Friday, April 12, 2013

Marriage: Work in Progress

Sometimes the way marrieds talk about their spouses is enough to put one off dating. For a few, it is considered acceptable to belittle their partner in life behind, or even in front of, their backs. 

Like any family mine has our own frustrations and aggravations, but verbal abuse of any sort was never permitted under my parents' roof, so I have rarely witnessed this phenomenon of ribaldry at a supposed loved one's expense.
It is not specific to any age group. Recently a woman wrote an article in a local Jewish publication calling for more kindness and consideration between couples. 

Jane Brody, piggybacking on the conclusions of Sonja Lyubomirsky, discusses how many a marriage could be salvaged with, as in all things, effort. After all, the article title is "That Loving Feeling Takes a Lot of Work." 

It does. Because as in anything in life, whether it be a desired career, a specific makeup palette, or wardrobe, whatever is worth having has to be worked for. 
Steps to slow, prevent or counteract hedonic adaptation and rescue a so-so marriage should be taken long before the union is in trouble, Dr. Lyubomirsky urges. Her recommended strategies include making time to be together and talk, truly listening to each other, and expressing admiration and affection.
Dr. Lyubomirsky emphasizes “the importance of appreciation”: count your blessings and resist taking a spouse for granted. Routinely remind yourself and your partner of what you appreciate about the person and the marriage.
Gratitude. HaKaras HaTov, as we call it, is one of the basic tenets of Judaism. During the miraculous time that built up to the Exodus, Moses' staff was being wielded often by his brother Aaron instead, as he himself would not strike either the sand or the Nile for the favors they had done him. It is not that we believe that inanimate objects are aware or appreciate such considerations; we practice such niceties to accustom ourselves to experiencing and displaying gratitude. 

To see that which has become familiar with new eyes, to pinpoint all the benefits (as opposed to the pitfalls) that it brings into one's life, yes, that requires active awareness. 
Even a marriage that has been marred by negative, angry or hurtful remarks can often be rescued by filling the home with words and actions that elicit positive emotions, psychology research has shown.
According to studies by Barbara L. Fredrickson . . . a flourishing relationship needs three times as many positive emotions as negative ones
I currently have no special someone, but that is not the only relationship possible to make an effort for. Like anyone else, I can become bogged down by the upsets of an ordinary day, where nothing went right, and I have the option of returning to a house full of dear ones and vent my spleen to its bilious content. 

But if I choose, if I give myself an active moment to choose not to, that makes all the difference.  
Dr. Lyubomirsky reports that happily married couples average five positive verbal and emotional expressions toward one another for every negative expression, but “very unhappy couples display ratios of less than one to one.”
Dr. Phil repeatedly says, "It takes a thousand 'Atta boy's to erase one 'You're an idiot, you're worthless, you're no good.'" This is in the case of parenting, but wounding remarks can destroy adults as well.
She suggests asking yourself each morning, “What can I do for five minutes today to make my partner’s life better?” The simplest acts, like sharing an amusing event, smiling, or being playful, can enhance marital happiness. 
On the same day I was writing this up I inadvertently (really and truly) stumbled across this article by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff which is practically the above's carbon copy. 
It can always bear repeating this idea I had read and then posted about way back when. A lifeless and loveless marriage of twenty years was salvaged just because of a little effort. Just a little.      


The Beckster said...

Excellent article! It's oozing with truth. Thank you for sharing :-) (I'm practicing some gratitude right now! Lol)

Princess Lea said...

Same here!