How Love-Hacks can give your marriage a tune-up
To fix a truly troubled marriage takes much effort and commitment. But, many marriages or relationships just need a tune-up. One psychologist, Dr. Eli Finkel, calls these “Lovehacks” in his new and very well-researched and well-thought-out book “The All-or-Nothing Marriage: How the Best Marriages Work.”
Lovehacks provide an efficient method for keeping our marriages afloat during challenging or busy times. There are times when we simply lack the ability or the motivation to make hefty additional investment, and there’s no shame, says Dr Finkel, in doing little things to make the relationship a bit stronger than it would be otherwise.
Lovehacks, according to Dr Finkel, have three defining features. First, they don’t take much time – which is crucial for today’s very busy and stressed couples. Second, they don’t require any coordination with, or cooperation from, our spouse. This is very important in those marriages wherein one partner is working harder or is more motivated than the other to resuscitate things. Third, they don’t require a major change or shift in expectations as many other marital therapy interventions do.
Love-Hacks fall into two major categories: those focused on countering weaknesses in your marriage and those focused on savoring strengths.
Lovehacks focused on countering weaknesses in your marriage
Marriage research clearly shows that how we think about and behave in conflict-relevant situations in our marriage is the factor that most reliably distinguishes successful from distressed marriages. As Dr Finkel says, some reactions are like a can of kerosene, others like a bucket of water.
Lovehack #1-Give your partner a break.
Practice perceiving negative behavior differently. It isn’t what they do as much as HOW YOU REACT AND INTERPRETE WHAT THEY DO that causes a problem – or not! Psychologists call this “attribution.”
For instance, your partner is late getting home from work causing you distress. To what do you attribute his lateness? Here are some possibilities:
- He is late because he is a thoughtless jerk
- He is late because he forgot to look at his watch at work
- He is late because his crappy car broke down again
- He is late because he got stuck in traffic
If we’re confident that our partner is, by and large, a decent person who want to do well by us, we should make attributions that give him or her the benefit of the doubt.
Lovehack #2-Reinterpret conflict.
Using this lovehack, spouses think about a conflict in their marriage from the perspective of a neutral third party who wants the best for all involved. This helps both partners gain perspective of the conflict with high empathy – so each can see the issue from the perspective of the other.
Lovehack #3-Adopt a growth mind-set about marriage.
You have a wide latitude in considering whether problems in your marriage are fixable. People with destiny beliefs think that partners either are or are not “meant to be.” They view conflict and other problems as indicators that they are simply incompatible with their partner.
On the other hand, people with strong growth beliefs think that partners can cultivate a high-quality relationship by working and growing together. So they are willing to try and fix things more when inevitable conflicts occur.
Lovehacks focused on Savoring Strengths:
Lovehack #6-Cultivate gratitude.
Gratitude serves as a “booster shot” for romantic relationships. Research shows that people who experience elevated levels of gratitude also experience stronger relationship commitment and are less likely to break up.
Lovehack #7-Help each other celebrate life’s achievements and successes.
When you respond to your partner’s positive life events in an enthusiastic, celebratory way, ask questions about it and show positive emotion about it, love often grows between you.
Lovehack #8-Affectionate touch.
This lovehack is particularly promising for helping our partner look at us with new eyes. Touching our partner makes them feel more loved by you and more secure in their relationship with you.