Monday, January 10, 2011

Marriage Monday: Positive Moments

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:
  1. 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).
  2. Before we part ways for the day we'll share at least one kiss and hug.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. During dinner I'll thank my spouse for their hard work today with ____.
  6. 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."
  7. 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."
  8. 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.


Me (aka Danielle) said...

Such good reminders. I think we sometimes forget what a huge difference some of the small gestures can make over-all.

Jenni Elyse said...

I have a really hard time thinking of the little things to do. Usually, I want to do something big and because of that, I only do it every now and then. Sometimes, I realize that it's the little things my husband likes and I can do those more often. It's something I definitely need to work on more. Thanks for the reminder.

Carol said...

Hey there! It's Carol, Director of Professional Development with The Gottman Institute. Thanks for the call-out! Dr. Gottman (actually, DRS. Gottman - his wife, Julie is also phenomenal!)really is amazing, and he does talk quite a bit about conflict in his books and at the great weekend couples workshops (see

It's important to note that "perpetual" (that is, unresolvable) conflict makes up about 69% of all conflict in marriage, so the key is knowing how to compromise... and understanding -- and communicating about -- where each of you simply cannot compromise, where doing so is like "giving up the bones of your body."

I notice that you studied "marriage enhancement" in college. Have you considered doing any training in The Gottman Method? Visit here to learn more: We'd love to have you join us!



Shanda said...


Those are good suggestions. My hubby and I never party without a hug, kiss & I love you. We always end our phone conversations w/I love you, even w/our kids, and as soon as we get back when we've been away we find the other person for a welcome home greeting & kiss.

My hubby read somewhere that the first 90 seconds you are with someone sets the tone for the rest of the time you are together. We've found that to be true, so I hold off complaining or dumping the kids off on him for a break at least a few minutes when he comes home, lol. :)

Shanda :)

Shanda said...

Ok, I thought I proofread my comment. :)

Yes, we never party without a hug and a kiss, but we also never PART without a hug and a kiss either.

Sheesh. :)

Shanda :)

Jenn said...

I'm not married, but I'm saving this post for when I finally do find my husband. Fantastic advice, and I love the list of ideas!


Jennifer W.

Olivia Carter said...

Great post! I like Shanda's idea too- holding off on complaining. I find when Scott comes home and I'm happy he'll be happy too. If I'm frustrated then he gets frustrated too. Not that I hide how I feel but I give him a few seconds to sit down before I complain about the crazy kids. :)

Heidi said...

Sometimes you have to let the most destructive cycles go. For us it was me getting hungry and cranky when Anthony got home more than 5 minutes late from work. I had to give up the "family dinner" dream for now. Now I eat dinner much earlier with the kids and he eats when he gets home and everyone is a lot happier.

I like the idea of leaving a note. I think I'll do that tomorrow!

Corine Moore said...

I really liked this post... all of it. I especially liked this part,

" 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
I like it because my husband and I sometimes fight like little kids, (although... there are some very positive recent changes! :) and it bugs us both. However, we ALWAYS work things out and things end better than they were before the conflict. Because of this, I'm glad we aren't the "silent stewing" type.

I love that man!

Thanks so much for sharing!
Corine :D

Susan said...

I love your ideas on how to tell your spouse you care by showing him. Thanks!