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
- When one partner is in crisis, the other shares in the distress so both are actually in crisis.
- Many people in the face of anxiety, pain, and frustration, find it difficult to know, much less communicate, what is needed. Even if a partner wants to help—often he/she doesn’t know exactly what to do.
- Given their closeness and expectations, partners often assume the other should know what they need, or resent the other for thinking that they know.
“ 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
- Very often loving partners have the need to work a miracle and relieve their partner’s pain. The failure to work the miracle can leave both stressed.
- Often the helper falls into the trap of trying to solve the partner’s problem rather than just listening or just being there. The helper often feels unappreciated-the other, unheard.
- Sometimes in the relentless attempt to help, a partner can miss the …