It’s almost the end of National Marriage Week, and since marriage is one of my favorite things ever, I had to get in on this.
One of my gurus, John Gottman of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus (solid book, 10/10 would recommend) talked quite a bit about the relationship ratio. For any relationship to survive, the ratio of positive to negative interactions, comments, thoughts, etc., should be 5:1. I took that to heart, and I’ve been sitting pretty high on my laurels lately, thinking “I’m the best at this relationship business. Get on my level, folks.”
Enter my new favorite marriage guru: Dr. Greg Popcak. He posted a piece on Patheos today about “tending the fire” in marriage. Now he says that if you want romance to thrive in your marriage, that ratio needs to be closer to 20:1. Oy vey. I have some major work to do.
A few posts down on my newsfeed, I came across “The Truth About Those Sappy Valentine’s Day Facebook Posts”. Nobody’s marriage is perfect, was the takeaway, and I can get behind that statement, but then I read this line: “I am guilty of posting about my husband on social media… from time to time, I have thrown up a post about how hard my husband works, how much he sacrifices for his family, and how grateful I am to have a partner like him.”
I spat out some kombucha doing a violent double take (yeah, I brew kombucha now. I’m so hip.). Hon, you feel guilty for posting about how great your husband is? That’s just…. no.
The problem isn’t with too much praise, but with too much comparison. Yeah, it can get nauseating, and I have blocked people from my newsfeeds for this, when twice a day every day a bf/gf pair post #soiinlove photos and sappy videos of cutesy cartoon animals snuggling. That is just plain obnoxious. But authentic affection between spouses is not something that I will get annoyed by, even if it is a little staged.
Come on, what parents don’t deserve a little staged romance every now and then? Go them for making an effort to keep that romance alive! Show me those flowers he bought! Let’s see that amazing dinner she cooked! Heck yeah, you guys look totes adorbs!
I get that it’s easy to look at those sappy posts like the greener grass over the fence, but what if we looked at them as a reminder to, oh, I don’t know, water our own grass? When we stop and think, we all really are aware that there is no such thing as a perfect marriage. Every husband has bad habits, every wife can be annoying now and then. (sheepishly raises hand) But that’s why we need to focus on the things that are good in our own marriages!
The relationship ratio works because what we focus on shapes our perception of reality. When we focus on the socks next-to-but-never-in the hamper, or the dirty dishes in the sink, that is what we’re going to keep noticing. There’s plenty of husband bashing and wife bashing (sometimes it feels like a competitive sport) that happens in mommy gatherings (and I suspect poker nights too). I’ve seen wives try to outdo each other with their petty marital frustrations. It becomes an avalanche of all the things she or he does wrong. But when we focus on the good memories, the sweet things they do, and the positive qualities, that is what we’ll see more of.
There are definitely times when marriage isn’t perfect, and we need to talk to someone about it. That’s good and healthy, and in a time of a serious crisis, it’s absolutely necessary. An outside perspective can work wonders. But everybody you know and everybody they know on the internet is not who to talk to when you need to find a solution.
Go ahead, be sappy! Online, offline, and not only on Valentine’s Day but every day! If people get annoyed, encourage them to acknowledge the positives in their own marriages instead of putting down your joy. Don’t ever feel bad for letting people see how much you love your spouse, and how wonderful you think they are.
Tell me some awesome things about your spouse in the comments below!