One of the interesting facts is, that pound for pound, ponies are stronger than horses. Certainly not as large as horses, but stronger for their size.
In his book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work,” Dr. John Gottman presents the four horsemen of what can destroy a long-term relationship.
Those horsemen interrupt and disrupt healthy communication and include a progression from slights to slams.
The first horseman trots along from complaint to criticism, which puts a negative spin on a partner’s mistakes or shortcomings.
The second horseman turns the criticism into a gallop with contempt – ill will that builds upon a mistake and makes it into a personal deficiency that is a personal failure.
Contempt is associated with sarcasm and cynicism – like saying, “You’ll never be any good,” or “You? You really think you can be smart?”
The third horseman adds a joust to the run through defensiveness. The partner responds with equal force defending his or her behavior or belief.
The final horseman brings the entire relationship to a screamingly silent halt through the practice of stonewalling, where the verbally abused partner completely withdraws from the other.
It’s like the four horses ran wild until they came to a cliff – and then everything stopped with no place to go.
The trot, gallop, joust, and cliff become a dead-end that often leads to a separated life and divorced presence.
Dr. Gottman prescribes an antidote to stop the four horsemen from even considering going out for a ride together.
The antidote reins in the criticism and contempt by developing a ride based on fondness and admiration.
The prescription is easy to do, and it takes work. The good news is that work is much less complicated than galloping to a cliff and a dead-end relationship.
Developing fondness and admiration is a practice of kindness and respect. It starts with believing that your partner has an inner beauty that flows from being created in the Divine Image.
That inner beauty is like a treasure chest of three jewels, the emerald of being, the diamond of doing, and the ruby of relating.
Admiring that inner beauty is seeing the shine – the brilliance and sparkle in a partner.
It takes a discovery process – like mining gold ore, or diamonds in the rough, or an amethyst in a geode.
The discovery process takes time and inquiry –seeking answers to the questions:
“What is so lovely about my partner?”
“What traits or characteristics does my partner have that are so attractive?”
“What unique things of my partner fascinate me?
Each person has a unique set of traits, characteristics, intelligence, personality, and potential – rough or refined.
In the book, Dr. Gottman recommends a seven-week course of “sharing the shining” with your partner.
The process is straightforward. Go through a list of traits and circle the ones you have observed in your partner.
Dr. Gottman recommends that you start with three and write down when you saw that trait in action.
For example, your partner might be loyal to her only sibling, a younger brother.
She writes and sends him a birthday card, Halloween card, Thanksgiving card, and Christmas card every year. She sets up a phone call once a week to touch base.
So, if you are her husband, what does that tell you about her?
The criticism steed would say, “She’s spending her money on her brother that she could be spending on me or our lifestyle.”
The admiration pony would say, “How thoughtful she is! Her brother is so lucky to have a touching message from her several times a year. How many sisters ignore their brothers all together?”
So, who wins? The steed or the pony?
I’ll place my money on the pony, who wins in the long race of life.
Writing treasuring notes based on admiration honors the treasure of being.
Much like Dr. Gottman’s prescription of fondness and admiration, writing a treasuring note communicates what is good about a person’s traits and includes a bit of evidence.
Often, we are busy enough in life that we don’t reflect on the fleeting moments where we can shine to others.
We don’t live in a mirror, so when another person takes the time and love to “share the shining” in writing, it becomes a valuable part of our identity and history.
If we let that happen, that is.
There is always a choice to make about generosity.
Generous to me or giving to others.
I think it turns out that being generous to your spouse others comes back to you in the long run of life.
When you start down the admiration path, your imagination won’t run wild with negative thoughts about others.
No, your spouse will mean more to you – and the relationship you travel with is a treasure you can’t buy.