Thursday, 4 August 2011

Are You Making Deposits or Withdrawals?

John Gottman
John Gottman is one of the pre-eminent clinical psychologists working in the area of marriage relations. His studies are often quoted as some of the most reliable studies in the area of marriage. He contends that in the best of marriages the ratio of positive interaction verses negative interaction is five to one. That is in a given day for each time a spouse feels overlooked, ignored, hurt, or in some other way devalued by his/her partner they must have five positive behaviors to make amends. Christian authors often use the analogy of a bank account when talking about this subject. A positive comment or action is like a deposit in ones account while a negative interaction is described as a withdrawal. Thus you must strive for five deposits each day for each withdrawal that is made.

A recent posting by Mort Fertel entitled “Creating Positive Memories for a Happier Marriage” captures the importance of maintaining a positive balance in one’s emotional account quite well.

Make five deposits
When people reflect on how their relationship is with their spouse, they draw on memories. If someone only remembers arguing, conflict, and lack of communication, the person is going to feel as though their relationship status is poor. If you determine you have a bad relationship, you are less likely to work on the relationship and less likely to expect it to be anything but bad.

However, if someone recalls many positive, fun memories, the person is more likely to describe having a healthier relationship. This can be helpful so that during tough times, the person is more hopeful and is willing to work harder.

Your attitude about your relationship impacts your marriage on a daily basis. If you feel as though your relationship is unhealthy, you are less likely to respond positively when your partner makes a request. You are also less likely to give positive affirmations to your partner. You are also less likely to try and get your needs met in the relationship. These sorts of problems can create more difficulty within the marriage.

Creating positive memories does not have to involve expensive and extravagant vacations. Instead, it might include going camping for a night, taking a walk, going for a canoe ride, hiking in a park, or even working on a home improvement project together. The goal is to enjoy each other’s company while doing something that is memorable.

Take turns finding ideas of activities you can do together. Consider the time and money that you spend doing these activities together as an investment in your relationship. Positive memories will add up to create a healthier marriage over time and give you a reason to work through the difficult times that are bound to occur in any marriage.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Islands of Clarity

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
Psalm 27:13 NASB

Dennis Rainey, of Family Life, provides some very good advice in his “Moments with You” blog. I like the specificity with which he has called out a plan that should help to keep partners feeling connected. Even with six children they made the time to adhere to this schedule. It can be done it is just a matter of priorities.

Barbara and I have long enjoyed the benefits of carving out time together as a couple. It was something we committed to early in our marriage. Even with six kids and all the natural activity that ensued, we pretty much stuck to our guns, and everybody reaped the benefits.

For us, these became islands of clarity--stolen moments when we chose to set aside the rush, distractions and noise of life long enough to reflect and hear from God. Here are three tips for finding uninterrupted time to help you regain perspective in the midst of the family circus:

Do it daily. The mere fact that you're reading this book tells me you understand your need for at least a few minutes each day to square up and seek the Lord together.

Do it weekly. I've been telling people for years about Barbara's and my selecting Sunday night as our sacred time to grab a booth at our favorite cozy little restaurant, The Purple Cow, and sync up our schedules. We have seen God supply answers as we talked about the children's school needs, various discipline issues, major purchases and other elements of our marriage relationship.

Do it twice a year. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, but we found that squirreling ourselves away without the kids helped us clear our heads and renew our sense of partnership and purpose. Many couples use the Weekend to Remember as an annual getaway to refresh and refuel their


Marriage often resembles a shootout between Siamese twins--two people joined together at the hip but fighting to control the direction they go. Islands of clarity are good places for the two of you, not just to sign peace treaties, but also to chart a course for the future and build romantic fires as well

What marriage wouldn’t benefit from charting a course for the future and building romantic fires on a regular basis?