If this is true, we should expect disappointment in our relationships. If we fail to plan for disappointment in marriage, the surprise of such disappointment can be enough to send a relationship into a downward spiral. How does one balance this potentially cynical mindset and yet cultivate a healthy hope for a loving marriage?
It can take an avocado tree anywhere from 5 to 13 years to begin to produce fruit. Naturally, we don’t expect to water it once in the morning and see our first avocado in the afternoon. If this were the expectation we would be let down regularly, and there would be no such thing as guacamole (my favorite)! Relationships are no different. The care we put in now will show itself later, sometimes much later. Likewise, negativity will produce its fruit in due time.
While nourishing a tree over time can eventually produce good fruit, poisoning that same tree will get you immediate results. It will wither and die. This is why creating a healthy marriage is difficult to do. The love we put in can be absorbed - over time, but the toxicity we bring to a relationship is absorbed now! Not only is it immediate, but it can powerfully block love from being received. To make matters worse, it’s quite common to have good intentions and yet poison the tree accidentally when we’re having an off day, or tired or “hangry."
Creating a healthy marriage requires intentionality and effort. This is because in marriage there is no middle ground. You are either for your spouse or you are against them. There is no, “I’ll wait and see if s/he is for me.” You must decide to give nourishment (love) or you will decide to self protect (poison).
Positive Sentiment Override
Renowned marriage expert Dr. John Gottman talks about positive sentiment override. His research suggests some good news. We can create a healthy perspective of ourselves for our spouse by having at least 5 positive interactions to each negative interaction (5 to 1 ratio). In doing so we can create a stable and happy relationship. This means that the neutral or even negative comments we sometimes make can bounce off of our spouse because of the positive and healthy foundation we’ve established for our relationship. The bad news is that negative sentiment override is also a potential reality - the neutral comment can be absorbed as bad, if it lands on the toxic foundation we’ve established. Our words are so important. How we use them with one another will determine whether we produce a relationship that gives life or death.
Josh Grover LMHC