As a counselor, I see love mainly through our actions and the words we use to show someone value and importance. In other words, it’s all about putting forth the effort — putting good things into your marriage. We can scream to the mountaintops that we love someone, but if the behaviors (fondness and admiration) don’t match or are non-existent, then their needs won’t be met. Our needs won’t be met, either. And if that happens, our sense of being in love diminishes. And, well, no one wants that, right?
We started a blog conversation two weeks ago to share different ways to create and maintain healthy marriages. The first installment talked about love and fun. The second went a step further to include love and respect, appreciation and gratitude, and ways to treasure and serve. Here are three more ways you can put good things into your marriage right now.
FONDNESS AND ADMIRATION
“In relationships, you need a habit of mind that scans the world for things to appreciate
rather than things to criticize.” — John Gottman
Fondness and admiration are crucial to loving, happy relationships. And in many ways, there is a lot of overlap here with what you read last week about appreciation and gratitude. It’s all about intentionally being aware of the positive things your partner does or has done that make your lives together better. Even more than that, create an ongoing environment where both of you acknowledge the positive aspects of your appreciation.
Remembering and expressing your partner’s qualities strengthens the bond between you, making it easier to address problems when issues do arise. Here is a set of quick conversations John Gottman suggests on fondness and admiration for couples to do together. Plan to take some time together and dialogue on the following:
- Think of all you have accomplished as a team.
- Reminisce about having made it through a hard time.
- Think of a special trip you took together.
- Tell your partner about a time recently when you admired something they did.
- List one benefit that being in a relationship with your partner offers.
- What are two things about this relationship that makes you proud.
- List a time when your partner helped you reduce stress.
- Describe one belief you share.
- Discuss one characteristic you find endearing or lovable.
As Dr. Gottman says, “Sharing fondness and admiration is the antidote to contempt and, more importantly, it increases the amount of affection and respect in a relationship.”
HEART AND EMOTIONAL TALK
Do you want me to fix it or feel it?
We’ve written about heart and emotional talk before, and it’s worth bringing up again since we’re on the topic of putting good things into your marriage. Essentially, we as couples speak two languages: heart talk and work talk. Each is important to ensure great communication in a marriage, but we also have to know which talk our spouse wants at that given moment.
Work talk is:
- “Get it done” mentality
- Facts and opinion
- Solutions, solutions, solutions
It sounds like this: “Have you thought about talking to your boss about it? Next time, why don’t try to write down everything he does so that you can point it out to him.”
Meanwhile, the heart talk is defined by feelings. Rather than fix things, it’s about:
- Feelings and longings
- Caring and understanding
- Connection and bonding
- Being heart-focused
We’ve all been in that conversation where we start with work talk, but what your spouse really wants is heart talk. And there are other times where we think she wants the heart talk when she actually craves solutions. It can all be incredibly confusing, which is why I suggest that my clients ask, “What do you need from me right now, honey? Do you want to work together to find some solutions, or do you need me just to listen so you can vent?” This is perfectly acceptable and will give your spouse the confidence that you are putting forth the effort to show them how much you love them.
TOP EMOTIONAL NEEDS
James 4:1 tells us the reason we fight is because of our “desires that battle within.”
We all have legitimate desires that we are created with. Just a few include being chosen, accepted, loved, heard and understood, and respected. So it stands to reason that when there is a conflict, there is some emotional need that is not being met. Figure that out, and you won’t fight. Instead, you will work together to love each other better, more thoroughly, and meet each other’s needs and wants.
Again, scientist Dr. Gottman discovered over years of research that
most couples don’t argue about finances, sex, parenting, or dealing with in-laws.
They fight about a failure to connect emotionally
— and they don’t even know it. Couples argue about how one partner is not paying attention to the other’s needs or how they are not expressing much interest in things that are important to their partner. They are not fighting about tangible issues at all.
We wrote about this in a previous blog post. You can read about it here. But to continue that conversation, let’s look at some of the most common needs people identify as important in marriage. Go through the list below and rate how important each of these items is for you. And have your spouse do the same thing! Then discuss with each other.
- Financial support
- Honesty and openness
- Sexual fulfillment
- Personal space
- Shared activities/recreation
- Physical attraction
- Domestic support
- Family commitment
All we are saying here is that marriage and love take work. We must put forth the effort, and the exercises above are a great way to check your past or current behaviors to see if your actions are what you’re really trying to project on those around you. We should be invested in every opportunity to help our marriage grow, and that includes putting good things into your marriage. Stay tuned — there are more tips to come.
Our heart is devoted to caring about people and marriages!
Our heart is devoted to caring about people. We want to ensure you have the tools to cherish each other’s heart and listen to it when it’s talking to you. The best way we know how to do that is by spreading the word to more people and let them know that we are here.
What do you think? What are some ways you are adding positivity to your marriage? How has that benefitted your marriage? Please send us a quick email and help us keep this conversation going. mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com.