For all its joys, marriage requires effort and hard work. Everyone’s marriage is vastly different, and the work you put into yours will be different from the work someone else puts into theirs. Believe it or not, though, there is one skill that, applied to any marriage, will guarantee a strengthened and improved relationship. That trait? Positivity.
Positivity is the duct tape of marriage.
I like to think of positivity as the duct tape of marriage. It binds, it fixes, and it holds. Like duct tape, positivity is easily accessible (anyone can manage to be positive) and versatile (positivity can be applied in any situation).
Marriage is full of hot-button issues that can add stress and friction to any home. For example, discussions regarding earning, saving, and spending money; how to discipline the kids; and how to balance time with extended family are issues that I doubt will ever be fully resolved in our home. Then there are all the day-to-day petty discussions ranging from, “Why didn’t you call me and let me know you’d be late,” to, “You picked the show last weekend.” And for some couples, addiction, infidelity, or other serious issues plague their family.
Though your individual challenges are specific to your home and your relationship, conflict is universally inevitable. Fortunately, however, positivity will universally reduce conflict. Learn to be positive with your spouse. By doing so, you’ll alleviate some of the tension and strain you might be dealing with.
Cultivating positivity could save your marriage.
Dr. John Gottman, a renowned marriage and family researcher, writes about the “magic ratio” of positive interactions in marriage. According to him, the most stable and happy marriages consist of 5 (or more) positive interactions for every negative one. Are you living by this 5:1 ratio in your home? Or is positivity hard to come by in your marriage?
Cultivating and creating positive interactions in your relationship is not always easy. But it is a trait that can be learned. Next time you notice the tension growing thick in your home, try re-kindling your affection with some of these ideas.
1. Keep a Journal.
For our 7th anniversary, I decided to give Lizzy a journal containing one thought I had about her each day for a whole year. The point of the gift was to express my love for her. I was amazed, though, by the way journaling changed my perspective regarding her and our relationship.
Journaling every day forced me to take note of the small things in life. I noticed every good thing Lizzy did, because it gave me writing material. It was fun to present a journal of my thoughts about her at the end of a year. But it was truly rewarding for me to specifically notice the good in her. I was kinder and more patient when I remembered and recalled our daily interactions. As a result, our interactions became more positive, and we grew closer during the year.
2. Don’t Insist on Always Being Right.
I heard once that you can be right, or you can be married. Taken to an extreme, your insistence on being correct will kill your marriage. It’s frustrating to be right and go unrecognized or rebuffed. Next time that happens, take a step back and ask yourself if it’s worth it. Sometimes it is. But if you can refrain from pointing out your impeccable sense of direction or bite your tongue about your wife’s brother, do it.
It’s hard to be right all of the time. And it makes life a lot harder when you let everyone know you’re right all of the time. Improve the atmosphere of your home by giving in once in a while. Insisting on being right less will instantly increase positive interactions with your spouse and reduce the negativity you might feel towards each other.
3. Play Together.
Couples who play together stay together. Having fun with each other is important. And making plans to have fun will guarantee more positive interactions in your marriage.
Scheduling time to be with each other and making the most of that time is a fail proof way to increase positivity.
4. Listen More Than You Speak.
You’ll be surprised what you learn from your spouse if you listen more. Stop worrying about how you’ll respond or reacting in the right way, and just focus on what you hear. If you’ve really listened to your spouse, you’ll be able to act on what you hear.
Listening keeps you from inserting your thoughts where you shouldn’t and creating conflict. It also informs you of the needs and desires of your spouse and allows you to change your behavior to provide those. Really listening might be the most difficult way to increase your positive interactions with your spouse. But it can be the most rewarding as well, as you’re afforded plenty of opportunities ever day to listen and then act on what you hear.
5. Try Doing Something Out of the Ordinary.
If you can shock your spouse with your behavior, do. The things you do that might be out of the ordinary for you are the things she’ll always remember. Create a positive interaction in the moment you act extraordinarily, and get bonus positive thoughts from your spouse when she reflects back on what you did.
6. Notice Each Other.
Pay attention to anything your spouse does for you. Did she do her hair before you got home from work? Did he empty the dishwasher without any prompting from you? Fill your conversation with compliments. It’s not hard to tell someone they look good or that the meal they made turned out great.
Compliments make people feel good. In fact, as humans, we’re wired to value praise as much as we value money. When you and your spouse feel good about each other, your relationship will strengthen. Take advantage of this in your home and dole out the praise. It might feel like you’re going overboard, but if you’re sincere, your spouse will never tire of your encouragement.
7. Be Grateful.
Even if you can’t dish out a compliment, a simple “thank you” is sometimes all your spouse needs to hear to feel good about you. Don’t forget to be grateful.
Try doing something to serve your spouse each time he or she serves you. A good deed returned is a sure way to add positivity to your marriage.
Exchange Negativity for Positivity and Strengthen Your Marriage.
Don’t let negativity destroy or weaken your marriage, when positive interactions are so easy to instigate. Take the time each day to create positive interactions in your home and take some of the tension out of your marriage. Remember, you once thought your spouse was the best thing that every happened to you. So act that way again and watch what happens.
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