Hi everybody. Welcome to spring on this gorgeous April day in 2021. As our city locks down once again we are forced to remain home, to continue to work from home, take care of home schooling, the stress of managing our finances, layoffs, etc, etc etc. As we all struggle to remain sane and optimistic, I’m sure this pandemic can continue to take its toll on some of our most significant relationships as we are spending more time with each other at home.
Today I want to offer a few simple words of advice I just happened to stumble upon from Harriet Lerner, a PH.D who wrote a number of amazing books on relationships. Simply put, she talks about remembering the good ole days when dating our spouses focused in on all of each other’s positives, which made each other feel loved and chosen. Where we tended to overlook the negatives during the courtship.
She says, once people are coupled up, the more this selective attention flips. Now we automatically pay attention to what we are critical about, and that is what we notice and speak to. We tend to fail to notice and comment on the positive. She says to try to focus on a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions (marriage expert John Gottman’s formula for divorce prevention). This also works for parent/children, siblings, best friends and such. Even a 2:1 ratio to start will help.
It’s plain that from both Church teaching and solid research that “love” is more about doing than it is about feeling. It’s a choice and behaviour much more than a feeling. We’ve all heard this before. When you do love though, that is when you will feel love.
She says that as we try to create these 5 positive interactions to 1 negative, we will find our marriages and relationships growing stronger and healthier. It sounds simple enough, like a cliche actually but I think it may be true nevertheless. How we treat each other makes all the difference in the world.
Little positive interactions will help us avoid what Harriet Lerner calls the Katherine Hepburn mistake. She said “If a lady wants to give up the admiration of many men for the criticism of one, go ahead and get married”. What’s the cure for the Katherine Hepburn mistake? The secret of little things and the 5:1 ratio.
You can also call the love bank the law of the harvest. As Saint Paul writes, ” Make no mistake…a person will reap only what he sows…let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up”. (Galatians 6:7, 9). Very simply we will reap what we sow.
For marriages, and even for our lives, the application of this rule is simple: If you want more of something, give it away. If you want more love in your life, give it away. If you want more joy, give away more joy. And this is especially true in marriages.
There is widespread belief that if you have a sold self-esteem you don’t need affirmation and praise from the outside. Harriet Lerner says this is completely untrue. If we can’t find much that’s positive to speak to in our partners, we’ve lost perspective. All of us have some goodness and strength even if both partners have forgotten to notice and comment on them.
Remember, that we can communicate interest, generosity and love in nonverbal ways, as well as words and language. A simple gesture – a hand on a back, a nod a smile – can make a person feel seen and cared for. Especially during this time of lockdown over the next few weeks.
A little “Food for Thought” from Harriet Lerner to help us all stay close and connected. Enjoy the sunshine everyone and be kind to one another. Until next time.
Love MJ xo