The key to a happy marriage is having separate bathrooms.
The key to a happy marriage is knowing when to say you’re sorry.
The key to a happy marriage is spending your money on vacations and counseling.
The key to a happy marriage is building him a man cave.
The key to a happy marriage is ________________________.
I’ve heard little pearls of wisdom like these for years. It seems that for every married couple, there is a different “key to a happy marriage.” I don’t think there is a keychain big enough for all of these keys! While some of them are wise and some are silly, Dr. John Gottman, in his years of research, has evidence to back up at least one true key to this elusive search for the happy marriage. He says it’s in the little things.
More specifically, his Principle #3 of his famous 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work says that we should “Turn toward each other instead of away.” While having separate bathrooms and romantic vacations sound lovely, Gottman’s research shows that people in happy marriages make and respond well to each other’s bids for affection every day. The little things, like looking up from your smartphone to make eye contact with your husband when he asks you a question, go a long way toward keeping connected. The choice we make in these seemingly insignificant moments to see that our partner is trying to connect and then to acknowledge that effort instead of ignoring it is what makes all the difference.
For instance, if your wife asks “Do you know if we have any stamps?” you might say, “I’m not sure, let me check for you” instead of apathetically shrugging your shoulders. Or if your husband says, “I feel like carrot cake”, and you respond with “Remember when we were dating and you used to surprise me with carrot cake at work?” instead of just ignoring him and thinking to yourself, “so what?”
There are many little ways we are trying to get each other’s attention and affection every day. The number of times we turn toward each other should far outweigh the times we act indifferently and turn away. This act of turning toward builds a sense of security in the relationship and natural goodness toward each other.
So next time your partner says something that you wouldn’t categorize as newsworthy, turn towards them by responding with love and attention. Be mindful of the little things and #staymarried.
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