Wednesday, 23 June 2010

How Full Is Your Marriage Piggy Bank

There have been a number of studies that indicate that we tend to keep a mental set of accounts when it comes to our marriage. It is as though we keep an emotional check book, making withdrawals and deposits, depending on the behavior and attitude of our husband/wife. One of the leading marriage researchers, John Gottman, contends that to have a satisfying marriage we need to maintain a five to one ratio, i.e. five deposits(positive interactions) for every withdrawal (negative interaction). Other research indicates that it is the little things that tend to destroy a marriage over time, i.e. the little habits that are a recurrent source of irritation. A more precise account for what is happening is found in James 4:1.

Deposits are those attitudes or behaviors that are positive, affirming, encouraging and bring a sense of security and joy. These are behaviors that make us feel love or respected. (Ephesians 5:33) Withdrawals on the other hand are behaviors and attitudes that erode trust, discourage us, frustrate us and rob us of joy. These are behaviors that make us feel unloved and/or disrespected. When withdrawals exceed deposits you have a negative emotional flow, just like you have a negative cash flow when expenses exceed income. There really is no overdraft protection and the interest you have to pay back once you get behind is exceedingly high.

We can declare emotional bankruptcy, i.e. call it quits and get a divorce. This has a huge cost, one that is often grossly underestimated. We can cut expenses, hunker down, and make the best of our situation. This translates into settling for less, living parallel lives, becoming roommates and co-existing. Or we can decide to work our way out of debt, get a part time job, and cut up the credit cards. This means figuring out what has brought about this emotional deficit and consciously choosing to make changes.

Dave Ramsey, world renowned Christian financial guru, suggests that you pay off your smallest credit card balance first, not the one with the highest interest rate, which may seem counter-intuitive. To apply this principle to marriage might mean that you tackle the easiest things to change, resolve the smallest areas of dispute first. Don’t start with the most contentious of subjects or the behaviors that are so ingrained that it would be easier for Congress to pass a health care bill approved by all Americans than to effect such a behavioral change.

If we increase our deposit attitudes and behaviors and decrease our withdrawal attitudes and behaviors we will have a positive balance. Creating a positive balance contributes to a happy marriage.

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