| How do successful couples
mobilize positivity in their marriages? The following
kept cropping up in their talk and their behaviour:
Showing interest. Successful couples showed active
interest in their partners, which was expressed both
verbally and non-verbally. Partners knew that they
were getting quality attention.
Showing affection. There was plenty of touching,
hand holding, foot twining; couples offered each other
reminders of happy or special times, and often expressed
solidarity, affirming that they were a partnership
or a team who tackle problems together and help each
other. Most especially, they often told their partner
that they loved them, or showed it by small acts of
consideration. Affection is a stress buster.
Showing thoughtfulness has a remarkable power to
boost positivity. It included buying small, meaningful
gifts, or taking actions that show a partner that
his or her spouse has been thinking about them, such
as a phone call at work. Taking time to think about
your partner's day and what he or she is likely to
be experiencing is the foundation of thoughtfulness.
Showing appreciation: its physical effect is the
exact opposite of the emotional "fight or flight"
flooding. We could say that appreciation floods your
marriage with friendship, love and safety. It includes
consciously thinking about positive aspects of your
partner, dwelling on happy memories, and entertaining
fond thoughts of your partner - especially when you
are being tempted to float down the stream of anger
and negativity, or when an argument is starting. Finding
something to appreciate at that moment raises up a
standard for the armies of love to follow, and they
will overcome. Agreeing with your partner's ideas
and being supportive of his or her attempts to resolve
problems, to be creative or to achieve a goal is also
part of appreciation, as is the passing of sincere
compliments and taking opportunities to express pride
and joy in your partner and your marriage.
Showing Concern. This comes in when your partner
is feeling down, bothered, under pressure. It means
offering to talk it over; finding a way - preferred
by them - to soothe ruffled feelings, and of course
apologizing if you're part of the upset. Even if you
aren't prepared to take back what you said (if it
was a fair, reasonable and respectful complaint),
you can still show concern and regret for the hurt
feelings, offering comfort and reassurance.
Showing Emotional Understanding. Human beings naturally
show understanding or empathy by mirroring facial
expressions, tone of voice and reflecting words. This
is more difficult if the emotion your partner is expressing
is something you yourself find threatening or uncomfortable.
When rushing to head off an emotion, you cannot be
empathic. Helping emotions find words or appropriate
actions takes the steam out of them and leads to better
coping all round.
Showing Acceptance. We won't always agree with what
our partner says, or like it either. But it is still
possible to accept that their statements make sense
and are important for them. This is part of a general
ability to tolerate difference, and why is that so
very hard? Are we experiencing a hangover from playground
days when all friends had to think, act and talk just
the same? Marriage is no place for childishness. Powerful
ways to show acceptance include active listening,
responses like "I can see what you're saying"
(with no "but" attached to that sentence),
and giving your partner a respectfully -voiced summary
of what they have just said to confirm that you have
heard them correctly - before you go on to disagree
Sharing laughter and fun. They are the medicines
that ease tension and cement your alliance, the air
in your balloon. Playful teasing, witty or silly comments,
shared jokes, winks or glances, or just having lots
of fun together is as oil and water are to a car -
you're much less likely to break down or boil over.
However, there's an important caution: humour is very
open to abuse. Remember, the response you get tells
you what you really said. It's futile to back away,
hands upraised, protesting "But I was only joking"
- if your partner is upset, then whatever you thought
you were doing, a sincere apology is called for.
Sharing joy is also a major part of successful marriages.
This includes sharing positive feelings and personal
successes with your partner, as well as taking time
to remember and celebrate important occasions. Celebration,
though, should not be confined to one or two occasions
a year - there should be many occasions to celebrate,
big and small, solemn and silly.