I’ve heard we need to “bank” ten positive experiences for every one negative to keep a marriage alive. In my marriage, my husband and I have the opposite pattern of communication. I’m wondering what to do about it. Do you have any advice for me?


Unfortunately, you’re experiencing what many couples experience — ten negative experiences for every positive one. In fact, many have even worse odds or undergo seasons of conflict with only a few  minutes of true connection. Is it any wonder marriages dissolve at horrific rates?

Scripture complements this thought: “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26). Clearly God didn’t design us to be in perpetual conflict with each other. Rather, we’re designed to live in harmony with each other: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live in peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).

Of course, peace or conflict often depends on us. It takes two to tango — or tangle. There cannot be a fight unless we join in the fray. If we refuse to participate in conflict, we go a long way toward creating harmony.

But, back to the idea of “banking” positive experiences. It’s not enough to live in harmony or to avoid conflict. It’s not enough to stop fighting. You must take active responsibility for creating joy and contentment in your marriage. Here are some ways to do that:

Take responsibility for the emotional climate in your marriage. Don’t leave it to your mate to make you happy or to make the marriage wonderful. You must go out of your way to make sure you enjoy each other’s company. Set aside time, talents, and treasures to ensure your marriage stays healthy.

Deal with issues in a timely manner. Issues left unresolved are like cancer untreated. Take time to talk to your mate and to resolve your issues. If you cannot do this on your own, seek professional help.

Stop harboring grudges. Resentment has been described as “re-sending” old grudges. We chew and brew on issues. We rehearse how we’ve been wronged. We “play the victim” and contemplate how the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. However, we are not victims; we are part and parcel of the issues within our marriage. So become the healthiest you can possibly be — and that means letting go of grudges.

Bring peace and happiness with you into the home. Be a peaceable, positive person. Come home every day with a smile on your face and a readiness to have a healthy, happy encounter with your mate. In short, happiness is contagious. If you’re healthy and happy, chances are good your mate will respond favorably to you.

Catch your mate doing things right. Everyone responds to positive energy. Catch your mate doing things right. Compliment him or her at every opportunity. Let them know you’re happy to be with them. If times are tough, reflect a positive attitude about “getting through it together.”

Appreciate your marriage. Be thankful for the mate God gave you. Your marriage is no accident. God can and will bless your union if you call upon him. Know that God is available to help you. Honor your marriage; be thankful for your mate.

In summary, you have a responsibility to “bank” positive experiences. One positive experience after another leads to a happy marriage. Even if you’ve come through a tough time, begin today to practice these steps. You really can shorten the times of pain and lengthen your intervals of joy.

I’d like to hear your thoughts and welcome your reactions. Contact me at drdavid@marriagerecoverycenter.com. I encourage you to read about our programs at www.marriagerecoverycenter.com.

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