According to John Gottman author of The Seven Principles for making marriage work who is also world-renown for his work on marriage stability and divorce prediction says that “fondness and admiration are two of the most crucial elements in a rewarding and long-lasting romance.”
Ok John, that is great, I hear you…fondness and admiration are key. Got it! But if I were sitting across from him discussing marriage, this is what I would tell him…”listen, fondness and admiration were easy to come by in those early years during dating and even first few years of marriage. Most of the time I was floating around with my feet several inches off the ground and there weren’t enough heart eye emojis for me to express all the fondness and admiration I had for my now husband. HOWEVER, we are past the “seven-year itch”in marriage and we’ve added a few babies along the way. We are knee-deep in diapers, sleepless nights, and toddler tantrums. We get little time to ourselves and when we do, I can guarantee you it is not spent thinking fondly or admiringly on the other, that flew out the window with the last dirty diaper. So how in the world am I expected to guard the “woah?!?!”
I’m honestly not sure what he would say back, he probably would discuss some method of sorts, but I do appreciate how practical he is and you will see his name often during this series, because his book is just so dang good! However, I’ve come up with a few things I think that will help us guard the “woah” in our marriages…
- Re-focus our lens:
If you know me, you know that Ann Voskamp is my girl. This past fall my friend Misty and I led a bible study through her book One Thousand Gifts. While preparing for one of the lessons, I listened to a Ted talk featuring a positive psychologist, Shawn Achor. He said that 90% of long-term happiness is predicted not by our external world, but by the way our brain processes the world. It’s not necessarily our reality that shapes us, but the lens through which our brain views the world is what shapes our reality. He then goes on to give suggestions on how we can re-wire our brain to think positively and improve our happiness. The top exercise was to name 3 gratitudes everyday for 21 days, by doing so the brain retains a pattern to scan the world not for the negative but positive first.
So, where am I going with all this positive talk?? Glad, you asked. Let me give you a classical example in our household. If you were to ask me the one thing that drives me bonkers that my husband does, we could both answer that question so quickly without any hesitation. And the answer is, he leaves his clothes EVERYWHERE! You see for me in my world and “rules” everything has a certain place, including and especially clothes. Not to my husband. Clothes go anywhere and everywhere and typically stay there atleast a week or two until he decides to clean them up or we can’t walk through the closet without tripping over his mountain of clothes anymore. Now here is where the positive talk comes into play, I can either think to myself that he has no respect for me and how hard I try to keep the house neat and clean OR I can think to myself he must have been in a hurry to get back downstairs and help me with the kids so that I can actually cook dinner in peace without a kid or two hanging on my leg. Now this is a silly example albeit a real life example, but the question we need to ask ourselves is how are we viewing our spouse on a daily basis? With negative simmering thoughts which breed contempt or with positive thoughts? Remember it’s not necessarily our reality that shapes us, but the LENS through which our brain views the world is what shapes our reality. The good news is that we can re-wire our brains to think differently. When we fall out of gratitude towards our spouse, that is when we fall out of love.
Listen, I am the queen of expectations, for myself and for others. I am not yet in recovery but I am on the road towards it, seeing as how my one word for 2017 is “cruciform” and with the dying of myself, so must my expectations. In death there is life, amen! Ok, back to the subject at hand. Generosity…how often do you extend grace to your spouse when he/she forgets that you like soy in your latte instead of cow’s milk or they forget to pay a bill or forget that t-ball practice starts at 4pm, not 5pm?? How generous are we when our expectations aren’t met? Let me tell you friend, expectations can choke the life right out of relationships. If we aren’t willing to let go of our expectations towards our spouse and instead accept a posture of generosity, then we will choke the life right out of our marriage and with that will go our fondness and admiration towards each other.
Andy Stanley has a really great sermon series on marriage called Staying in Love. I highly recommend it! In one of his sermons, he focuses on the passage in Romans 12:10, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” In this passage, honor means to cherish, to value and in another translation it says to “outdo one another in showing honor.” So does this mean that we should honor our spouse above ourselves? That we should love them, value them, and cherish them more than we do ourselves? You betcha. Our job is to out love and out do our spouse, which is called mutual affection. And when both people in a relationship are practicing mutual affection, well folks that’s how you maintain your fondness and admiration towards each other. Essentially thats how you guard the “woah.”
Now for some practical steps in moving forward because I am all about the practical action steps…*side-note: Our church is including these in the bulletins for couples to do through out the week during this series and it is so brilliant that I have to share. Also, you must know that it is taken from John Gottman’s book, see Im not the only one who likes him 🙂
Day 1: Remember your history- discuss how the two of you met and got together. What were your first impressions of each other? What made your spouse stand out?
Day 2: Thought- I am genuinely fond of my partner. Task-list one characteristic you find endearing or lovable.
Day 3: Thought-I can easily speak of the good times in our marriage. Task-Pick one good time and write a sentence about it.
Day 4: Thought-I can easily remember romantic, special time in our marraige. Task-Pick one such time and think about it.
Day 5: Thought-My partner has specific qualities that make me proud. Task- Write down one characteristic that makes you proud