Your partner sits down to dinner and bursts out, “I got promoted!” Your next words matter more than you think, and “That’s great, honey” won’t cut it.
Most of us make a big effort to be supportive and helpful when the you-know-what hits the fan, but research shows that the good times matter too. Shelly Gable and colleagues have shown that how you respond when your partner has a good day can increase love, commitment and intimacy, while decreasing your risk of divorce—all with a few simple words.
Here’s the easy tweak that can save your marriage:
Let’s rewind to that moment when your partner announced the promotion. If you responded with, “That’s great! You really deserved it,” then you probably think your duty’s done. But that’s actually not the best response.
Enter a concept called “active constructive responding”—a simple technique for responding to your partners’ positive news that’s proven to improve your marriage.
An active-constructive response is understanding, validating and caring, and invites your partner to share details about the event, particularly how he or she felt about it. It communicates enthusiastic, engaged support and shows your willingness to share in your partner’s success.
You might say, “That’s so exciting! What did your boss say when she told you?” You can ask what they’re looking forward to, whether they expected to get it, how their day-to-day work will change or how their co-workers responded.
An active-constructive response—in contrast to a compliment like “You deserved it,” leaves your partner more satisfied and brings you closer together. By asking questions or spurring further conversation, you show your engagement and encourage your partner to relive the event. As a result, you understand their experience and you actually help them to remember it better, boosting their positive feelings.
Next time your partner has a great day, use it as an opportunity to strengthen your marriage—active-constructive-style.