Cheerfulness & Positive Reactions Contribute to Marital Happiness

Every couple has problems. But when it comes to problem solving within a marriage, remaining cheerful and pleasant in your outlook is crucial. Research suggests that even when your cheerfulness is combined with imperfect communication skills, it’s “far more predictive of keeping your partner happy than being a grump who somehow manages to say or do the right thing.” (From an article entitled “Will you be there for me when things go right? Social support for positive event disclosure” in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.)

The problem is, it’s tough to remain cheerful with the person with whom you can most “be yourself.” I used to see my hubby’s number on the caller ID and sometimes answer the phone in a stressed out or rushed voice if I was feeling that way. (However, if a client called I always answered in a cheerful voice.) At some point in recent years, I realized that error and began to make an attempt to answer his calls with a cheerful comment instead, which set the tone for a nicer conversation, even when I needed to express a stressful day at a later point in our talk.

It’s even more challenging to remain cheerful or positive when you’re trying to work out a problem, but I can see how staying upbeat would be more beneficial than choosing the perfect wording to state my point.

The study described in the article cited above focused on positive events and emotions, and concluded our response to our partner’s good news is more important than our support during tough times or with negative news. Read Celebrate Good Times for a previous post on this topic. When romantic partners are supportive of positive disclosures (sharing something positive in your day), couples report being closer and more bonded. The effects are independent of the health of the relationship.

Reactions to good news should be active and constructive, conveying both confirmation of the event’s importance to your spouse and demonstrating your support. In other words, you validate them and show you know what is important to them. When you react in a passive or destructive manner, you demonstrate a lack of understanding for what is important to your spouse as well as a lack of caring.

The report’s conclusion gave me new insight on the importance of this issue. It suggests that because so many studies have focused on negative emotional experiences, such as conflict and jealousy, researchers have until now not realized how important positive emotional experiences are to a relationship.

The results of the present study indicate that feeling that your partner is there for you when things go right and that your partner actually being there for you when things go right play important roles in the health of relationships. Moreover, because our previous research has shown that individuals share news of positive events with close others at a very high rate, capitalization processes likely play a central role in relationship formation and maintenance. Indeed, positive emotional exchanges may serve as a foundation on which stable and satisfying relationships rest.

How do you respond to your partner’s report of their day? How is your attitude when you’re solving problems together? Being engaged and positive can enhance your relationship.

Photo Credit: ©

15 responses to “Cheerfulness & Positive Reactions Contribute to Marital Happiness

  1. Hey Lori
    Kudos on another good post
    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder

  2. So true—glad to have found your site!

  3. Great post! So wise to include being positive and cheerful to good news. As crazy as it sounds, raining on your spouses parade really does happen if you’re not mindful.

    I had to learn to act happy/cheerful/encouraging toward my husband anytime he gave me “good news” about his job. It was so easy to be sarcastic, to throw in an eye roll or a “I’ll believe it when I see it” comment because I had worked for the same company and we had such a long history of false promises. Finally, I realized that if my husband could be optimistic, why couldn’t I be as well? It costs me nothing and helps him get up and go to work everyday. Just that one little change in attitude opened up more conversations for us in such a good way.

    Great advice!

    • I agree. My hubby mentioned this has made a big difference to him, because answering the phone in a hectic way makes him feel like everything is not OK at home and makes him anxious.

  4. I just started reading your blog and wanted to say it’s all very good advice! I firmly believe in the positive effects of staying as upbeat as possible when interacting with your partner. What you said about making that very important choice NOT to sound stressed or angry when you speak on the phone, even if you are in the middle of something bothersome, is a great takeaway point, and something I try to remain mindful of. I also try to always greet my BF with positivity and hugs/kisses, and he in turn with me, even if we later unload to one another about stressful things or vent about our day. Great post!

  5. Positivity! So simple and yet so underused!
    As you stated in your latter post, we do it with our Kids, but we forget with our Spouses…*sigh*
    When will we learn? 😉

  6. This is an excellent post! We are far nicer and more polite to strangers than the people we are closest to in life. Ironic!

  7. Pingback: How to be Deliriously Happy in Under 60 Seconds « The Yoga of Living

  8. Pingback: Cheerfulness & Positive Reactions Contribute to Marital Happiness (via Marriage Gems) | RevDebi

  9. The one thing you can always control is your attitude. Spinoza

    On the other hand… 1) If you keep telling yourself it will get better next year – go to counseling. Time does not always heal deep disagreements about raising kids and money. 2) if the kids become the primary relationship rather than the marriage it’s time to go. Waiting for another person to change may require the rest of your life.

    *Take care of yourself so you can be there for the loved ones in your life. The loved ones may or may not be your spouse. I hear too many stories about people that want to get married and have kids only to find that the person that wanted kids was really looking for self validating friends. They didn’t understand that parenting is demanding. Kids are individual people in their own right and may or may not be here for parental satisfaction.

    The Cause: The rose colored glasses of courtship in the 20s has led to many failed marriages. It is common for men and women to marry what their mind’s eye sees as the mother or father they never had. This illusion puts unrealistic and often unknown expectations on the relationship. Start with that and then throw Madison avenue spin on the perfect American life and you have a recipe for the American Failed Marriage.

    The antidote: Love yourself in a healthy way and then be open for a mate. If I hear another “progressive” strong women say I got married and had kids with the wrong guy because my friends did and then go into a negative rant about men in general, well – that’s when she has lost all credibility with me and I leave the table. Real men want real women that can think and take responsibility for their actions. It’s okay to make mistakes in love. But this “men are always wrong” movement is a cop-out.

    It’s about aligning your inner values with your daily actions.

    Gook luck – it’s a tricky one.

  10. Pingback: Cheerfulness & Positive Reactions Contribute to Marital Happiness (via Marriage Gems) « Why is marriage so hard?!

  11. Great Post! and I agree with all the pieces of advice this book author has provided!

  12. sorry!!!! i thought I commented on your freshley pressed article,my mistake..

  13. Pingback: 4 Tips to Strengthen Relationships with Your Children « Moms with Grace

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