There is a popular funny YouTube video by the Eh Family depicting how couples brush their teeth before and after marriage. Before marriage they are both the picture of perfection to each other with dreamy music playing in the background they gaze at each other with love and admiration and the boyfriend spontaneously produces a rose to offer to his girlfriend and she accepts while gazing at him lovingly. After marriage we find the same couple brushing their teeth in their robes, looking unkempt, tired, and making loud gagging noises barely noticing each other.
We watch this video and laugh - as we laugh at so many other jokes and comedic skits that poke fun at how full of fondness and admiration couples are at the beginning of their relationship and how this shifts into something quite different than fondness and admiration with time. The famous one liner by Henry Youngman, “Take my wife -- Please!”. Or Wanda Skyes skit entitled “Till Death Do Us Part” where she describes that the problem with being married for life in modern times is people live too long now and goes on to reflect that you stay together until one day you look over and say, “I see you got up today. You should start smoking.” Is there an inverse relationship between time married and the level of fondness or admiration you have for your spouse? Is the loss of fondness and admiration for your partner an inevitable part of marriage?
When my wife and I were receiving pre marriage counseling, one of the points we reviewed and discussed was that it was possible to deepen fondness and admiration throughout your marriage rather than letting it dissipate over time. Some of you may be questioning this idea. Is fondness and admiration something we can really control? Or perhaps it is just part of the euphoria of “being in love” and it is bound to leave us over time.
The truth is fondness and admiration is one of the key factors that distinguishes happily married couples with those that end up in divorce or in unhappy marriages. Marriage research also backs that it is possible to cultivate fondness and admiration over time. In direct contrast research also shows that contempt, sarcasm, and disrespect are some of the most potent predictors of unhappiness and divorce in marriages. So while the jokes and skits related to marriage may be funny, if you find that your marriage lacks fondness and admiration - it is no laughing matter. It is for this reason that we spend an entire module in our marriage course/workshop on how to cultivate and sustain fondness and admiration. To start here are three tips you can try.
Tip 1: Create a ritual with your spouse that will help to cultivate fondness or admiration. Two family rituals that my wife and I do most morning centers around breakfast and her leaving to work. I make breakfast most mornings. At some point my wife usually says something like, “Thank you for making breakfast. It was delicious.” I respond, “I made it with love.” Another ritual occurs when my wife leaves to work. She usually lists 4 or 5 hopes she has for me that has to do with whatever I may be preoccupied with at the time. For example, if I am preoccupied with completing a writing deadline for work she would mention that she hopes that my writing goes smoothly, but even if it does not that I feel okay about that too. After she goes through her hopes for me we kiss and she leaves for the day. Creating rituals like this are great ways to cultivate fondness and admiration.
Tip 2: Start a gratitude practice and include your spouse as part of it. Gratitude is a habit of the mind and practicing it on a regular basis can help train our minds in experiencing the world and others with gratitude. The alternative for me can often be experiencing the world and others with a complaining cranky mind. So I have a gratitude journal where I write about the things I am grateful about in my life, I make a conscious effort to include something about my wife or our marriage I am grateful about. I keep this practice fresh by focusing on specific something that I am grateful that has occurred recently when writing in this journal. For example, this morning I expressed gratitude in my journal about some shared folders my wife created for us on google drive so we can more easily work on our blog articles together. While gratitude is a great practice to do on your own in a journal, you can also share with your spouse too. Do not be stingy about letting your spouse know how something they did was helpful to you. Combine your gratitude with some physical affection, like holding hands, and some loving words for a great one two three combination.
Tip 3: Avoid using contemptuous sarcasm or disrespect words or gestures. One of the four horsemen of the apocalypse when it comes to marriage is contempt and it is also the most powerful predictor of divorce. Do not tell your spouse they should take up smoking!
What do you want your marriage to be like in 5 years? Do you want it to be filled with fondness and admiration? Couples can be proactive in cultivating and sustaining these most important attributes into their marriage.
Bonus tip: On a side note I encourage you to watch the “Brushing Bloopers” at the end of the Eh Family video. Humor and making each other laugh is a great way to cultivate fondness for each other.
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