Week 6- Love Maps

This week I have learned something that is vital for any long and happy relationship: Love Maps.  Love Maps are Dr. Gottman’s term for “that part of your brain where you store all the relevant information about your partner’s life.” (1999) For instance, do you know what your partner’s greatest worry is right now?  Do you know the names of your partner’s friends, or the people your partner works with?  Do you know which coworkers your partner gets along with and which ones are a source of irritation?  Do you know your partner’s goals and dreams for the next five years? The next 10?  The next 50? (Gottman, 1999)

The detail of your love map is a sign of your level of intimacy with your partner.  Those couples who share the details of their lives with one another are the ones who are more prepared to deal with tough times that will inevitably fall on all marriages.  Any big stress or change in life can strain a marriage, but those couples who know each other well and have a means of keeping up with the changes in their partner’s thoughts, dreams, and life are the ones that stay close through the tough times.  Life is hard and it isn’t easy to focus on someone else through all of the stress and expectations that are put on each of us.  One of the best ways to keep up a detailed love map is to have a time set aside each week devoted to you as a couple.

A great article I read this week called, The Date Night Opportunity, includes great information from studies looking at the difference between couples who take time at least once each week to connect with each other and those who don’t. Those couples who share couple time at least once a week had an average of three times higher rates of happiness, communication satisfaction, commitment levels, and yes, even sexual satisfaction than those couples who share couple time less than once a week (Wilcox, 2012).  That number is huge!  Don’t believe me?  Just check out the link to the article in my reference section!

Starting now, make a commitment to your spouse.  Create a love map if yours is currently missing.  Update yours if it is outdated.  Put more details on it if you think it is current.  There is always more to learn about your spouse and your dates don’t have to cost much.  I have created a few date ideas for my husband and me that are . . . guess what . . . FREE!

Take a walk:  This could be around your yard or around the neighborhood.  Discuss what you like or would change about the house or landscape.  This is a good time to dream together and maybe even plan for future projects.

Cuddle under the stars: It is getting cooler out, and many nights the sky is clear.  Cuddle in a big blanket looking at the stars, sharing details about your day, your thoughts, your dreams, your stresses.

Cooking time:  Pick a new recipe (I want to learn how to make crispy crackers) and work together to try it out.  This can be great fun, especially when flour ends up all over both of you.

Popcorn night:  Pop some popcorn and sit down to reminisce.  Talking about what you remember about the day you met, the day you married, the day you had your first child.  Be sure to focus more on the positive aspects of those days.  All of these intimate details of the life that you share with the person sitting next to you create amazing feelings of closeness and friendship.

Whatever you do, make sure the activity allows for connecting and learning about each other.  Be creative and have fun.  Happy Mapping!

 

References:

Gottmanm J.M., Silver N. (1999) The seven principles for making marriage work: A practical guide from the country’s foremost relationship expert. New York: Harmony Books.

Wilcox, W. B., Dew, J. (2012) The date night opportunity: What does couple time tell us about the potential value of date nights? The National Marriage Project. University of Virginia. http://nationalmarriageproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/NMP-DateNight.pdf

 

Week 5: 5 to 1

5 to 1. This is the “magic ratio” for happy relationships from Dr. John Gottman, the world’s foremost relationship expert.  This means that relationships that are stable and happy have 5 times as many positive attributes—like affection, interest in each other, kindness, and empathy—than negative attributes—like criticism, argument, hostility, anger, hurt feelings.(2007)

Dr. Gottman knows his stuff; so well in fact, that he has been able to predict divorce with 91% accuracy (1999).  He has been working to figure out how to save marriages from divorce and started by identifying 6 warning signs of a marriage in danger:

  1. Harsh start-up: Instead of approaching an issue with a “how can we fix this” attitude, a harsh start-up begins with a “you are wrong and I am right!” attitude.
  1. Four horsemen: Just as the four horsemen of the apocalypse are destructive, Gottman has seen habits that are just as bad for a relationship. The horsemen are Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling (silent treatment). (1999)
  1. Flooding: A spouse regularly faced with negativity in an argument will feel overwhelmed or flooded. This is just as much a physical issue (rising heart rate, adrenaline increase, etc) as a psychological. (Gottman, 1999)
  1. Body Language: Because of regular flooding, a person will often respond with what we know as “fight or flight” actions. These will often cause a person to look visibly agitated (fight) or distant (flight). (Gottman, 1999)
  1. Failed repair attempts: Most couples use repair attempts when faced with stress.  Each couple has their own style; what works for one may not work for others.  Gottman tells of one couple that sticks their tongues out at each other when stress gets high.  The resulting laughter reduces their stress level (1999). When my husband and I start feeling the stress in a conversation, one of us will timidly but sincerely say “I love you.”  What follows is usually a different tone to our conversation.  In marriages that are in trouble, repair attempts do not work.
  1. Bad Memories: Gottman says, “When a marriage is not going well, history gets rewritten—for the worse.”(1999) When negativity has festered in a relationship, the couple starts to remember what went wrong on their engagement or wedding day instead of what went right. They will even begin to change how they remember and perceive their own courtship (Gottman, 1999).

