A big part of my studies in school involved a lot more than sitting in a classroom listening to lecture after lecture. In fact one specific professor of mine encouraged us to find a handful of books on relationship topics that interested us most, purchase them to always have in our home library and study them often. He told us that because of the field we'd chosen to study, when people found out what our degree was in they'd inevitably have stories and questions for us.
I quickly discovered as I read through a handful of my books that I generally favored the research, findings, style and advice of one more than the others. One of my most favorite experts in the field of marriage and relationships is Dr. John Gottman. He says,
"A lasting marriage results from a couple's ability to resolve the conflicts that are inevitable in any relationship." 1
Whether you're argument style is on one side of the pendulum or the other (couples who are generally calm and compromise vs those who erupt in passionate disputes) his point is that it's not the fighting that is going to cause problems it's the way we can resolve the conflicts that can increase or damage our relationship.
Then he adds,
". . .I believe we grow in our relationships by reconciling our differences. That's how we become more loving people and truly experience the fruits of marriage."2
So with the knowledge that arguments are going to happen, negativity is going to creep into our relationships, and life is going to be hard, in his research Dr. Gottman found,
"You must have at least five times as many positive as negative moments together if your marriage is to be stable."3
What are some positive interactions you can think of?
(Please share with us in the comments!)
Or situations when you've given or received a memorable positive encounter?
While many of these things may come naturally and without much effort for some it may take getting back into the habit or increasing the ratio. May I suggest being vigilant in this? Perhaps to even help yourself get into the habit and try to remember constantly to do this maybe prepare a list (don't worry it may only take one time for this to sink in) the day before of things you'd like to try (realize this positive/negative ratio also works with our children, parents, roommates, etc).
For example my list could be:
- Leave a note where my spouse will see it during the day when we're apart (on the front seat of his car, on the bathroom mirror with dry erase marker, a sticky note on his computer).
- Before we part ways for the day we'll share at least one kiss and hug.
- While we're away I'll do at least one thing (if you already have an idea write it down) to show my spouse I thought of him.
- Encourage him or check in (I know my spouse has a big day/appt/todo list. I'll call him at 3pm to see how it all went).
- During dinner I'll thank my spouse for their hard work today with ____.
- Plan some time for your spouse to enjoy something they want. "I'll put the kids to bed tonight, why dont you sit down and read for a while."
- Plan something fun to do together. "After the kids go to bed I thought it'd be fun to___ play this game/watch this movie together."
- Before we go to sleep I'm going to ask my spouse how his day was and listen with interest.
I love the way he sums this up.
"Like the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which says that in closed enery systems things tend to run down and get less orderly, the same seems to be true of closed relationships like marriages. My guess is that if you do nothing to make things get better in your marriage but do not do anything wrong, the marriage will still tend to get worse over time. To maintain a balanced emotional ecology you need to make an effort --think about your spouse during the day, think about how to make a good thing even better, and act."4
1-4 Cited quotes are are from Why marriages Succeed or Fail . . . And How YOU Can Make Yours Last by John Gottman, PhD.
You can find my other Marriage Monday's here.
*Photos in this post were found using google images.