Maybe the folk idea about “love” has gotten marriage in trouble. The common knowledge is that 50% of marriages end up in divorce. Does the idea about love get us to marry but then it goes away?
Emily Esfahani Smith wrote an article about all the studies in the past years about marriages and healthy relationships to understand this concept. She noted on the important work of John Gottman and his 10plus year study of what makes a marriage work in his “love lab”. There are many concepts to learn form Gottman;s important study but Ms. Smith pointed to one of the most important ones. She stated “Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it’s not there. People who give their partner the cold shoulder—deliberately ignoring the partner or responding minimally—damage the relationship by making their partner feel worthless and invisible, as if they’re not there, not valued. And people who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them not only kill the love in the relationship, but they also kill their partner’s ability to fight off viruses and cancers. Being mean is the death knell of relationships.”
Wow! could meanness kill love? She may have answered this by later stating “Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from theirs has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved.”
Maybe it does not kill it but surely does not help couples show it. She added, “there’s a great deal of evidence showing the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to upward spirals of love and generosity in a relationship.
There are two ways to think about kindness. You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don’t. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle.” and it is something important for couples to practice and make strong.
Since we are human with emotions and flaws, the flaws actually come out when emotions run. So we are mostly unkind and mean when? Ms. Smith was right while pointing to “the hardest time to practice kindness is, of course, during a fight—but this is also the most important time to be kind. Letting contempt and aggression spiral out of control during a conflict can inflict irrevocable damage on a relationship.”
Ms. Smith added at the end what could help. She noted, active constructive responding is critical for healthy relationships. This means listening, turning towards your spouse and engaging in what ever the other brings.
Lets point to the last sentence in the article she posted: “As the normal stresses of a life together pile up—with children, career, friend, in-laws, and other distractions crowding out the time for romance and intimacy—couples may put less effort into their relationship and let the petty grievances they hold against one another tear them apart. In most marriages, levels of satisfaction drop dramatically within the first few years together. But among couples who not only endure, but live happily together for years and years, the spirit of kindness and generosity guides them forward.”
Going back to the initial question. Maybe Love does not go away, we fail to show it through kindness in the hardest of times.
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