The December Evening for Married Couples, held on December 1, 2022, tackled the importance of daily positive interactions for building strong marital relationships. Father Eric Nielsen, LC, began his talk by referencing the research of Doctors John and Julie Gottman, a married couple who have spent the last forty years providing a research-based approach to strengthening relationships. Apparently, this couple claims that they can spend ten minutes with a married couple and predict with 94% accuracy whether their marriage will last or not. Their premise is that a couple needs to display a ratio of five positive interactions (such as a smile, a touch, a hug, or good eye contact) to one negative interaction (such as an eye roll, a mocking laugh, a cold shoulder, or not paying attention.) Since life is made of moments, relationships need the foundation of small, positive interactions to weather any big challenges that occur over the course of a lifetime. In addition to their 5:1 ratio, the Gottmans also identify four traits that are absolutely toxic to relationships. They call these the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” namely disrespect, criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling.
Using their research as a platform, Father Eric recounted a question he posed to a group of young men and young women when he was stationed in the Philippines. “Which do you think your date would prefer: a gorgeous display of two dozen roses or a daily rose on eighteen consecutive days?” Well, the young men thought their dates would love a big, impressive bouquet of twenty-four long-stem roses, while the young women noted that they would most certainly prefer one single rose given each day. The men were looking to make a big impression, while the women were looking for evidence of daily thoughtfulness. Father also shared the story of a businessman who had a demanding job and a large family of eight children. This man understood that a splashy two-week vacation with his family would not make up for his absence during the other fifty weeks of the year. Therefore, he was determined to be present for his children when he was home. Sharing that there is no such thing as “quality time,” this man focused on “quantity time,” and he reaped the benefits of that approach through his strong relationships with his children.
Ultimately, the takeaway from the evening was that all couples can take advantage of the many daily opportunities to do small acts of kindness towards each other and that these gestures will help strengthen their marriages. Saint Therese of Lisieux is the “go-to” saint for this since her motto is to “do small things with great love.” St Therese of Lisieux, help us find little ways to show our love every day.
Please join us for the next Evening for Married Couples, Thursday, January 5, 2023, at 7:30 pm at St. Paul Church, Greenwich.
Hope Hirshorn is the RC Director for the NY Tri-State. Hope has a M.A., M.Phil. and Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Fordham, a M.P.A. and A.P.C in finance from NYU, and a certificate in Marian studies from her time in London. She and her husband reside in West Harrison, NY, and are the proud parents of six children.