Tools for Couples Happiness — 18 August 2013
3 Strokes a Day

Most committed couples trust their love to carry them throughout their life-long relationship, knowing full well that marital success eludes as many as it rewards. The need to practice loving behaviors is rarely emphasized enough as a necessary conduct for securing a solid, mutually pleasing union.

 The couple’s vows “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part” affirm the emotional commitment under various conditions throughout life. It does not address the practice of loving behaviors necessary to maintain a solid union. Similarly, the marriage license, unlike most other licenses, requires no preparation, test, education or practice prior to attaining it.

 To achieve competence and mastery of any job, profession or task one requires training, education and supervision. The incredibly challenging task of marriage is left to the discretion of inexperienced and untrained partners. Some couples are more conscientious than others in seeking the training and guidance they need.

 When relationships become strained, each mate is inclined to find fault with the other’s personality, conduct or essence rather than holding himself/herself accountable for not practicing being the best spouse he/she can be.

 In “for better” Tara Parker Pope quotes UCLA and the University of Rochester’s research finding, “A husband or wife who had a silently supportive spouse scored poorly on measures of relationship happiness. Partners who enthusiastically responded to their mate’s good news were the happiest.” She concluded, “It is not enough that your partner knows that you take pride in his or her accomplishments. You have to show it. Making a fuss over the small, good things that happen every day can boost the health of your marriage.”

 Dr. Gottman’s research has long documented that for every negative comment one has to utter at least five positive ones to restore the relationship’s healthy equilibrium.

 Individuals’ self-esteem and emotional security are deeply steeped in the programming of their early childhood positive affirmations. We learned about ourselves through the depictions of us from parents, teachers, coaches and mentors. The self-assessment segment comes much later in life and is still other-dependent.

 The need to be told that we are worthy, capable and lovable never ceases. Yet, parental and partner’s practice of affirming us is often sadly lacking. Knowing that you are loved is helpful – hearing that you are cherished is essential to your emotional balance, self-esteem and wellbeing.

 In adulthood, the spouse becomes the most important enforcer of your self-esteem. I advise my couples that using “three appreciations a day – keeps the psychologist away.” I also recommend that the appreciations be accompanied by their pleasing impact upon you. “I love how well you analyze issues, it enriches me greatly.”

 Practice your loving behaviors:

  •  Enhance your love with verbal affirmations of your mate.
  • Vocalize your pleasure about good events affecting your spouse.
  • When disenchanted, spur yourself to be more verbally affirming and positive about your spouse.








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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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