The One Thing You Must Know to Make Your Marriage Last
The one thing you must know to make your marriage last is how to stop fighting over petty things and take the higher road. It’s so painful when I sit and listen to the couples I coach going round in circles, fighting over the smallest things. I can see this takes a tremendous emotional toll on their individual self esteem and on the relationship.
Couples who are able to choose their battles wisely and frequently take the higher road experience what psychiatrists call Positive Sentiment Override. Even when they have a misunderstanding, these couples are quick to override their negative thoughts with positive ones and give their partner the benefit of the doubt. Most couples are in a state of Positive Sentiment Override when they first meet. But when disappointments mount and issues don’t get resolved, many couples find themselves falling into a state of Negative Sentiment Override. This is where everything their partner says or does—whether negative or positive—seems suspicious.
Some people have a hard time believing what I am about to say, but for the past thirteen years, my husband and I have been in an almost perpetual state of Positive Sentiment Override. This isn’t blind luck. Both Benjamin and I had been in very difficult marriages in the past and we wanted to learn from our mistakes. So, we each did a great deal of therapy and other self-improvement courses before we met.
Some of the most powerful work I did was when I participated for several years in an intimate, transformational group with Don Miguel Ruiz, author of “The Four Agreements.” (If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it.) When I first met Miguel, I was a member of the walking wounded—guarded, sensitive, and hyper-vigilant. While I resonated with all four agreements, the one that changed my life was “Don’t take anything personally.” This agreement was my e-ticket to a killer relationship. For months on end, I focused on mastering this one skill. Every time someone said or did something that upset me, I would remind myself not to take it personally. If I found that I couldn’t just let an issue go, I would ask myself the following series of questions:
1. What is getting triggered in me?
(fear, insecurity, anger, feeling helpless…)
2. How am I using this situation against myself to make myself a victim?
(When my husband came home and went straight over to pet the dog before kissing me, I told myself that I don’t mater to him.)
3. What fears or insecurities are coming up for me?
(I have been struggling to take off the 10 lbs. I put on over the holidays. I am afraid he won’t be attracted to me if I don’t lose it.)
4. What is it that I want from this person?
(I want my husband to tell me it’s okay, that he loves me no matter what. I want him to make me feel safe and secure.)
5. Can I do something for myself instead?
(I can make sure I look my best. I haven’t been taking care of myself because I’ve been feeling so down. I could get some new clothes, have my hair done…)
I asked myself these questions whenever something someone else said or did upset me. Eventually, I was able to manage my own reactivity and stop making everything about me. The next time your partner “makes” you mad, try asking yourself these five questions. This simple process can help you start taking responsibility for your own emotional reactions so that you can stop taking things personally. Try it! It really works! These days, my husband teases me and says, “You do ‘Don’t take things personally’ better than Don Miguel!” I don’t know if this is true, but I like the sound of it What I do know is that Benjamin and I cut each other a lot of slack and we almost never fight over petty details. When it seems like he’s annoyed or frustrated with me, I remind myself not to take it personally.
I tell myself that Benjamin loves me and he’s just tired or hungry or anxious about something at work… which is usually the truth. I also trust that, if he’s really upset with me about something, he’ll tell me.
You might think you’re doing everything in your power to take the higher road and let things go, but your partner is continuing to pick fights. If this is the case, you might need to seek out the help of a professional coach to help you communicate better. When I coach couples, I often find that one partner thinks she’s giving the other partner kind and loving feedback, but I can hear the subtle—or not so subtle—ways in which she’s being condescending or critical. Recognizing these behaviors in ourselves can be challenging because we’re too close to the situation.
It’s a given that, when two people live in close proximity, they are bound to get on each other’s nerves from time to time. So, if you want a harmonious, everlasting relationship you need to become a positive spin-doctor, let the small things roll off your shoulders, and take responsibility for your own emotional reactions. If you can choose your battles wisely and take the higher road whenever possible, you will be taking a huge step towards making your love last a lifetime!
If you are struggling with a partner please feel free to set up a complimentary couples consultation to see how I can help you. There no reason for you to keep hurting each other. I can give you tried and true techniques to help you listen and communicate in a whole new way! Click here to schedule an appointment: