11 Dec A Sound Marital House
From the Desk of Laura Bunker:
An unprecedented conference of world religious leaders was recently convened at the Vatican to discuss the importance of marriage and family. Entitled “Humanum: An International Interreligious Colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman,” it gathered together many world faith leaders including Catholic, Evangelical, Mormon, Pentecostal, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Taoist.
The Humanum Colloquium closed with the presentation of an insightful document entitled, “A New Affirmation on Marriage,” which asks,
“Why do weddings still move us? We do not become emotional when business partners strike a deal. We shed no tears at a friendly handshake. We feel no such joy to hear of “casual” mating. A wedding is different. Here stand a man and woman, entering together into a new life. And yet it is more than this. They are about to enter the generations. . .”
This beautiful document reminds us what a precious thing marriage really is, and invites us to “encourage and celebrate” it. In that spirit, today’s alert and Infograph by Teresa Kearl offers several practical ways to “strengthen your marital foundation.”
United Families International, President
Constructing A Sound Marital House
by Teresa Kearl
The symbolic lyrics of the Brooks and Dunn 2007 hit, “I’m Proud of The House We Built” reflect the very discovery of Dr. John Gottman.
“I’m Proud of The House We Built”
It’s stronger than sticks, stones and steel
It’s not a big place sittin’ up high on some hill
Lot of things’ll come and go but love never will
Oh, I’m proud, I’m proud of the house we built.
Buildings can shelter us from storms and protect us from the elements. However, they are only as good as their foundations. If a structure was built on a poor or non-existent foundation, the very structure that was intended to protect an individual from harm can become a death trap rather than a shelter from the storm.
Dr. John M. Gottman and his colleagues studied the behaviors of happily married couples, and the behaviors of unhappily married couples. He and his colleagues designed an apartment laboratory that allowed them to observe individual couples interactions, reactions and measure their physiological responses. These and other longitudinal studies shed light on marital relationship interactions that impact a relationship. In his marital research, he discovered the building blocks of a Sound Marital House.
A couple of facts Dr. Gottman shares: The stress of a marriage failing is more significant than the stress from a bad marriage. Researchers were able to predict illness based on the stress individuals experienced in failing marriages. (Gottman, 1999, The Marriage Clinic, p. 80.) Chris Woolston reports, “The dangers of marital stress aren’t merely hypothetical. A study of nearly 300 women with heart disease published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that marital stress — by itself — tripled the risk of heart surgery, heart attacks, or death in the following five years.
Just as remarkably, a study of 189 men and women with congestive heart failure published in the American Journal of Cardiology found that survival depended just as much on the quality of the marriage as the severity of the disease. Repeating a common theme, this study found that marital quality had a larger impact on women than on men.” (Chris Woolston, M.S. retrieved November 14, 2014)
With the level of stress being so high in a difficult marriage — and we can document that stress from marital failure is even higher — as a society, we should do everything we can to prevent divorce. When a marital relationship is dissolved, the bad marriage may go away, but the effects of divorce can last a lifetime. Dr. Gottman discovered a building code that would prevent the structural breakdowns of a marital relationship. The amazing thing about these marital building codes, they are neither expensive nor difficult to employ in a marital relationship.
Dr. Gottman calls it “Building a Sound Marital House.” In practical applications, the more strength, sturdiness and depth of a foundation, the more strength a house has from outside forces. Having a strong marital house doesn’t mean you are exempt from storms, floods or outside circumstances, it simply means the deeper the footings, the better the marital house can protect “the house that you’ve built” from outside forces. There are five main footings that hold a marital house together.
- Become BFF’s, Seriously – Be Best Friends.
Married couples that work at relating to one another as each other’s best friend know that the treasured friendship in marriage is an insulating protection when your marital house is hit from outside circumstances. There are many cliché’s about the difference between a good friend, and a best friend. In marriage, you can’t just be “good friends” you have to be become “best friends.” A best friend knows your secrets and you know theirs. A best friend watches your back and defends you. Best friends get one another through rough jobs, tough circumstances, and awkward situations. Best friends know and encourage one another to fulfill their dreams. Becoming your spouse’s best friend is a simple building code that will insulate and sustain your marital house.
- Saving Graces For A Rainy Day
Dr. Gottman describes this habit as making daily deposits into an emotional bank account. As stress from work, extended family, finances, or other circumstances, if a spouse can listen to the other spouse’s frustrations without criticism, complaints or trying to direct the spouse to a specific action, they are in fact making deposits in their marital emotional bank account. These deposits build trust and strengthen the friendship. If a spouse (especially women) can separate them self from the stress and just listen, it will benefit the marital relationship many times over.
3. Manage Perpetual Problems, No Extermination Needed
In the 1997 movie Mouse Hunt, two brothers inherit an antique home. Their newly acquired inheritance home includes a resident mouse. Every attempt to rid the house of the mouse destroys a part of the home. The mouse never leaves and eventually the house implodes upon itself. The allegory applies to marital relationships. Every marriage has a mouse or two. Couples that can learn to live with their pesky problem rather than exterminate them will have a sound marital house. Couples that build a sound marital house learn how to manage perpetual problems rather than trying to exterminate them.
- Mutual Admiration
Mutual admiration is a practical habit based on positive perception. It is the habit of referring to your marital spouse with admiration, adoration and appreciation. Positive perception will anchor your marital house in the storms. Mutual admiration is a form of gratitude. It is the simple act of admiring and appreciating your spouse. Expressing gratitude for the spouse’s contribution to your marriage is a simple way to strengthen your relationship and increase the strength of your marital foundation.
- Anchored in Common Goals
Every marital relationship will experience adjustments. The most vulnerable times include the birth of child, the loss of a child, a change in careers, and severe illness. However, if a couple has worked on building a sound marital house, they will be able to weather the storms that arise, because they are anchored in common goals. They know each other’s dreams and work to help one another fulfill their dreams. The difficulties that come along, can in fact, become the catalyst to drive the footings of friendship deeper and insulate and build stronger footings in their marital house.
Dr. Gottman has provided resources that can help strengthen a marital foundation. One of those is what he refers to as Creating Love Maps. These questions and answers can help couples strengthen their emotional connection.
Another exercise Dr. Gottman also recommends is the “I Appreciate. . .” exercise in which each partner uses three to five adjectives that reflect positive aspects of your partner’s personality.
It takes time and effort
Creating a strong marital house doesn’t happen all at once. It is built brick by brick. Reinforcing those footings take time. Learning to manage pesky problems rather than exterminate them requires patience.
Conversely, a marital foundation can be destroyed over time. Ignoring your spouse, putting other interest’s before your spouse’s or creating barriers between your activities and lives can destroy the foundation of any marriage. Speaking critically of one another can chip away the foundation.
Marriages can be built or destroyed by simple acts. The magic formula for staying married includes a daily effort to be best friends, speak of one another with fondness and appreciation. Strengthening your house on a daily basis means you will have a beautiful marital house to help your family weather any storm.
Teresa Kearl has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and has been researching and writing about successful family strategies for over ten years. She has been married for twenty-nine years and has a family of seven that has grown into a family of eighteen, with two more grandchildren soon arriving.