The opening paragraph of this chapter just made me just laugh:
“None of the footage taped in our Love Lab would win anybody an Oscar. Our archives are filled with scenes in which the husband looks out the picture window and says, “Wow, look at that boat,” and the wife peers over her magazine and says, “Yeah, it looks like that big schooner we saw last summer, remember?” and the husband grunts.
You might think I’d find viewing hour after hour of such scenes unbearably boring. On the contrary: When couples engage in lots of chitchat like this, I can be pretty sure that they will stay happily married.”
The theme of this chapter is turning toward each other instead of turning away from each other. In unhappy couples, these small connections rarely take place.
Taking time to connect with each other in small spurts throughout the day and really responding to each other in small ways is really important to keep a marriage alive and well. The questionnaire on page 81, “Is Your Marriage Primed For Romance?” highlights this idea with questions about spending free time together, enjoying doing the small daily tasks of life together, how much you and your spouse enjoy talking to each other. “We have a lot of fun together.” “When we go out together, the time goes by very quickly.”
This chapter also delves a little deeper by asking if you and your spouse are spiritually aligned, are your values the same, are your interests and goals compatible?
Being helpful to one another is a big part of turning toward each other. How can you be helpful to your spouse every day, in the little ways that matter and count? There are further questionnaires that detail the contents of building an emotional bank account – in other words, what do you do for your spouse? what do you do together?
Listening techniques are highlighted on page 88. The thought is to try to use these techniques, not when you are having a disagreement, but actually when your spouse is talking about something unrelated to your relationship (or, as Dr. Gottman puts it: “when you are not your spouse’s target.”) Putting forth an attitude of “we against them”, showing genuine interest, expressing affection, validating emotions.
The last part of this chapter is about what to do when your spouse doesn’t turn toward you. On page 92, “…. sometimes there are deeper reasons why couples keep missing each other. For example, when one partner rebuffs the other, it could be a sign of hostility over some festering conflict. But I have found that when one spouse regularly feels the other just doesn’t connect enough, often the cause is a disparity between their respective needs for intimacy and independence.” There are several more exercises designed to get to the heart of the matter of this disparity.
Friendship between spouses can be the greatest equalizer and balancer in a marriage. “When you honor and respect each other, you’re usually able to appreciate each other’s point of view, even if don’t agree with it. When there’s an imbalance of power, there’s almost inevitably a great deal of marital distress.”
I think this is an important book. Please get a copy and follow along!