Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Developing a Positive Sentiment in the Marriage

How do you know when a troubled marriage really is going to be okay? What are signs that things are back on track?

One of the ways that we can tell when a couple is back on track is when they talk about each other and their relationship with a positive tone, softening problems or their partner’s mistakes with understanding and talk of “when we get through this …”

Jim and Joan struggled with many problems in their marriage including Joan’s affair 3 years ago. Jim was recently telling about a fight that they had and remarked that, in the past, he might have thought about this as a good reason to think about divorce; however, now he just thought about it as miscommunication and differences and something that they would have to figure out together.

Emily was relating a story about Tim’s forgetting yet one more of her birthdays. In the past, she would have been extremely mad, hurt and disappointed. She would have seen it as a sign that he no longer loved her and was very selfish. Now she is able to tease him a little, let it go and then let him know what she was buying her for a present and where he was taking her for a celebratory meal.

This “attitude of forgiveness and acceptance” allows couples to place a positive sentiment on what might have been seen as negative and hurtful behavior, lightening the feelings in the marriage and enhancing a “we-ness” and commitment to work through “normal” differences and challenges. This occurs when there are a lot of positives in the marriage and couples have an abundance of love, good will and positive feelings toward each other and their relationship. (John Gottman’s researched formula is 5 positives for every 1 negative.)

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