In the previous article from the “Being a Jerk” series, we talked about the Love is Blind phenomenon by Dr. John Van Epp. The head and heart knowledge idea that he created helped us understand why we have certain thoughts about our partners. In this article we will be learning about how he says we can fix are negative feelings about our relationship and spouse. We will also be talking about his idea to help couples who are experiencing premarital dating, and also us, to figure out how we can grow closer to our spouses. There are five categories that he has made that summarize his extensive research.
The first category is Compatibility Potential. Van Epp says, “The balance between the similarities and differences of personality, values, and interests between you and this person – in other words, how you “fit together.” If you are struggling in your marriage or have an interest to be closer with your spouse, this is a great one to follow. What do you and your spouse do together that both of you enjoy doing? What are your similarities? How well do you get along while at home and in your routine? What do you do together to blow off steam? Try to find answers to all of these questions. If you don’t have answers then try out new things together. You can work out with one another, go on walks, play board games, or cook. Make sure that you have your hobbies, but also find hobbies together! This will make you two grow stronger because of the quality time you spend with one another.
The second category is Relationship Skills. This means, “Communication, openness, and conflict management and resolution.” How are your relationship skills? Can you and your spouse have a nice conversation or quick chat? Do you hold grudges and block progress after an argument? Are you truthful and honest with your spouse? Do you keep secrets? If you feel that you can work on some of these questions it would be better for you and your relationship. Try hard to strengthen your communication. Listen, don’t just hear your spouse. Let them talk without interrupting them. Try to understand how they feel instead of assuming you already know what they are going to say. Give them space when they ask for it. Tell them the truth and remember the standards you two have created in and for your marriage. Practice listening by asking about their day or what the plans are for the weekend. Repeating back to them can also help train you to remember what your spouse says!
The third category is Patterns from Other Relationships. This is what Van Epp’s definition is, “Relationship patterns from both romantic and nonromantic relationships.” How did your spouse treat their past interests? How do they treat their parents, siblings, friends, and strangers? How do you treat those people? This can be a good indication whether or not you and your spouse are friendly or nice. If your spouse treats the waiter nicely that can be a good sign. Or how you treat your spouse can tell whether or not there is room to work on it. There can always be more room to be nicer to your spouse. Make them feel safe when they are around you. Refrain from calling them rude or cruel names. Don’t let play fighting be taken too far. Treat your spouse how you would want to be treated.
The fourth category is Family Patterns and Background. Van Epp says, “The quality of the parental marriage and the family’s expression of affection and emotion, development of roles, and interaction patterns.” Basically, how was your spouse raised? Do they communicate through gifts, service, touch, time together, or words? How do their parents communicate? Learning more about your spouse and their family can help you understand how to better get along with them. Try to pick up on the little things they do. Do they clean when they are upset? You could try cleaning to help them know that you are paying attention to them and their needs.
The last category is Character and Conscience Traits. He says, “The emotional health and maturity of conscience.” Is your emotional health strong enough to be married and take on the responsibility? Are you and your spouse mature enough to depend on one another during hardships and struggles? Are you willing to sacrifice things you like for the betterment of your marriage and relationship? These are things to contemplate and consider. There is no better time to make yourself better and greater to help your marriage. Think things through and discuss them with your spouse. Ask them if there is anything you can work on and find out your weaknesses. Take those weaknesses and make them into strengths to benefit your life.
These are all great thoughts to consider frequently throughout your life together. Like I mentioned before, these were originally meant for those who are not married yet, but they work so well with those of us who are married. There is nothing bad about going back to the basics. We want our marriages to work and maybe all we need to do is go back to the beginning. Learn, talk, and spend time with each other. Purposely try to work together and in the same direction. There is no better feeling than knowing you have your best friend by your side through everything!