Heighten Love by Capitalizing

When your spouse tells you some good news, how do you respond? Shelly Gable, an assistant professor of psychology at UCLA who studies what makes marriages great, discovered that the way you react matters a lot. When a husband or wife tells some good news to their spouse, the spouse's reaction can raise the husband's or wife's mood, or lower it.

Gable divided the possible responses into four categories. For example, if your spouse told you s/he just got a promotion at work, you might respond in one of these four ways:

Enthusiastically: "That's great, Honey! You're on your way!"

Negatively or critically: "Are they going to make you work longer hours?"

Positive, but subdued: "That's nice."

Uninterested: "Did you see they finally opened the new Macy's on 8th Street?"

When you typically respond enthusiastically, as opposed to any of the other ways, studies show it makes a big difference in how satisfied your spouse is in your marriage, how committed s/he is, and how in love s/he is with you.

And, of course, if your spouse is more satisfied with your marriage, is more committed to you, and more in love with you, that'll really raise your mood, and that's why I'm talking to you about it.

This is something relatively simple you can do that may bring a lot of good results. The reason this particular bit of research struck me so forcibly is that my wife (Klassy Evans) responds this way (enthusiastically) every time something good happens to me or for me. And, what do you know? I feel totally committed to her, completely satisfied with my marriage, and deeply in love with her.

Gable's studies dovetail with research by John Gottman, who studies couples in his "love lab" and has found that married couples make many small "bids for connection" with each other and he can predict with a lot of accuracy which marriages will last and which won't simply by looking at how each spouse responds to the bids.

A spouse can turn away, turn toward, or turn against a bid for connection. Of course, spouses that turn toward each others' bids (respond positively and with attention) will have the most successful marriages.

So what are you going to do? Would you like to have a more satisfied, committed, loving spouse? Try capitalizing and see what happens. Try turning toward your spouse's bids for connection as often as possible.

Learn more about Gottman's work on "bids" in his book, The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships.

The moral to this story is clear: If your typical response is not enthusiasm, a simple way to make your relationship better is to pay attention to those moments, and heighten your response to them.

Adam Khan is the author of Slotralogy and co-author with Klassy Evans of What Difference Does It Make?: How the Sexes Differ and What You Can Do About It.

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