Being the best partner — 02 December 2011
Idealize your partner to be happier in your marriage

Most disgruntled partners are quick to recite the faults of their mates as the cause of their own marital unhappiness. They maintain that if only their spouses were different or acted differently their marriage would thrive and they would be happier. Assigning the blame to the mate may be soothing but is ineffectual in making the marriage more satisfying.

It is very hard for any individual to be fully aware of his/her contribution to the level of displeasure within the marriage. Thus, it is natural to assign the blame for personal dissatisfaction to the mate. Usually, when one partner is unhappy, both spouses are discontented.

Research by Thomas Bradbury and Frank Fincham confirms and expounds upon the above clinical observation, “Distressed spouses locate the cause in their partner, see it as stable or unchanging, and see it as global or influencing many of the areas of their relationship, whereas non-distressed spouses do not locate the cause in the partner and see it as unstable and specific.”

In unhappy unions, irritations, frustrations and distress one has about a spouse’s conduct are viewed as permanent and unchangeable and are sometimes perceived as rooted in an intent to aggravate the receiver.

In happy matches, partners relish each other’s positive traits and justify or minimize annoying behavior as singular exceptions to a normally pleasing individual.

Researchers Sandra Murray, John Holmes and Dale Griffith found that, “ Lasting security and confidence appear to depend on intimates seeing the best in one another –overlooking each other’s faults and embellishing each other’s virtues.”

Yet, it is socially more accepted to complain about your mate than it is to sing his/her praises. The cultural myths about the trials and tribulations of committed relationships foster a sour view of marriage. Jokes, shared grievances and generalizations about the wows of marriage, are so frequently rehearsed that they are trusted to be universal truths.

Conversely, couples who are positive about each other and model healthy appreciation for one another are seen as a rarity. Researchers Lisa Neff and Benjamin Karney, in “Self-Evaluation Motives in Close Relationships,” assert that, “How intimates view one another has been linked to both the satisfaction and the stability of a relationship.”

In order to view your spouse more positively, all you need to do is remind yourself of the thoughts and feelings you first entertained about your beloved when you first courted. All these admired, superior and desired attributes are still there. To uncover them, you need to recall them and treat your spouse as the precious being who possesses them all in an intact form.

To be happier in your union:

  • Consider the notions about the inevitable misery in marriage as pure myths and  disrespectful  to you and your spouse.
  • Assert the right to have the happy marriage you deserve by being positive about yourself, your mate and your union.
  • Reaffirm your admiration for your partner and emulate his/her wonderfulness.


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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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