I like to steal ideas from my blogging friends. So, today, I present the theft of an topic my friend Deanna Davis regularly blogs about: Healthy Marriage Practices.
(You'll hear a - shorter - version of this post at my brother's rehearsal dinner in two weeks, if you are attending. For all of you others, these are the thoughts that have been rolling around in my mind during the past few months.)
Our marriage began as every marriage does: with about 3-5 months of bliss (with some little blips) and then BAM: The Argument. The fight. If you are married, you know exactly what I'm talking about. It's the one where at the end of it you feel both bewilderment that this got out of hand so fast, mixed with a significant amount of "I DO NOT want to be married to you anymore. This is NOT what I thought it would be. Screw this."
Simultaneously, I was finishing my graduate degree in Counseling, and was required by my Internship Supervisor (and Professor) to read a number of different books, and write response papers applying them to a) me or b) my practice.
I clearly remember what my professor wrote on one response paper ( I don't remember what I wrote, but it had to do with words of affirmation in a marriage). He wrote, "John Gottman states that the Magic Ratio for a healthy relationship is 5 positive comments for every 1 negative comment."
This blew my mind.
I remember thinking about our short marriage (about 8 months old at that point) and saying to myself, "How can I ever POSSIBLY remember to say 5 positive things to my husband before I bring up something difficult or critical?"
So, I got into a habit. I realized that when my husband does chores (the items of life that he said he'd take care of - laundry, the dishes, etc), he is doing a favor for me. If he were not here, I would have to do those things. By myself.
So I began to thank him.
For everything. For The smallest things.
Now, he also would thank me for doing certain things in our marriage, so it was a fairly easy habit for me to get into. But now, nearly 5 years into our marriage, we show gratitude for one another all the time. For miniscule things. The last time I thanked him, it was for filling up the gas tank. I hate doing that. It's so nice when he does it, so I texted him at 9 am when I got to work: Thanks for filling up the gas. I was so appreciative of it this morning!
I'm sure other couples may find it almost too saccharine to bear, but the consistent, little moments of gratitude make the marriage connection much more stable when the difficult conversations are addressed. You have something to draw upon.
Does everyone have to implement this particular habit into their relationship? No, of course not. I see many relationships that are healthy and thriving and they don't do exactly this.
But in one manner or another, they specifically encourage their spouse with positive, affirming actions and words. Because it is the lifeblood of a marriage together.