The Marriage Hack

What if I told you a way to sustain the quality of your marriage could be done in 3 chunks of 7 minutes of writing three times a year..21 minutes to ensure your marriage doesn’t deteriorate? Would you do it?

Sounds too good to be true?

I love life hacks…simple strategies that can make a measurable difference in one’s daily life.

It’s sorta like how holding a specific body posture for 90-120 seconds can empower you to act courageously by actually changing your body chemistry.

Yep, for reals…I’ve been doing the power posture regularly this fall.  This personal rule I created where I will not allow fear to have me turn opportunities down is mighty inconvenient, as I’ve been doing things that terrify me, regularly.  And you’ll find me using Amy Cuddy’s power posture in the car on the way over, off stage before I start, or even in a nearby bathroom stall before I move forward on a task.  And. it. works.  I feel more courageous, have less butterflies, and feel like I can speak out of my best self. It doesn’t remove my fear, but it does help it not to interfere.

So…this is a relationship hack. A way to halt any deterioration in your relationship…in satisfaction, love. trust…heck…it even sustains a couples’ sexual passion.

Sounds too good to be true?
It won’t take long, but it will take some courageous candidness…some ability to really look at a conflict in your marriage in a way that’s good for your relationship…but it will mean that you will have to give up feeling self righteous about it.

The facts:

  • the marriage relationship has more significance now than ever before.  Even though social media gives us a ton of shallow relationships, we actually have a lower number of meaningful relationships than a generation ago.  We rely on our spouses more with less relationships of significance
  • Folks with enriching marriages literally live healthier and longer lives with greater life satisfaction in general. They are less stressed, less depressed and generally happier with life.
Are you willing to stop blaming your spouse without looking at it objectively?  Can you contemplate how s/he might be hurting in it all, and how you may have played a role in how the whole conflict rolled out?
If I told you that it would change your relationship for the better, would you be willing to give it a go?


If you’re in a bit of a rush…start it at 10 minutes to get to the good part! 🙂

So…here it is written out.

1. Write about your most significant conflict/disagreement with your partner in the last month
2.a)Write about the conflict again from the perspective of a neutral third party who wants the best for everybody—for you and your spouse

(in other words, look at this from a larger perspective other than your own.  Develop compassion/empathy/understanding for the other’s perspective.  Remember that your spouse isn’t just a deliberate jerk, but has a set of frustrations/insecurities/failures/challenges/old wounds that make being a saint in all situations difficult)

b)What obstacles will you confront as you try to adopt this perspective?

(in other words, what might make having empathy difficult in situations as you move forward into further conflicts? How do your insecurities/frustrations/hangups/challenges/old wounds interfere with you being able to have benevolence towards your spouse?)

c)How can you surmount these obstacles?

(in other words, how can you develop strategies to deal with the factors that make compassion/empathy difficult?)

d) This is not in the video, but I think an awesome idea: Dare to carefully and vulnerably share what you wrote.

Take turns sharing what you wrote. Ask several curious questions. Acknowledge the courage and the fear and the heartbreak and whatever else you hear your spouse saying. Work to “make it right”. Ignore “being right”. Look to connect deeply with your spouse. Notice the effort and courage more than anything else.

Do you see what this is gonna do?

It’s gonna sting a bit as you think about this from a neutral perspective.  You’re gonna have to look at your own behaviour and how that matters.  You’re gonna have to see how your responses shaped the whole event, and the collateral damage that may have occurred as you defended your position.

What we’re talking about here…is how can you develop empathy for your spouse? Even in the midst of conflict, can you find compassion for your partner? How can you step outside of your position to also hold an understanding about what this is like for him/her?  How can you recognize that life is more than this immediate issue…that the conflict is part of the context of a relationship where two people have committed their lives to each other because of LOVE?

Your’e gonna have to think about what makes this hard to think about.  Now, to be sure…there is good reason why it’s hard to think about it from a neutral third party position.  Few people are unfair/mean/self centred/upset for no reason.

You’re gonna have to think about what you could do to deal with the barriers that make empathy, compassion and kindness difficult.

Bergen and Associates Counselling poster that states: “Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection - or compassionate action.” written by Daniel Goleman

That’s not easy, but it is worth it! It’s gonna take courage–but you got the stuff!

Couples that trouble themselves to answer these questions three times a year found that though they had just as many conflicts that were just as severe:

  • they were less angry
  • they were able to hold onto the “bigger picture” i.e. they are fighting with someone who loves them, and whom they love
  • they were less distressed by the conflict

Print this document six times…one for you, one for your partner now, for four months from now, and for 8 months from now.  Go on, put it into your daytimer on your Smartphone so you’ll remember to do it.

Isn’t your relationship worth it?

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