Recently the American Psychological Association reported the latest findings on what makes love last in a marriage. The results of one series of studies by Shelley Gable and colleagues were particularly interesting because they were unexpected. They invite speculation and application.
Responding for Better and For Worse
These studies revealed that although we need our partners to be there for us during the “worst” of times, it is our partner’s positive responses to the “best” of times that we receive best and remember most.
Adding to this and surprising is the finding that our partner’s responses to positive events directly contribute to the perception that our partner will be available in the worst of times-regardless of the specifics of their actual support during those times!!
How Do We Explain This?
It seems that context matters. Crisis, be it the aftermath of surgery, the lost job or family problem, makes giving and receiving support challenging and more complicated.
In difficult life situations, a partner’s attempted or enacted support is often not well received or not perceived as helpful for a number of reasons:
Missing the Mark
“ You should know that I didn’t want any visitors.”
“ I didn’t know what soup to get so I got a few…you don’t want soup?”
Can’t Work the Miracle
Negative View of Self
“ I can’t stand being pushed by you in the wheel chair in the airport!”
“ It doesn’t make me happy to realize that you now have to pay all of our bills.”
The Challenge of the “ Worst of Times”
Clearly, despite the efforts, giving and getting partner support at the stressful times is not easy.
The worst that can happen is for a partner to give up with the thought “ I can’t get anything right.”
The Potential of the “ Best of Times”
According to the studies cited above, when partners shared a positive event compared with sharing a negative event, they were significantly more thankful, and they felt significantly more gratitude, support, admiration and less resentment toward their partner. Why?
Easy to Share and Easy to Hear
The Positive “ Halo” Effect
You may not respond perfectly when his job is threatened, but if you are really excited about the meal he just cooked or interested in his idea to go out with some new friends—it really matters.
The Positive Roadmap
As difficult as the road may be, if a couple keeps affirming the positives each experiences along the way, they will increase their sense of well-being. They will trust each other to be there“ for better and for worse.”
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Last reviewed: 12 Apr 2013