How often do you check in?
When you get married, you get a lot of advice. Some good, some not so good.Here’s a random fact about us. My husband and I started pre-marital counseling well before we got engaged simply because we did not have a LOT of “great” married role models. I grew up in a single parent household and my husband grew up with an “until they all graduate from college” household. We are also one of the first couples in our circle of friends to get married, so obviously our friends may not be on the same page in terms of relationship advice.
1) Find a GOOD Relationship Role Model. When we started discussing
Mr. Gottman, the relationship genius!
marriage with each other, we had a lot of questions. We also didn’t have a lot of people to ask. I think on hand, I only really had one person that I knew that would give me honest feedback about their marriage. My Uncle & his wife were the only married couple I ever saw kiss each other “just because” regardless of who was around. My Uncle was also the only one that openly shared his lessons learned on marriage… and I don’t mean the usual stuff like “you have to communicate” or “never go to bed angry”. He told me that he used to be selfish and had a difficult time really listening and empathizing when they first got married. It took him some time (and marriage counseling) to grow up and not feel as though he had to win every disagreement.
2) All relationships can be difficult, but given the limited time we have, it’s important to learn how to let things go. He emphasized pettiness, selfishness, ego as “the things” and encouraged me to nurture my relationships. My uncle, a cancer survivor, passed away two months after our wedding. He told me that when you realize just how temporary life is, you can also realize just how trivial some things really are.
3) Checking in on people is important. My uncle called me every Wednesday just to check in because, as he used to say, checking in on people is important. This was by far one of the greatest lesson I could ever learn about relationships, specifically marriage. Till this day, I still consider Wednesday’s my check-in day out of habit.
4) Successful couples have a detailed understanding of the intricacies of their partner’s life. They have a detailed love map of interests, friends, stresses, goals, etc. for each other. I learned this piece of advice from, John Gottman, a marital genius… (seriously, look him up!), authored one of my favorite marriage books: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert. In it, he lists Seven habits of highly successful marriages. He, and his colleagues can predict the divorce of a couple within 10 years simply by watching them interact for just a few minutes. One piece of advice he gave echoed that of my Uncle’s, the importance of checking in.
English: John Gottman with His Wife, Julie Gottman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
5) Successful couples also spend at least 5 hours a week, The Magic Five, checking in and strengthening their marriage.
6) In successful relationships, for every negative comment received, 5 positive comments are also given. (5 is a big number for him). Gottman’s 5 to 1 Ratio. Among the least successful, there was a ratio of .8 to 1, (almost tit-for-tat). See more on the Gottman relationship blog.
The first year of marriage hasn’t been easy. We’ve had our battles with ego & selfishness. We’re still learning when to keep our distance and when to rush to the other’s side. We’ve gotten a lot of good advice and some not so good. I thought I would do my part and share what was good for me.