Last week I wrote about the importance of enhancing your “love maps” in your marriage. (CLICK HERE for that blog post.) This series of #marriagemondays blog posts is drawn from Dr. John Gottman’s book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.”
This week I would like to introduce you to principle #2: Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration.
On first glance, this seems odd. My intuition tells me that I am either fond of my mate or not. I admire my spouse or I don’t.
Dr. Gottman’s research tells a different story.
As a marriage grows more challenging, the fondness and admiration people feel for each other can get lost in the haze of difficulty, disagreement and disappointment.
Couples who are having difficulty often forget how fond they were and how they admired each other. It’s difficult to put real effort into healing a relationship with someone for whom you have no fondness or admiration. Reconnecting with that fondness and admiration is crucial to healing struggling marriages. It can also fan the flame of love in healthy marriages.
The good news is that most couples can reconnect with feelings of fondness and admiration for each other. Much of the work involves how couples remember their history.
Dr. Gottman writes:
I’ve found 94 percent of the time that couples who put a positive spin on their marriage’s history are likely to have a happy future as well. When happy memories are distorted, it’s a sign that the marriage needs help. (p. 641)
Everything you experience is a mixed bag. Do you choose to remember the good things or do you hang onto things you can complain about?
One of the great privileges of being human is the ability to choose what one thinks about. In the case of struggling marriages, choosing to call to mind instances of fondness and admiration for your spouse can make all the difference.
Here are some abbreviated versions of Dr. Gottman’s recommended exercises from the book:
- Think of a characteristic of your partner that you are fond of or admire. Write down an incident that illustrations that characteristic.
- Recall, relive or relate two or three happy or fulfilling times you’ve had with your partner. The times need not be recent. You can go all the way back to your wedding or when you first started dating.
- Talk with each other about marriage as a concept. What do you expect marriage to do in your life? What about your parents’ marriages do you want to emulate? Avoid? Together, chart and discuss the ups and downs of your marriage.
In his book, Dr. Gottman includes seven weeks of thoughts and tasks to build fondness and admiration. They aren’t large and difficult things. Week one starts like this:
- Thought: I am genuinely fond of my partner.
- Task: List one characteristic you find endearing or lovable.
- Thought: I can easily speak of the good times in our marriage.
- Task: Pick one good time and write a sentence about it.
- Thought: I can easily remember romantic, special times in our marriage.
- Task: Pick one such time and think about it.
This isn’t rocket science. Nor is it trickery or mental manipulation.
By building a pattern of positive thoughts, you very likely will find your fondness and admiration for your partner growing for real because you will be specifically thinking about how you are fond of and admire your partner.
Fondness and admiration aren’t the only things needed to heal a hurting relationship. But, reconnecting with the fondness and admiration that drew you together in the first place is a vital part of a healthy, healing, growing relationship.
Here’s something you can try if you haven’t gotten ahold of Dr. Gottman’s book (his book includes many exercises): Keep a fondness and admiration journal for a month (or just start with a week). Every morning or evening (one time might be easier than the other), write down something positive about your partner: a fond memory, an admirable character trait. At the beginning of the month, write down how you are feeling about your partner. Then, at the end of the month, write down how you are feeling about your partner and compare it to the beginning of the month.
I’ve betting you will notice a difference in just one month (probably even a week!). I’d love to hear about it in the comments below this blog if you’d care to share. 🙂
Next Monday: Principle #3.
I hope you are enjoying #marriagemondays. I know I am!
Thanks for reading my blog. I hope it is helpful to you.
1Gottman, John; Nan Silver. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
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