Friday, 30 July 2010

The Roseto Effect

Roseto is a small borough in the Lehigh Valley Region of Pennsylvania. The town is named for the village of Roseto Valfortore in Italy. In the mid-nineteen sixties, medical researchers were drawn to Roseto by a bewildering statistic: in defiance of medical logic, Rosetans seemed nearly immune to one of the most common causes of death – heart attacks. Roseto's cardiac mortality traced a unique graph. Nationally, the rate rises with age. In Roseto, it dropped to near zero for men aged 55-64. For men over 65, the local death rate was half the national average.

Did I mention that the men of the village smoked and drank wine freely. They spent their days in backbreaking, hazardous labor, working 200 feet down in nearby slate quarries. At home, the dinner tables each evening were laden with traditional Italian food, modified for local ingredients in ways that would drive a dietitian to despair.

All the data simply ruled out any genetic or other physical sources of the Rosetan's resistance to heart disease. Dr. Stewart Wolf summarized the ultimate findings in his statement "People are nourished by other people." A subsequent study showed that all of the houses contained three generations of the family. Families typically ate together, they socialized, they took strolls and took care of one another. Rosetans created a culture of mutual respect and cooperation that contributed to the health and welfare of a community and its inhabitants.

Okay so what’s your point? I thought this was a marriage blog. Forgive the less than intellectual and scientific leap but I contend that the Roseto Effect can be seen on the micro level by couples who are married. A RAND Center study on aging discovered that married men in their 50s, 60s, and 70s have lower mortality rates than those who are unmarried. You might be quick to ask – does the husband living longer shorten the mortality rate of the wife? I don’t know. Or, does the couple have to be happily married? I don’t know. I do know as one who is playing in life’s fourth quarter (forgive the football analogy) that being in a marriage built on love, understanding, mutual caring and respect is a whole lot better than the alternative.

Or, based on the Roseto findings you could invite your in-laws to move in and your kids to move back home.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Is Your Marriage a Victim of PI?

The vast majority of us consider ourselves better than average drivers; only two percent of high school seniors believe their leadership skills are below average; ninety-four percent of university professors report doing above-average work; and most of us believe that we are better able to provide a more accurate self-assessment than our peers.

These are all examples of PI or “positive illusions”. I certainly would not consider most of the drivers I see on the road as above average. It seems difficult to find real leaders, so where are all these high school grads? During much of my undergraduate and MBA work I must have found the six percent of professors who weren’t above average – lucky me.

In their book Switch, authors Dan and Chip Heath state that, “Positive illusions pose an enormous problem with regard to change.” I would propose that PI pose an enormous problem to most troubled marriages. Most marriage counselors would tell you that one of the biggest obstacles to helping couples is that each partner tends to blame the other for the condition of their marriage. “If only she would...if only he didn’t” we would be fine. Unfortunately counseling doesn’t work that way, i.e. you bring me the other person’s problems and we’ll get him/her to change. It works best when the couples come in with the attitude that their marriage does not glorify God and that each acknowledges that they are responsible for the condition of the marriage and want to know what they need to do to change.

If Jesus had been a marriage counselor he might have said, “ Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your husband/wife’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your husband/wife, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your husband/wife’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5)

So you may be suffering from the positive illusion that you are most likely better than the average husband/wife. In a country where the divorce rate for first time marriages approaches 50% and is much higher for second and third marriages and where an additional 25 to 30% of couples are staying together in a destructive relationship because of the kids or for financial/social reasons it is no big deal to think that you are better than the average. That is setting the bar so low that a chipmunk would have a hard time crawling underneath it. The average husband/wife shouldn’t be the bench mark, the bench mark should be God’s Word.