Important facts to remember:

  • All marriages likely have an occasional appearance of these warning signs, but those marriages that are in trouble see them reoccurring often.
  • Not all marriages can be saved, there will be those that are so far gone they can’t be helped. . . but no marriage should be given up on, there are many that were in very bad shape that recovered great happiness!

Avoiding these negative habits isn’t enough to make your marriage great. Gottman even admits that when he found these warning signs he was still not able to prevent divorce until he started to look at what made good marriages work.  Just like his magic relationship ratio, we need to put large focus on positive things in a marriage, not just avoiding the bad things.

Gottman has seven principles proven to help save and strengthen 75% of marriages! (1999) That number is huge!  Imagine what the national divorce statistic would look like if everyone took a course on this! Over the next six weeks, I will be learning the seven principles, and how to apply them, to save and strengthen marriage.  I want to learn how to protect and strengthen my marriage, don’t you?

References:

Gottman, J. (2007) The magic relationship ratio. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xw9SE315GtA

Gottman J.M., Silver N. (1999) The seven principles for making marriage work: A practical guide from the country’s foremost relationship expert. New York: Harmony Books.

Week 4: Contract or Covenant?

This week I read an article from Bruce C. Hafen where he discusses the difference between a covenant marriage and a contract marriage.  He says, “Marriage is by nature a covenant . . . binding [a couple] to each other, to the community and to God . . ., not just a private contract one may cancel at will.” (1996)

In our legal system today, we have what is called “no fault” divorce.  I believe it was instituted to help those who really needed out of a terrible circumstance, but it is now widely misused as an easy escape from problems that could otherwise be worked out.  All marriages eventually have troubles, but how we react to them and work through them is what determines whether it strengthens or hurts our marriages.  Bruce C. Hafen mentioned three obstacles that test all marriages.  The first is natural adversity (loss of a child, economic hardship, natural disasters, etc.).  The second is an individual’s imperfections; those that are consistently criticized by a spouse can damage a person’s self-worth and the relationship.  The third wolf is the excessive individualism of our day. He tells this story:

“A seven-year-old girl came home from school crying, ‘Mom, don’t I belong to you? Our teacher said today that nobody belongs to anybody—children don’t belong to parents, husbands don’t belong to wives. I am yours, aren’t I, Mom?’ Her mother held her close and whispered, ‘Of course you’re mine—and I’m yours, too.’” (1996).

As a society, we focus on ourselves too much.  You can go to any social media site and find the latest “selfies” of almost everyone you know, what struggle or triumph they are having that day, sometimes what they just ate for breakfast or dinner.

When a marriage is based on an eternal perspective, these obstacles are guarded against at all costs.  I think we do this by consistently working to make ourselves better.  We cultivate humility, repentance, and service and we focus on the connections that we are making within our relationship.  We focus on our spouses needs instead of our own.  When faced with difficult struggles, do we push our spouse away or do we lean on them for support?

The family is at the center of our Heavenly Father’s plan for our happiness and salvation. There are many studies that show that with only rare exceptions, the happiest children and adults are the ones that remain bound together.

References

Hafen, B. C. 1996. Covenant Marriage.  Ensign, Nov 1996, 26

Week 3: Threats to Marriage

This week I had the opportunity to review the court document explaining the majority and dissenting opinions of the Supreme Court’s decision on how to define marriage.  I was shocked to read the dissenting judges opinion—mostly because I had not heard a single whisper of it before.  It bothers me that these opinions, which are completely valid, were brushed under the rug so quickly and easily.

A few of the main points the dissenting judges brought out were:

1) The legislature makes laws, not the judiciary.  Judge Roberts from the Supreme Court agrees that the arguments in favor of same-sex marriage are compelling, and so do I.  However, this does not give the Supreme Court power to create new laws, which it did in this case.  Suddenly, the democratic process has been silenced by 5 judges who are not elected officials.  As Roberts states, “The majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment. The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent.” (2015)

2) Roberts then explains that the purpose of the governmental support of marriage is only as a benefit to the children of society.  When a man and a woman are bound together and are given incentive to stay bound together, they create what has been proven to be the best arrangement for the raising of healthy children that can in turn benefit society someday (Roberts, Alito, 2015).   The marriage arrangement is not for the benefit of the couple, but only of the children that such a couple may produce.  In contrast, the dissenting judge Alito put forth that the majority’s understanding of marriage “focuses almost entirely on the happiness of persons who choose to marry.” (2015)

