“Happily ever after doesn’t happen by chance, but rather by choice.” Dr. John Gottman
Over the weekend my husband and I went to a marriage workshop that covered material from The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work, written by Dr. John Gottman. Drs John and Julie Gottman are renowned experts on marriage and have done extensive research on what causes marriage to fall apart. They then used that knowledge to come up with a guide with seven core principles that will help couples to nurture a better relationship as well as teach couples how to handle conflict. It’s an awesome book and workshop and I’ll share just two of my favorite exercises we did this weekend:
This first one was my favorite – We were all asked to look around the room and notice everything that was green. We were then told to close our eyes and we were asked to say everything in the room that was red. That was hard to do because we’d all been looking for only the green items. Gottman shares that some people feel that looking at your spouse through rose colored glasses will give you an inaccurate view of reality, but research has shown that the EXACT OPPOSITE is true –looking through rose colored glasses actually gives a person a MORE accurate view of reality because those red items were always there in the room, you just didn’t notice them because you’d only been looking for the green items! So in marriage if we are constantly looking for things to appreciate about our spouse we will see everything that is really there, but if we are only looking for things to criticize about our spouse we are going to miss 50% of everything that is actually there. That makes SO MUCH SENSE!!!
Here’s one more I’ll share – We all remember the days when Mapquest first became available for us to print off driving directions to get where we wanted to go. Because Mapquest wan’t using real-time data back then you would often print the directions and begin driving only to find that the map used had become outdated – a street name had changed, a freeway onramp had opened, a one way street now existed – so following the printed directions no longer led you where you had hoped to go. Marriage relationships are just like that – When we first married our spouse we knew all about what they liked and disliked, their fears and dreams, etc., but then as time has gone on each person in the relationship is constantly growing and changing as individuals so if one spouse tries to rely on their old Mapquest directions they no longer take them where they were hoping to go. That’s why in marriage it is critical that we don’t rely on old maps of our spouse. We need the most current map of our spouse’s hopes, fears, desires, and dreams. We must constantly be asking our spouses questions to get to know how they feel today rather than thinking we know them because we knew how might have answered a question a year, or two, or twenty years ago. Gottman even provides suggested questions we can be asking our spouses to make sure we know our spouses real-time love maps – without that, marriages inevitably end up lost.
Happily ever after won’t happen unless you make a choice to put in the time and effort it takes to strengthen your relationship. Attending workshops, reading great books on how to strengthen your marriage, and seeking couples counseling are all choices that are worth making.
~Amy Rees Anderson (author of the newly released book “What Awesome Looks Like: How To Excel in Business & Life” )