The difference between marriages that succeed and marriages that crumble is usually not
the frequency or intensity of conflict or hurts but the amount of pleasant and enjoyable memories that a couple shares. A couple that has wisely invested in their relational bank account can weather the worst of times because they have a reserve to drawn on without going bankrupt. My wife, Kim, and I have developed several simple investment strategies to build our relational nest egg. In this article we will look at the first marital investment strategy. Future articles will examine additional strategies.
STRATEGY 1: CREATE A SHARED STORY.
Marriage researcher John Gottman has discovered that one of the most accurate ways to predict whether a marriage will succeed or fail is whether or not a couple has a positive shared story of their relationship.
To build or reinforce your positive story retell the story of how you met, fell in love, proposed, and married. Tell it to each other, your children, family and friends, or anyone who will listen whenever opportunity arises. If you disagree on certain details, that’s okay. You can have fun laughing about your different perspectives. It’s also a great idea to pass a record of your story on to future generations by writing it down, videotaping yourselves telling it, or documenting it in an album.
In addition to re-telling the story of how you met, reminisce about the qualities and characteristics that attracted you to your spouse. Share about your first impressions and how they shifted or were reinforced as you got to know each other better. Talk about the character qualities and the quirky behaviors you found attractive. One of the stories Kim and I tell frequently is when she found out that I was a Christian she thought, “oh, ick, one of them…” As she got to know me she began to discover qualities that she admired and desired, like peace and acceptance of others. Her negative impression changed dramatically.
You can also strengthen your positive shared story by recounting good times. When I notice Kim and I seem to be lost in our own thoughts and don’t have much to say to each I will think of a fun time we shared and say something like, “Do you remember the first time we went to Beach 4?” Immediately we are both talking about and reliving a fantastic day together. And the conversation doesn’t stop there. We are re-connected and continue talking about other topics.
Part of the power of this investment strategy is that positive memories are liked to enjoyable physiological states. When we talk about that day at the beach we re-experience many of the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and physical sensations we felt that day walking on the beach. We re-experience the relaxed feelings, the energy of the waves washing over our feet, the strong connection between us as we laughed and talked.
What’s your story? How did you meet your spouse? What was your first impression of him or her? Did that change? Please share below.
- Conflict levels don’t change much over course of marriage (eurekalert.org)