3) Roberts and Alito discuss that the redefinition of marriage by judges who are not accountable to the vote of the people creates ill feelings for those that oppose the view.  This could be as inconvenient as “tax exemptions of some religious institutions [being} put in question.” (2015) Or  “It [could] be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.” (2015)  I have already seen this come to pass.  Those who are in favor of same-sex marriage seem to expect everyone to agree with them or stay quiet.  When a dissenting opinion comes out, it is met with often-hostile reactions.  Even those with a friend who believes in same-sex marriage feels the need to “tread carefully” around this topic.  If we are expected to respectfully listen to someone proclaiming same-sex marriage to be right, then we should also be able to freely and respectfully offer our opinion without fear of judgement or retaliation.

I was also very touched by a letter from Katy Faust, a child raised in a same-sex household, that was written to Justice Kennedy of the Supreme Court advocating for traditional marriage.  A point that she made really stood out to me and I must quote it.

“The opposition will clamor on about studies where the researchers concluded that children in same-sex households allegedly fared “even better!” than those from intact biological homes. Leave aside the methodological problems with such studies and just think for a moment.

If it is undisputed social science that children suffer greatly when they are abandoned by their biological parents, when their parents’ divorce, when one parent dies, or when they are donor-conceived, then how can it be possible that they are miraculously turning out “even better!” when raised in same-sex-headed households? Every child raised by “two moms” or “two dads” came to that household via one of those four traumatic methods. Does being raised under the rainbow miraculously wipe away all the negative effects and pain surrounding the loss and daily deprivation of one or both parents? The more likely explanation is that researchers are feeling the same pressure as the rest of us feel to prove that they love their gay friends.” (2015)

I truly believe that all people should be able to live their lives as they see fit.  I will not judge a person by their sexual preference.  They have the right to live, work, and play anywhere they want.  They have the right to be treated fairly and respectfully by all.  Policy and law should be changed in order to allow same-sex couples the right to visit their partner in a hospital, to cover an extra person on health insurance (even if it is not a partner) without difficult economic ramifications, bequeath all that they have to a certain person without a large inheritance tax, etc.  Marriage, on the other hand, should remain about the children.  As a country, we need to continue to encourage the best environment for a child’s growth and development.  This means that we must continue to encourage a man and woman to only conceive and raise children within the bond of marriage.  It is not the adults who need or have a right in this issue, it is the children who have and need this right.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TNmKo5KcMY

References:

Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. (2015). Supreme Court of the United States.

Faust, K. Letter-Justice Kennedy, Child of gay parent (Feb 2015)

Week 2: To Err is Human. . .

Raise your hand if you married a perfect person. . . Now raise your hand if you are a perfect person. . . If your hand is up, you are lying to yourself and need to look more closely at yourself and your relationship.  For everyone else. . . If you know your spouse is imperfect (like yourself) then supporting them through their weaknesses and forgiving them for mistakes can make a struggling Marriage great.

I can remember growing up and seeing the difficulties that arose with my family and friends as they had to make sense of their lives and relationships in the midst of discord and divorce.  Of course there are legitimate reasons for getting a divorce, but it should be only for those drastic situations that time and effort cannot resolve.

An interesting statistic that I found while reading this week states: “One study found ‘no evidence that divorce or separation typically made adults happier than staying in an unhappy marriage. Two out of three unhappily married adults who avoided divorce reported being happily married five years later.’” (Oaks, 2007)   So staying together instead of just giving up can have great impact on your relationship and your children.  What is the trick; how can we fix hurt or broken marriages?

We need forgiveness, not battles over pride.  More importantly, our children need it.  The other day I saw my toddler give my husband a sweet hug and kiss.  Not two minutes later he was shouting gibberish at one of his brothers.  Taking a step back, I was able to hear how similar his shouting sounded to the way I sometimes speak to my children.  Children soak up words and behaviors like a sponge.  They see how parents act toward one another.  They hear how parents speak to one another.  In Exodus 20: 5 it says God will “[visit] the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.”  Consider this the next time you are angry with your spouse.  As parents, we do not want our children to experience the pain and unhappiness of a difficult marriage.  If you could help them avoid that pain, wouldn’t you?    We can do our part here by working hard to make our marriages wonderful.  When we share a close relationship with our spouse, our children see it and know how to form wonderful relationships of their own.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQ1yLFIEVNo

References

Oaks, D. H. (2007) Divorce. Ensign May 2007

https://www.lds.org/ensign/2007/05/divorce?lang=eng#footnote6-00605_000_027