by Dr. Mike Ronsisvalle, for Florida Today
Let’s take a little marriage quiz to get a quick check on the status of your relationship.
Think back to the early days of dating and consider what it was like to date, fall in love, get married and live as newlyweds.
Did you guys have fun or did you fight often? Was he romantic and affectionate or did he struggle to know how to pursue you with passion? Was she a smart woman who kept you on your toes intellectually or did she make crazy decisions that created conflict often? The manner in which you answer these questions is incredibly important.
Research shows that the way you recount your early years of being together, both positive and negative, is about 90 percent accurate in predicting whether your marriage will succeed or fail. That’s a crazy statistic that demonstrates just how powerful the thoughts you have about your spouse and your relationship really are.
How you frame your spouse’s behavior and intentions toward you will create either a positive lasting emotional connection or it will plant seeds of doubt about your relationship that will most likely end in disappointment.
Every once in a while, I see the power of an individual’s thought about their marriage demonstrated right in front of me during marital counseling. I will often ask both the husband and wife during the assessment session to think about how they first met or to describe their first date. Then, I just sit back and listen because I know how they answer will tell me a lot about what’s going on in the relationship.
Many times, when I’m working with a marriage in distress, it will go something like this: one person will describe an early experience in the relationship that is full of positive memories and powerful sentiment while the other person will describe negative memories that usually assign blame or criticism to their spouse.
For instance, when describing a picnic the couple shared early in their relationship a wife might have the following memory. “Oh, he planned a beautiful picnic by the lake for our first date. I was so impressed because he packed delicious cheeses, a lovely bottle of wine and freshly baked bread in a lovely basket. He chose a gorgeous spot beneath a stately old oak tree for shade that was close enough to the water to throw crumbs to the passing ducks. But about 10 minutes after we arrived it started to rain. We got soaking wet running to the car. When we finally got in, we sat in silence for a few seconds shivering. He looked at me with mascara running down my cheeks and I looked at him with hair that was filled with a whole tube of gel now matted to his head, then we suddenly burst out in deep belly laughter. We made an instant mental note… check the weather report prior to a picnic!”
I’m pretty excited when I hear the wife’s description of their first date until the husband describes the same experience a few minutes later, “She planned a picnic by the lake out on Old Mill Pond Road. The mosquitoes were as thick as a blanket and she forgot to check the weather report. It rained cats and dogs, ruining my brand new tennis shoes. And to top it off, the car got stuck in the mud and we had to sit there half the night waiting on AAA.”
It’s the same story but instead of looking at the events positively… like the opportunity to talk and get to know each other while waiting on the tow truck and eventually having a great story to tell the grandkids… it’s nothing but negative. And that negativity is a reflection of a negative mindset this husband has attached to his wife that affect not only his view of their first date but also her behavior in the here and now.
So, let’s go back to the little quiz you took at the beginning of this article. What do you do if you think back to your early days with your spouse with a negative mindset?
Dr. Mike Ronsisvalle is a Licensed Psychologist and the President of Florida Counseling Centers, a psychological services agency that provides counseling to clients of all ages and addictions treatment to adolescents and adults. You can find him on the web at Floridacounselingcenters.com. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LessStressedLife/ Twitter https://twitter.com/MikeRonsisvalle