One Little Habit That Will Nurture Health (and Romance!) in your Marriage (b199)

Today’s relationship nugget for #marriagemondays is the third principle from Dr. John Gottman’s book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.” Dr. Gottman says that to make you marriage work, you need to learn to

Turn toward Each Other Instead of Away

If you haven’t read them, you should read the previous two principles that I covered in my previous two #marriagemondays posts (click on the title to read the post):

This idea of turning toward each other is really important. The entertainment industry uses dramatic moments to drive the plot forward. Dr. Gottman’s research shows that dramatic moments are not where love is nurtured and grown.

Love grows in the little moments of daily life. Dr. Gottman writes of love:

It is kept alive each time you let your spouse know he or she is valued during the grind of everyday life. (p. 80)

Real life love is built in the little connections of everyday life. Marriage is nurtured each time you connect with your spouse even in the smallest way.

The classic example is when a one person is sitting in a room reading and the partner walks in. Does the reader look up or not? It’s a small moment that turns out to be highly indicative of the state — and more importantly, the direction —  of the relationship.

Turning toward each other is the way you live every day. It’s sharing how your night’s sleep was. “Did you have any dreams?” It’s noticing possible needs of your spouse, no matter how small. “I’m going to the store, do you need anything?” It’s all the little moments in which you turn toward your spouse.

I was riding in a car with a friend on the way to spending the evening at his house. We decided to rend a movie. I suggested that we call his wife to ask her what she might like to watch. He said that she would say whatever he wanted to watch was fine. I suggested that he call her anyway because he communicates care by calling even if he’s pretty sure he knows what she’ll say. It turns out we were both right. She did say, “Whatever you want is fine,” and Dr. Gottman (whom I had not read yet) confirmed my instincts about turning toward your spouse.

These little moments add to the emotional bank account the couple shares. They create cushion for when conflict arises. But they do something else.

Surprisingly, Dr. Gottman found that these moments are also key to keeping romance alive. A walk on the beach can fan the flames of romance for a moment, but only if the emotional bank account is already full from the partners daily turning toward each other.

From my personal experience, I can tell you that Kelly and I try to sit down for a few minutes of face-to-face conversation every morning and every evening. As I’ve written before, we usually do a devotion in the morning and pray together in the evening. But much of it is small talk. How did you sleep? What’s on your schedule today? How was your day?

Dr. Gottman has practical advice and some personal/relationship tests you can take to gauge your level of turning toward each other. He also has noticed that couples who ignore each other’s emotional needs usually do so out of mindlessness, not malice.

So maybe this is your wake-up call to be more intentional about turning toward your spouse. It’s a simple habit, but it’s like compound interest for your relationship.

Thanks for reading my blog. I hope it is helpful to you.

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1Gottman, John; Nan Silver. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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