Will We Still Be Together in 4 Years?
In the late ’80s/early ’90s, John Gottman published the findings from his study about what causes a great marriage. John Gottman was able to predict with 94% accuracy if the couple would be together and happy in 4 years using the ratio of positive interactions and negative interactions. A couple with 5-1 positive interactions to negative interactions has a 94% chance of being together and happy in 4 years. Those who have a lower ratio have a 94% chance they won’t be together and happy after 4 years. If this study is accurate, will you still be together and happy four years from now based on your positive-negative interactions with your spouse? Negative interactions can be as minor as the little annoyances of leaving dirty dishes in the sink. Then, there are significant issues involving aggressive communication when one spouse doesn’t get their way. Unfortunately, over time, the things that seem inconsequential once or twice, when repeated often, can compound and lead to negativity patterns in the marriage.
Let’s face it, we aren’t exactly living in a world that feeds us messages of positivity. When we become immersed in negative noise from sources like news, social media, binge-watches, or well-meaning melancholy friends, our thoughts and attitudes can become shaded by pessimism. Believe it or not, all of this negative input eventually spills out on the people closest to us, particularly our spouse. In fact, Jesus tells us in Luke 6:45 that “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” If that’s not enough to convince you, if you have young children, take some time and listen to them. We bet they sound just like you because you are the voice they hear most.
So what do we do if we have trended toward more negative than positive interactions with our spouse? We have to be proactive in turning it around! The best first action to take is to silence all the external adverse noise coming into your life. This may be tough at first because it may cost you something. You may need to take a break from social media, turn off the TV, or disengage from people who tend to discourage you or feed negative thinking.
But it’s not enough to simply remove the negativity. The real change happens when we replace it with positive. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing, and perfect will”. (Romans 12:2) We replace the noise with the truth. We have to consistently exchange the world’s negative pattern with the truth found in God’s word if our thought patterns are going to change for the better.
You may be wondering how we jumped from negative interactions with our spouse all the way to the idea of renewing our minds with God’s word. The truth is, we will only move toward positivity in our relationships when our heart is filled with good things. Once our minds are renewed, our negative interactions will be exposed, and our hearts will have the desire to turn the tide. You’ll be surprised at how the Lord nudges you to exchange rudeness for kindness, annoyance for patience, aggression for gentleness. Then, look for ways to create fun, positive interactions. Be intentional about dating each other again. Remember what it was like to enjoy spending every spare moment together when you were dating. The Lord desires for you to enjoy each other and encourage each other. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “therefore encourage one another and build one another up.”
Proverbs 18:21 tells us that “the tongue has the power of life and death.” Every harsh, sarcastic, critical word we hurl at our spouse exhales death over our relationship. Alternatively, we breathe life into our marriage with every utterance of kind, loving, encouragement. The prayer over our relationship and yours is that we will intentionally seek to build our spouse up with life-breathing words and actions. This will give us the best chance possible to ensure we are together and happy in four, fourteen, even forty more years!
Enjoying the Adventure,
Daniel & Bonnie