As Valentine's Day Draws Near...
As Valentine’s Day draws near and many singles start to feel the pressure of not being in relationships. However, it is a good time to think about what we (singles and married) are getting ourselves into in pursuing marriage relationships. It is not a surprise that we operate on a lot of unexamined beliefs. The same goes for our beliefs about marriage. What makes some marriages work and some don’t? If your answer is good conflict resolution, communication skills, or active listening, you’re on the same boat as many people including marriage therapists who are often frustrated by how difficult it is to make marriage work even with good communication skills (Gottman & Silver, 2015).
Based on over two decades of marriage research, Dr. John Gottman and his team discovered that the key to a happy marriage is not good conflict resolution or communication skills as commonly believed, but instead, it is the couple’s ability to maintain a positive emotional climate in their marriage and not be overwhelmed by negative feelings. It was found that “most marital arguments cannot be resolved,” because despite the similarities shared by marriage partners and the process of assimilation, marriage partners are still two different individuals with different personalities, coming from different families and holding different values.
Conflicts or Disagreements are Inevitable
Conflicts or disagreements are inevitable. Therefore, the overemphasis on resolving conflicts in marriage could often feel like a never-ending uphill battle. Don’t get me wrong, conflict resolution and effective communication are still good, just not the most important area in marriage. Since most conflicts cannot be resolved and will keep coming back, the key to happy marriages is to develop unique ways for each couple to work around those perpetual issues so that the marriage does not get stuck in negative emotional climates (Gottman & Silver, 2015).
“Finding a marriage partner is like finding a set of problems that you can live with.”
Like the saying goes, “finding a marriage partner is like finding a set of problems that you can live with.” Here is where a deep friendship and successful repair attempts come in. Repair attempts are partners’ attempts to feel good about each other after hard feelings occurred in their relationship. They could be as simple as laughing about their arguments, or as elaborated as a sit-down heart to heart talk. Deep friendship, “a mutual respect for and enjoyment of each other’s company,” provides a couple an advantage in successfully repairing their relationship (Gottman & Silver, 2015). Partners who are close know how to help each other to feel good again and move past their conflicts and hard feelings. An analogy I often use in working with patients sums up the research findings presented in this article.
Every home produces trash in varying amount
Every home produces trash in varying amount, depending on their lifestyle, but there will be trash at the end of a day, a week, or a month. What keeps the house clean and comfortable is not a lifestyle that does not produce trash, which is impossible, but a habit of taking out the trash. Successful repair attempts are like removing the trash inevitably generated in relationships, so the home does not smell of resentment, grief, or fear. Deep friendship then is like a coordinated team that works to take out the trash instead of throwing the trash at each other. At our church, we value healthy relationships.
The more intimately we know God, the more we know how to please Him and find enjoyment in relationship with Him
Christians experience firsthand this relational wisdom. Knowing God deeply is a foundation of making life work and flourish. Since it is a given that God knows us thoroughly, the more intimately we know God, the more we know how to please Him and find enjoyment in relationship with Him. Through forgiveness and reconciliation, Christians experience relational repair attempts from God. In conclusion, whether you are a Christian or not, think about your intimate relationships, what are the conflicts you can resolve and what are the conflicts you might have to learn to live with?
重情義的蝌蚪 is a Christian in the field of clinical psychology. He has a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Rosemead School of Psychology and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Hope International University. He is currently completing his Ph.D. at Rosemead School of Psychology. His areas of interests include marriage/romantic relationship, trauma, psychodynamic therapy, and missionary/member care.