Monday, November 7, 2011

An Experiment in Marital Relationships - The Good Heart

A friend said she and her husband stopped telling each other what to do, and their relationship is so much better.


My wife and I do that a lot, too. "Get off at exit 202, then go to the stop light and turn right." Uh, I knew that. Been there dozens of times.

Or I might say, "When you clean out the litter box, double bag it, OK?"

Maybe we should stop telling each other what to do, too.

Then I thought, but we mean well. We're just trying to keep each other safe, or make good things happen. If we stop saying these things, then what?

So I suggested, "I've got an idea. You know, we tell each other to do things with a good spirit, not a mean one. Why don't we try this. When I tell you to do something, just say back to me, 'You have a good heart.' And when you do it to me, I'll say the same thing."

She agreed to try it. And then something happened we didn't expect. It happened in three phases....

Phase 1 - Whenever one of us gave the other instructions, the other said, "You have a good heart." But soon saying "You have a good heart" came to have an ironic meaning. It seemed to express, "You're still telling me what to do when I don't need the instruction." The kind intention wasn't felt.

Phase 2 - After a still longer while, we both started to realize that the other really was saying these things with a good heart. We were just trying to make something good happen. With a good heart.

Phase 3 - After we said it often enough, we started to acknowledge the reality of our good intentions. So we stopped saying it. We just thought it. She has a good heart. He has a good heart. And believing it.

Man, when I signed on for marriage all those years ago, I didn't appreciate how much creativity, people skills, and work would be needed to maintain a harmonious, loving relationship!

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2011. Building Personal Strength . (Permission to use image purchased from

1 comment:

Sarcastic Bastard said...

Marriage is THE HARDEST thing in the world.