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Reminders for a Healthy Marriage

Posted on April 30th, 2015 by Sanctuary staff


By Darcy Hakkarainen

Many days as I sit in my office with clients I am reminded of the courage required to be married. Sometimes it is easy to give ourselves to our partner emotionally and even physically. However, there are other times (and I think every relationship has them) where the differences between you and your spouse loom large and the ways you have responded to each other around those differences inadvertently hurt the other. In our hurt it is often difficult to stay open and present with our spouse. Every now and again I have the opportunity to share about marriage in the community and hear more stories requiring courage and commitment.

Recently I visited two MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) groups in the area and spoke about aspects of love and marriage and last night I had the privilege of sharing with the Stephens Ministers at a local church. I shared what the research shows about how to build a strong relationship and about conflict resolution. There were a couple of points from John Gottman’s research on marriage that really stood out to the Stephens Ministers and I thought those points worth repeating here. I know I find reminders helpful as I pursue a healthy marriage!

#1 – 69% of marriage problems are “perpetual” meaning the root of the problems stem from personality differences, or deeply held experiences from family of origin, etc. These problems cannot be solved and so you develop strategies for dealing with those differences much the way a family would deal with an injury to one of the members. Not something you want to deal with, but you do, and that is just how it is.

#2 – People can only change if they perceive they are basically accepted and liked for who they are. It is very difficult to make any changes from a defensive position because you are too busy defending yourself. Therefore, “the basis for coping effectively with either kind of problem [perpetual or solvable] is the same: communicate basic acceptance of your partner’s personality,” (Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John Gottman, p.149).

#3 – Gottman has learned in his research that no one is ever right in an argument. Two subjective realities exist, not one absolute truth. So, if someone has the goal of being right they may win that point at the expense of the marriage. I find in those situation that the other spouse usually has difficulty staying emotionally present because the end goal (if someone has to be right) is not about the marriage and resolving the conflict. To further a marriage relationship and allow emotional safety and closeness, each person has to let go of being right and be open to hearing how the experience impacted the other in order to make and receive repair attempts and move on together.

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