This American Life: The Sanctity of Marriage

Renee and I listened to another favorite episode of mine from TAL, The Sanctity of Marriage. Of course, now that we’re newlyweds, we were paying careful attention. The episode is in three acts, “What Really Happens in Marriage”, “The Defense of Marriage Act”, and “I Want to be a Statistic”.

The first act resonated with me pretty strongly. For the past couple of decades, some social scientists have been doing experiments to find out why marriages break up. They started off recording a sample of couples and traced them over a five year span. Afterwards, they watched the videos to see if they could find any trends. They were surprised at what they found, as it contradicted conventional wisdom. During the course of the interview, they grade particpants on a few key behaviors. Positive traits incur positive points, negative traits incur negative points. Getting angry isn’t necessarily negative. Contemptual conversation is a big negative. If either party doesn’t make a move that de-escalates the conversation, it goes negative and keeps going down. I have to say that my experience completely matches this. Renee and I don’t argue a lot, but one of the things that I love about her is that when we do argue, we always are conscious of the other person. We’ve had some rough conversations, but we always end up talking each other down by the end. Its also true of other relationships. Putting the other person on the defensive rarely lets the conversation make forward progress. This happens a lot with computer programmers. We love to push our designs and theories forward. When the atmosphere is right, there is a meritocracy of ideas. When it is wrong, you just end up re-stating your idea over and over again on either side until you both get sick of the conversation. Allowing the other person to get their point across and prove that you’ve given it due consideration is important for leading people. I have found that I often end up changing my mind in the course of doing this. I’m not perfect at it, as I’m sure my team members and my wife would attest to, but it is something I try and work on.

The other two acts are interesting, but not nearly as much as the first.


~ by shaunkime on June 30, 2008.

One Response to “This American Life: The Sanctity of Marriage”

  1. Hey Shaun,
    Congratulations on your marriage!

    This is an interesting podcast and subject. I think the underlying wisdom is universal. That “good communication” is key to having healthy relationships (with spouses, friends, or coworkers alike).

    Anyway, I wish you guys the best on your trip through life together. My wife and I just hit our 4 year anniversary. It goes fast!

    Take care man,

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