In the past four decades, research has conducted five long-term studies in which they’ve attempted to answer the question: Why do some marriages succeed and some marriages fail?
One common element found in all happy couples was a strong friendship. Today’s article focuses on the second of four habits happy couples have to keep their friendship strong.
Habit number two relates to how we think and feel about our partner. Happy couples have fondness and admiration for each other.
Fondness is defined as having a “liking or affection for.” Admiration as having a “feeling of wonder, pleasure, or approval.”
While it might seem common sense that happy couples would feel this way for one another, few of us are getting the full benefit that fondness and admiration can offer in keeping our friendship strong.
Too often, instead, we take our spouses good qualities for granted. We come to expect them. Then, instead of expressing our gratitude for these qualities, we only mention them when they’re not happening and we’re complaining in anger and disgust.
Having fondness and admiration is about focusing on and noticing the times when our partners are likable, not just complaining when they are not. It makes sense, then, that this habit is also called “Keeping site of the positive.”
In a busy world, couples who are successful at habit number two slow down enough to notice the positive things their partner is doing. Then, to really get full benefit from fondness and admiration, they mention their observations to their partner.
The great news is these positive things are already happening. The bad news is that, according to research, couples often miss noticing up to 50 percent of these positive occurrences.
This, again, is usually because they have come to take these behaviors for granted. When we do this, we miss the opportunity to nurture fondness and admiration in our relationship.
For example, my wife is a phenomenal mother. She is often found playing on the floor with the kids or reading them a book. She makes this a habit and routine as part of being a mother.
But because it happens so much, it’s easy for me to overlook how great a characteristic this really is. I take for granted the fact that she chooses to be so involved with the kids. I’ve come to expect it.
The other day, however, I consciously slowed down and watched her play with our youngest daughter. It was fascinating to see how involved she was, and how she was 100 percent focused on being with her in that very moment.
I shamefully had memories of the many times I had been multitasking while playing with our youngest. Whether it was texting or watching TV over my shoulder, I wasn’t 100 percent focused as my wife was in that moment.
As a result of watching her, I had an increase in fondness and admiration. As I watched, I felt the “liking, wonder, and pleasure” that these words speak of. Suddenly, I felt more appreciative of her and more bonded to her.
The sad part is that because I have come to expect and take her skills for granted, I have missed many opportunities to feel the gratitude that comes with fondness and admiration. I simply overlooked it instead.
Further, I missed an opportunity to strengthen our friendship by sharing my appreciation and admiration with her. How powerful it is when our spouse passes on sincere appreciation to us for our behavior and character.
November is a month of appreciation. Whether it’s Veterans Day or Thanksgiving, we stop to show appreciation. And when we slow down and focus on the many positive qualities our spouse has, and thank them for being so awesome, our friendship grows and love is strengthened.
One great activity between now and Thanksgiving is to keep a daily list with one thing your partner did that day that you’re thankful for. It’s a great list to give them to say thanks, and it’s a great list for you to see how blessed you really are.
Enjoy the week and tune in next week for habit number three happy couples practice to keep their friendship strong.
Remember, couple relationships are easier than you think, but harder than you act.
For more information on couple relationships, visit www.panhandlecouples.com.
Mark Anderson, MS, LIMHP is a mental health therapist specializing in couples therapy. He is in private practice at Oregon Trail Mental Health in Scottsbluff. To contact him call 635-2800 or visit online at www.panhandlecouples.com