In the first 9 blogs I discussed conflicts within marriage, how they originate and how to resolve them. I explored the importance of patience and forgiveness, and how frustration arrives when you are blocked from achieving your goals. You were introduced to the four horsemen of criticism, contempt, stonewalling, and defensiveness and came to understand how destructive they are to your marriage. And then we looked at how behaviors trigger emotions and emotions drive behaviors and, finally, the innate need you have for safety and strong emotional attachments to your spouse.
Hopefully, by now, you have mastered the art of conflict management in your marriage. I say that somewhat with tongue in cheek because conflict management will be part of your marriage forever. The idea is to be able to resolve your conflicts without escalating into a fight. Should you find yourself becoming increasingly frustrated by your inability to resolve conflicts in your marriage, this is the time to seriously consider getting some professional help from a qualified marriage therapist. I strongly recommend therapist who’s been trained in either the Gottman Method or Emotionally Focused Therapy (ideally someone who’s been trained in both methods).
However, it is important to appreciate that it takes more than the absence of conflict or the peaceful resolution of conflict to make a good marriage. Just because you do not fight every day doesn’t mean you’re happy. John Gottman’s research showed that successful couples find time every day to nurture friendship, fondness, appreciation, and affection. My next four blogs will address each of these positive habits that winning couples practice.
I love the quote by Woodrow Wilson “Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.” I believe friendship is the cement that hold marriages together. Unfortunately, we often get so caught up in the business of daily living that we let our friendship with our spouse take a back seat. Couples that have wonderful marriages find ways to keep their friendship alive by continuing to invest in their shared interests and knowledge of each other’s world.
So, the question is how well you know your spouse’s world. What’s going on right now and his or her life that is important or scary or joyous? It’s been said, show me where you spend your time and I will tell you what’s important to you. Successful couples spend time each day investing in their friendship. How difficult would it be to set aside 15 minutes each evening to connect with your spouse one on one? Fifteen minutes equals 1% of your day.
If you are willing to invest 1% in your marriage, here are some ideas on how to maximize the return on your investment. Start by asking the following questions: What went well for you today? What brought you joy today? What didn’t go the way you would have liked it today? What will tomorrow be like? What are you currently worried about? How are your friends, family, coworkers? Friends take an active interest in each other all the time.
Another favorite quote of mine is from Lucius Annaeus Seneca, “One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and be understood.”
After you’ve been married for a while, it is easy to succumb to the temptation of thinking that you know all there is to know about your spouse. The reality is, you do not. Think about the first few dates you had and how exciting it was to learn more about this really interesting person you just met. If you can bring that attitude each day into your 1% investment in your spouse, you will be surprised about how many wonderful things there still are to learn. That sense of adventure will enrich your marriage and help you to grow closer each day.
Remember: While you are perfected through your spouses imperfections, your spouse is enriched through your friendship.