Successful Marriages Are Built on Positive Little Moments
by Caty Long
Mother Teresa’s words to “do small things with great love” resonate in a particular way in marriage. A recent article from the Institute for Family Studies, based on a report from the University of Texas in January 2017, explores the relationship between martial satisfaction and regular positive interactions.
The study gave nearly 200 newlyweds (married less than six months) a series of surveys over a three-year period that assessed positive experiences in their relationship, negative behaviors between the spouses, and the couples’ overall marital satisfaction. It found that couples who have far more positive than negative interactions, however “mundane,” have happier marriages and higher marital satisfaction. Drawing from the work of Dr. John Gottman and others, the researchers noted that interactions between spouses can be likened to a bank account: positive interactions are like making a deposit, while negative interactions are like withdrawing money.
Having more “an internal storage of positive feelings, as a result of positive interactions with one’s spouse, bolsters overall marital satisfaction. With more emotional capital, spouses are “less vulnerable to negative experiences,” such as occasional criticism, impatience, and other marital conflicts. These findings echo the “magic ratio” of Dr. Gottman, who believes that the most stable marriages consistently have five positive interactions for every one negative interaction. Positive interactions can be anything from shared leisure time, smiling when one’s spouse comes home from work, or a simple expression of appreciation.
While no marriage is completely immune from hard times, intentionally treating your spouse with love and respect no matter what can strengthen and sustain the quality of your relationship over time. An understanding of emotional capital and communication styles can also be a vital tool for pastors, counselors, and other family life ministers as they seek to help married couples live out their vocation.
About the author
Caty Long is a first year Master of Theological Studies student at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute and currently an office assistant for the Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth at the USCCB.