The Value Of Time & Space
In a time where 1 in 3 marriages end in divorce, it is important to consider ingredients that result in healthier and stronger marriages.
If you are in a marriage, and your expectations of that relationship do not match your husband or wife’s expectations of the relationship, this results in marital dissatisfaction.
Unfortunately, couples tend to find out each other’s expectations during arguments. It is important that couples openly share their vision and expectations for their marriage or a regular basis. We cannot simply expect that we all value the same things in a marriage at the same time. One important example of an expectation in a relationship involves the amount of time spent together and the amount of time spent apart
Ground-breaking research by professor John Gottman demonstrated something significant about marital dissatisfaction. Professor Gottman studied more than 700 couples over 15 years of their marriages. His research found that it was not conflict that resulted in relationship breakdown, but a loss of closeness and core connection. When people feel connected and close to someone, their ‘love tank’ is full and they generally feel secure.
Research into human biology also demonstrates the human’s desire for closeness and connection. Humans are relational by design. Physical intimacy, such as hugging, has been shown to stimulates the release of a hormone called oxytocin into certain parts of the brain. This hormone has been referred to as the ‘love hormone’, since it has been associated with bonding between couples. In 2012, researchers reported that people in the initial phases of romantic attachment had higher levels of oxytocin, compared with non-attached single people. It seems like individuals have been hardwired to have time and connection with their partner. When we consider the research above, we can see why it is so important to nurture your marital friendship.
Just like nurturing and tending to a plant, taking care of your relationship takes effort and is an ongoing process. You need to be mindful of how you currently spend your time. Consider whether this lines up with your core values in your marriage. If you notice that you may be neglecting your value of having a strong core correction to your spouse, reconsider how you spend your time. One special ingredient required to nurture your marital friendship, is to spend intentional, quality time with your husband/ or wife. Spending quality time together may involve doing enjoyable activities together, relaxing or simply laughing together. During these times, it is valuable to share what you admire in one another and express what you like about the other person. This is also an opportunity to set shared goals and dream together.
In the same way that a plant needs good soil, water and sunlight in order to flourish, so too do individuals in a relationship need time for self-care to nourish themselves and their individual identities. As your relationship develops, it is easy to forget who you who you are as an individual. We tend to identify ourselves as a ‘couple’, rather than an individual person in a close relationship. We may also neglect the things that used make us who we are. Perhaps our passions, hobbies or even other friendships slowly dwindled away as they took second place to building a relationship. As important as nurturing a marriage is, you can’t nurture a relationship effectively in the long term if you are not nurturing yourself. Self-care is not selfish, it is self-preservation.
Taking the time to remember the things you value in other important areas of your life creates life balance. Consider what you value in other life areas such as health, career, spirituality, friendships and recreation. It is easy for your identity to slowly become “wife” or “husband”. This is not a bad thing in itself, however if this is the only thing you derive value and self-worth from, it may be unbalanced and even unhealthy to your marriage. Think about how good it feels when you are secure enough in your relationship (due to having a strong foundation) that you want to encourage (vs prevent) your spouse to have time away from you to invest in their friendships, passions and hobbies.
Whenever my husband and I notice that we have been irritable and/or arguing a lot, we can almost guarantee that we have been too busy leading stressful lives. Too busy to care for ourselves and too busy to connect with each other. When we lose our core connection, it seems that our natural default is to start arguing about minor things or to blow small issues out of proportion. What we have learnt over the last 10+ years of marriage, is to SLOW DOWN and to be mindful of tending to our relationship and caring for ourselves.