“Mostly all you can do in love is repair how you screw up.” John Gottman, Ph.D.
Sound unromantic? Sometimes marriage is unromantic. It’s so easy to miss each other. As a marriage and family therapist, I watch people miss their mate’s attempt at connection or their mate’s need for connection.
One spouse may initiate conversation and the other partner ignores them. Perhaps a joke is shared and the other one doesn’t even laugh. One offers an invitation to go somewhere together and the other spouse walks out of the room. Even driving together in a car can sometimes present a challenge.
This is such a universal phenomena that greeting cards have been created around the theme. Our brother and sister-in-law sent us this card for our 44th Wedding Anniversary. It made us laugh!
Prayer certainly helps! I hope you are laughing. Turning towards each other is a necessary discipline chosen by each partner in all healthy relationships.
Turning towards our mate is a gift we give that costs virtually nothing, but pays huge dividends.
Dr. John Gottman, Ph.D. invited 130 demographically representative newlyweds to spend 24 hours in a room overlooking the water in Puget Sound, Washington set up to resemble a bed and breakfast retreat. It is called the “Love Lab”. Gottman was curious about how couples build intimacy when they are just hanging out together.
The couples were videotaped and then the videotapes were studied. It became obvious that married couples regularly invite conversation, laughter, or some response from their mates. Some mates respond to these bids and some don’t.
Six years later the researchers contacted the former newlyweds. Seventeen percent were no longer married. These were the individuals who turned toward their spouse’s bid for connection only 33 % of the time during their twenty-four hour stay in the “Love Lab”. Two thirds of the time they completely missed each other’s attempts to connect.
In contrast, the individuals who were still married had turned towards their mate’s invitation for connection 86 % of the time they spent in the “Love Lab”. Dr. Gottman’s conclusion was that over the six years these couples had built a reservoir of positive emotions that buffered them emotionally when they disagreed and when they ran into the bumps in the road that happen in any marriage.
Even with good intentions, the possibility of missing one another increases in the month of December.
Perhaps in your home, the preparations for Christmas starts as soon as you rise from the Thanksgiving table. December is the month of unrealistic expectations and unbelievable extras.
We celebrate the birth of our Savior, yet it often feels as if we are the ones giving labor.
What if during December you made it your personal goal to attune to your partner’s bids for connection? What if you disciplined yourself to choose to turn towards your spouse at least 86% of the time? What if, your spouse made attuning to you their personal goal? What do you think would be the result?
- We’d compliment more…”You sure make that outfit look good!”
- We’d respond to our partner’s requests. “Could you please bring me a glass of water while you are up?”
- We’d help each other. “Is there anything I can do to lighten your load?”
- We’d affirm each other’s accomplishments.
- We’d thank each other more.
- We’d be curious about each other’s day.
- We’d answer questions and requests for information.
- We’d chat with each other.
- We’d respond to each other’s humor with a playful spirit.
- We’d share our feelings of inadequacy or of being overwhelmed with each other knowing that our partner cared.
- We’d brainstorm and problem solve.
- We’d touch each other with affection.
- We’d play with each other.
- We’d pray for and with each other.
Turning toward each other could be transformational!
This just might be your best Christmas season ever! Are you willing?
Until our next Conscious Lover’s Blog…