So, what is the secret of turning a “less than stellar” relationship around? What are some things that you can do to build resilience muscles in your marriage?
Once I share it, you will probably be surprised and maybe even relieved.
This secret has been both research-vetted and scientifically studied in various cultural frameworks and is magnificently simple. Also, too simple! It involves 12 Ways to Invest in Your Marriage.
It does not even involve working directly on your relationship at all.
Instead, all you have to do is think of your marriage relationship as an emotional bank account. This idea of an emotional bank account was first developed by Dr. Willard Harvey. For many people, this is a mind shift. When you begin to look at your relationship as an investment fund, a type of trust that is consistently funded with deposits of optimistic, edifying, forgiving, and hopeful words and actions, it will grow. You can invest your way from being in the red to fully funded and vetted in the black by this simple choice.
Here is a question for you and your spouse. Do you make up as much as you fight or disagree?
Dr. John Gottman, the world’s leading authority on marriage and author of the classic The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work, discovered that happy couples don’t necessarily fight less or have better conflict resolution skills.
His research, which has been validated by other relationship researchers, shows that couples in a satisfying or happy relationship have more positive, favorable interactions than negative ones. The good times outweigh the bad. As a matter of fact, he discovered that when couples choose to have a more optimistic outlook, both parties felt more resilient, more hopeful, and empowered.
Resilient, bright, and invigorated couples tend to have a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative experiences. They have a positive reserve, a surplus of uplifting memories to counter conflicts and disagreements when they show up.
With this insight, let’s now turn our attention to how to develop an investment strategy that will strengthen and help make your marriage more invigorating.
After all, isn’t the goal to maintain positive emotional cash flow?
Here are a couple of things to think about.
Romantic love = friendship and sexual attraction.
More times than I care to count, I have heard couples say things like, we don’t know if we love each other anymore. Others say things like we have fallen out of love.
Within the first few months of our wedding, we met a couple, Sib and Agnes Sexton, who had such an incredible impact on our marriage. Nearly 50 years later, we are still in touch with them and their families.
I remember, one time, Angie was sharing some of her stories with some younger married women when the question came up, “What do I do if I don’t feel in love anymore?’ Angie responded, “We’d been married a few months, and I was talking with Agnes and told her that I didn’t think I loved John anymore? Much to her surprise, Agnes, who’d been married for around 14 years, said, “you know the is pretty normal,” I have fallen in and out of love with Sib so many times, but that is life, and you do not quit.
Agnes was pretty much emphasizing the fact that love is a verb.
Based on 43 years of research, the heart of Gottman’s studies is that “maintaining a marital friendship is the most essential element to having a meaningful, resilient relationship.
Practically speaking, it means that the couple shares mutual respect and enjoyment of each other’s company. I love that the Scripture talks about the importance of this (Ephesians 5:21). They are on the journey of learning to understand each other likes and dislikes, their unique quirkiness, as well as their hopes and dreams. Resilient couples like this have a growing and deep regard for each other.
When a couple who are not sexually attracted to each other yet admire, love, respect, and are fond of each other, that is a deep friendship.
When you add equal attraction to the mix, that attraction jump-starts the potential for passion.
One definition I like is, “Love is friendship on fire!”
How is the fire in your marriage? Is it too hot to handle, just right, or does it need some fuel? Do you feel that you need to have more meaningful communication? Do you wish you felt more emotionally, spiritually, and physically connected? Is this an area that you need to invest in?
The most important thing to work on is to invest time and energy in maintaining and expanding your foundational friendship!
Before you think I am a delusional optimist, I know that many couples are far from being in a place where they are making investments in their marriage. After all, part of what I do for a living is providing couple’s counseling and coaching. Still, my goal is to help couples get to a place where they can begin investing in each other again.
With all that said, let’s look at the 12 Ways Powerful but Simple to Invest in Your Marriage!
- Accept the differences
- Build good memories
- Choose your Battles Carefully
- Clear the Air
- Connect spiritually
- Find help when you need it (my contact info [email protected])
- Express gratitude
- Manage your emotions
- Regulate your mouth
- Laugh more
- Take a moment to look at the positive investments you are making in your relationship today and give yourself a high five.
- Choose one to begin working on this week.
- Be on the lookout for my new ebook 21 Ways to Improve Your Marriage: Things to do Before You Need a Therapist.
John Thurman M.Div., M.A., is a Licensed Mental health Professional, Author, Speaker, and Certified Corporate Crisis Response Specialist who lives with his wife Angie in Albuquerque, NM. In addition, he is the Director of Covert Mercy Inc., a ministry that provides Stress Management Consulting and Training for ministry leaders and missionaries serving in the North Africa Middle East area. Learn more at JohnThurman.net
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