Tip #26: When you and your mate experience hurt feelings and conflict, mutually reconnect by sharing a private signal that says “We’re okay.”
When it comes to marriage, it turns out that how you end a fight is just as important as whether you avoid one. Because in any marital union – just like any other true friendship or great partnership –some disagreements are inevitable!
As I studied those in happiest marriages, I was fascinated to see something they did quite differently than those in good or so-so marriages: they had their own private way of signaling “I’m sorry” and “we’re OK.” In fact, one of the reasons many couples went from troubled to strong in their relationship, was this mutual reconnection after hurt feelings!
If you’re looking for a way to take your marriage from good to great, think about this: have you and your spouse ever shared some silly little word or action that told both of you that “we’re making up?” If so, next time you are trying to recover from conflict or hurt feelings, and you want to make up, try to do that same thing purposefully and see what happens. See if your spouse catches on and does it back – and does it the next time! Even if it takes longer than you would want, keep trying to signal that reconnection on your end.
Sharing that mutual signal doesn’t necessarily mean the problem itself is resolved – in my research, the problem often wasn’t resolved yet! — but it means that in spite of the problem, both of you know that the relationship is OK.
You might wonder what the signals were, that I kept hearing about as I studied these happy couples. Here’s the fun part: they were all over the map, which is why you have to come up with your own!
I heard about everything from explicit statements of reconnection (“Are we okay, honey?” “Yes, we’re okay.”) all the way to silly little private-language elements that would make no sense to someone else but said something powerful to them. Some husbands and wives touched pinkie fingers, toes or foreheads, some had a funny phrase they shared at just the right moment to 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 with you, rather than holding on to hurt, is just as vital on the path to happiness in your relationship.
So be willing to give the “all clear” signal and be willing to accept it. When it comes to marriage, some things are definitely not better left unsaid!
Join us next week as we help women understand why taking care of their appearance is important to their husbands.
From Chapter 8 of The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, by Shaunti Feldhahn.
Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages and her newest, The Good News About Marriage. A Harvard-trained social researcher and speaker, her ﬁndings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Shaunti speaks regularly at churches, conferences, and corporate events. (Inquire about Shaunti speaking, or visit www.shaunti.com for more.)
The post originally ran at the Christian Post for Marriage Mondays.
Welcome to Marriage Mondays! Each Monday, join us here in the Book Corner as I share my top findings on the little, eye-opening things that make a big difference in creating great marriages and relationships. Today’s post is one of a series on what makes happy marriages so happy, based on nationally-representative research with more than 1,000 couples.