. For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage, by Tara Parker-Pope is certainly one book that I feel will be a valuable asset on my journey towards maximizing my relational satisfaction.

Reader Comments


Interesting point. One thing that does strike me is that of the several gay couples that I know, although same-sex they do conform to a masculine/feminine role within the relationship.

So, I wonder that whilst being male/female within the relationship doesn't cast you with a particular set of traits / problems perhaps being either masculine of feminine does?




That's an interesting question. The author touches upon this concept a bit, but not too much. She said that often times, when people think about same-sex relationships, they think about them in terms of who is the "man" and who is the "woman" as this is the model that we understand most completely. In reality, what is happening (as best I can remember in the book), is that things are falling upon "power" lines. In most relationships - same-sex relationships are no different - one person tends to have more power than the other. Perhaps it is this power imbalance that we translate traditionally as masculine / feminine?

To be honest, though, I don't know too many gay couples.

One thing that I found interesting was that people, regardless of sexual orientation, are better at working together with people of the same sex. So, for example, men work more efficiently with other men regardless of the fact that they are both gay, straight, or mixed orientation. The same goes for women. It seems that there is something inherently harder about working with people of a different sex.


It really was a wonderful, fascinating - and yes, hopeful- book. One of my favorite quotes is, "Couples in good marriages get the little things right." I think it's really a good thing to keep in mind that it isn't the big celebrations or grand events that make up a good marriage (or a committed relationship); it's the small, content moments that really add up. And being mindful of those can, I'd like to think, can turn a good marriage into a great one. :)

Oh, and nice picture. :D



Along those same lines, I thought it was cool that they have boiled down the requirement of good-vs-bad experiences to 5:1 - for every bad experience that you generate for someone (ie, saying something dismissive or hurtful), you have to generate 5 positive ones (ie. stroking their hair, kissing them, saying 'I love you', etc.). It really is the little things and their aggregation.


@Ben, I agree that that IS wicked cool. However, the problem is that many people only notice the BIG stuff- especially the big "bad" stuff- and not the little good stuff. Those kind words or little gifts or hand squeezes can mean the world to people...or they can be totally overlooked. Mindfulness, yo. ;)


Once I heard this advice. Happy married couple was asked - "what is your secret" ? They replied - "we always resolving small conflicts and looking to make small things comfortable for both of us".

"But what if you disagree on some big issue" ? - And happy couple replied - "We are always agree on big things, we were'nt married otherwise".


Ok, so your work stuff? Not in my field at all. I teach yoga.

But your book reviews? Will keep me coming back. Awesomeness!
I am trotting off to buy this one asap.

BY the way, I took the quiz: 7 Logical and 6 Best friends. I would drive a romantic nuts. Surely all things can be reasoned out calmly?

Thanks for the deep thinking guy-perspective, Ben!



Thank you kindly - I am always happy to pass on that which I find valuable. I am glad you are enjoying the perspective. Related somewhat to this book, or perhaps more so, to the Love Scale quiz, I just finished reading The Five Love Languages; this is another book that provides an interesting perspective on communication.

As far as logic vs. romantic, this is something that I think Chapman touched upon in the Five Love Languages book. That acts of love are conscious decisions. That in a long-term relationship, after the "high" of the "falling in love" period fades, we must continually choose to make our lover feel loved. Part of that gesture is figuring out which channel of communication is most effective and choosing to use it.


"Gay and lesbian relationships" Just picking up on this point-no I am not Gay,however have a lot of gay girl friends-I started to wonder why- So am 60,guess pretty fit divorced with two kids that are now 30 plus-

I began to realize that at my age I had started to like myself-let me explain- I could go out unshaven with a beanie on my head walking my dog,not really wanting to talk with anybody-then strange things started to happen-
I began saying hello to other dog walkers,especially women that wanted to talk about their dogs-the interesting thing I found was that I was not looking at these beautiful woman as a sex object-more I just wanted to go home feed my dog and pump the internet on my dreams of making a dollar on line-

Sorry to go on but there is a point to this--

Suddenly I was more free than I could imagine- was not 25yrs old thinking that every girl wanted a root! but started to listen to their real problems-It opened a Pandora's box.

I could actually give great love to everyone knowing I was free of the sex act,that sounds a little over the top-Let me carry on-guess on a roll!!

I am talking about me that loves women-but when I decide sex has not been my greatest friend-cost me money and grief-you start to look inside your self and what the hell am I here for-

Not really heavy shit-

To complete quickly- If one can look at other humans,gay,straight,what ever,without that power of sex over them, you will see a new horizon and in so doing meet really strange and wild people.

As I post have two lovely 35 year old gay woman drinking my wine and telling me their demands of life- All desperate to be loved from another human.

Please start to look in the mirror for a few moments and really see yourself-You are unique,and more especially love the image-you are born alone and will leave this life alone-in between you learn about yourself- sex is great,love is enormous,however do you love YOU?

sorry two wines I am off on love-Take care all -you have a right to be on this planet enjoy your time and more important is to love every bloody fault you have, as like your fingerprint it is unique-Love You First-Cya


Does it mean that gay and lesbian relationships are far more better than the straight ones? I mean, do they have the biggest possibility of resolving and making every relationship successful that those of straight?



I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. I think any time that you can communicate with people without having ulterior motives, you get much more of the communication.


I think that they have some infrastructure (ex. larger social group) that gives them more tools to work out problems. I don't think there is anything genetically beneficial as far as conflict resolution goes.


Hello, its really a good book . i didnt read it upto yet i want to purchace it after reading the reveiw of this book. I am having Doctrate Degree on marriages in ancient indian senario but i want to extend my work now in reference of present world. your book will help me to do so. thanks & congratulation for writting that kind of book. best wishes.


@Dr. Anjali,

It would be very interesting to hear how the advice / science offered in this book either goes against or is in agreement with practices of the ancient world.


Hai, i feel very happy after seeing your response. one more thing i want to discuss you that an esteemed government organization of india awarded Post Doctoral Fellowship on Tribal women of uttarakhad india. so if you fevor me than i feel very happy.


Dr.Anjali Thapliyal Kaul


> maximizing my relational satisfaction.

Sounds like you're pumping relationships at the gym. <makes the Incredible Hulk gesture>

I believe in love. I believe in compassion. I believe in human rights. I believe that we can afford to give more of these gifts to the world around us because it costs us nothing to be decent and kind and understanding. And, I want you to know that when you land on this site, you are accepted for who you are, no matter how you identify, what truths you live, or whatever kind of goofy shit makes you feel alive! Rock on with your bad self!
Ben Nadel