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.
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