This article was originally published on familygoodthings.com. It has been republished here with permission.
Did you know there is research suggesting that it is not necessarily the stressor itself (unemployment or illness) but, rather, how we respond to the disappointment that has the largest influence on our marital satisfaction? For instance, there is research documenting how certain couples coping with the husbands' cancer were still able to see their marital happiness improve even amidst the trial.
Other research demonstrated how some couples were able to avoid drops in marital satisfaction even while experiencing the heart wrenching trial of the death of their child.
Why were some couples in these studies able to thrive notwithstanding difficult challenges while other couples struggled under such trials? The answer, at least in part, is "resilience."
Let's consider the need for resilience within the context of the marriage relationship. Have you ever disappointed yourself or your spouse by your behavior? Has your spouse ever disappointed you? Have you experienced unexpected financial challenges? Have there been health issues in your family? In short, have you had, or are you currently experiencing, unmet goals or frustrated expectations? I believe the answer to at least some of these questions has to be "yes" for all of us.
How do we react to disappointment?
How do you respond to the adversity of failing or to the adversity of succeeding at a slower pace than you desire? Do you easily give up? Do you beat yourself up with negative self-talk ("What made me think I could accomplish this goal?", I am not as talented as others?", "I knew I wasn't strong enough?"). Or, to prevent future disappointment have you quit setting goals? While, I suspect, we have all been disappointed as we fall short of our goals, please recognize that these responses to adversity (negative self-talk and apathy) are toxic and can even reduce our marital satisfaction.
Thomas Edison – King of Failure?
I have always been touched by how Thomas Edison reacted to failure. Do you realize that he had approximately 10,000 failed attempts before successfully inventing the incandescent light bulb? That is incredible to me. At some point (probably multiple points) he had to be tempted to throw in the towel. But, he didn't. In fact, Edison is credited with saying, "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." Wow! So, how can someone like Edison continue amongst so much failure? What trait or characteristic did he possess? I would suggest that the answer is resilience (in Edison's case, "extraordinary resilience").
I encourage you to strive intentionally for increased resiliency both individually and as a couple. The good news is that resiliency is closely related to agency. In other words, we choose how we will respond to adverse situations (including tough times during marriage). Remember, strong marriages are formed, in part, by their ability to weather the storms of life. Trials and challenges will come to every marriage. But, how we respond to the "bad weather" will greatly influence our ability to achieve marital bliss.
Rob Stewart has taught marriage classes at BYU-Idaho for the last decade and is a co-founder and contributor at familygoodthings.com. He is also the author of the popular new eBook "3 Things You Can Do Today to Create a Ridiculously Happy Marriage."