Author note: This is one of a series giving a sneak peek into what I discovered about what makes happy marriages so happy! After years of nationally-representative research with more than 1,000 couples, I reveal the twelve most important little habits in The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big Difference. See www.surprisingsecrets.com for more!
Secret #7: When you and your mate experience hurt feelings and conflict, it is important to mutually reconnect by sharing a private signal that says “We’re okay.”
When it comes to marriage, how you end a fight is just as important as how you avoid one, because disagreements are inevitable.
So many of the highly happy couples who shared their stories with me said they had their own secret language when it came to saying “I’m sorry” and “we’re OK.” One of the reasons many couples went from troubled to strong in their relationship, was this mutual reconnection after hurt feelings. These signals don’t necessarily mean the problem itself has been resolved; but they signal that in spite of the problem, the relationship is OK.
What were these signals? They ranged from a basic statement (“Are we okay?” “Yes, we’re okay.”) all the way to silly little private-language elements that would only make sense to them. Some husbands and wives touched pinkie fingers, some had a funny phrase they shared that make the other person crack up, some had great make-up sex, but almost all of them had their own way of reassuring each other their relationship was still strong.
In case you’re wondering if just “moving on” without making up has the same effect, well… 70 percent of the happy couples sent these signals (usually without realizing it was so important!) where only 22 percent of the so-so or struggling couples did. It makes a difference. It also makes a difference if we are willing to receive a signal, not just initiate it. Letting your partner make up is a critical path to happiness in your relationship, too.
So if we want to be happy in our marriages, we need to be willing to give the “all clear” signal and be willing to accept it. When it comes to marriage, things are definitely not better left unsaid.
From Chapter 8 of The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, by Shaunti Feldhahn.