I recently discovered a podcast called What Makes Love Last? which captured exactly what I needed to hear at the moment about love, life and relationships.
Last Sunday was our 3rd year wedding anniversary, so it was good timing to hear tips from Dr. Gottman, a relationship guru on love or in other words, how not to let your marriage tank. Apparently, what makes love last isn’t always the far-flung trips abroad. Nor the expensive jewelry or even the five star restaurant meals. Quite simply, it’s the every day humdrum of life: the words of appreciation for picking up takeout and the thank yous for vaccuuming even if your partner’s turn to do it. A big part of this is “turning towards each other” and really taking an interest in his life like listening to a problem and showing empathy without always wanting to jump in there with a solution.
Why do these things matter?
If these small acts of love are peppered throughout the day to build the “emotional bank account”, then when conflict does happen, all that love capital acts as a buffer. In other words, we are going to be much more loving and kind to each other even when arguing and then it’s easier to ‘repair’ the relationship. But if there’s a zero balance in the emotional bank then, well, the claws come out and it just isn’t pretty.
Did I mention we just had a baby this year? Although we adore our new daughter Claire who is truly a joy, life has changed completely for us: sleepless nights, cranky conversations about poo / diapers and lots of stress and uncertainty about how to navigate life with a new baby. Moments like these can make it hard to be loving to each other. I can see now how divorce rates skyrocket during a couple’s first year of having a baby. So lately we’ve been trying hard to follow Dr. Gottman’s easy tips: showing appreciation for making dinner, saying thank you for taking out the garbage even if it’s the person’s turn anyway. And listening to his passion that may not necessarily be mine like his enthusiasm for archery and Genghis Khan’s conquests. (Ask me anything about Genghis and I’ll tell you!)
One of the best tips I ever heard was from my friend Jenny who has two boys and she shared this: connect together as a couple for a few minutes when coming home after work. This is so important to do because it’s easy to rush into questions about the baby, laundry and who picked up milk. Jenny recommended a connection area like the foyer but in our tiny 2 bedroom NYC apt, the three foot radius behind the front door next to the coat rack will do. Every evening, when we come home from work we try to hug, connect, ask questions and listen before we enter into a flurry of our usual evening activities with the baby. So simple, yet it’s not always done.
We don’t have all the answers and I’m baffled at how hard it is to manage our lives as new parents without falling apart. Sometimes I look at other couples on the subway and wonder how they do it. Dr. Gottman mentioned that the divorce rate is too high in the U.S. because people give up too easily. Perhaps the idea of trying hard is insurmountable to many when actually the little acts of appreciation every day make a huge difference between staying together and growing apart. I’m leaning more towards making our love last. Here’s to another three years!