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Monday, September 09, 2013

how to give your marriage a "high five"...

The high five is very popular in our family. A high five is given when my kids do well on a school quiz or assignment, in a baseball or football game, or after picking up their room or doing their laundry (without being asked).
Whether it’s the high five, the fist pump for germ phobs or fancy hand shake complete with tricks, the high five gesture is very popular. Not too long ago, I took the time to research the history of the High Five. I had no idea how it started:

In October 1977, it was the last game of the season for the LA Dodgers. Three players on the team already had at least 30 home runs and Dusty Baker was just one short. Baker hit a homerun which made the Dodgers the first team in history to have four players hit 30 HRs each. As Baker was rounding the bases and then touched home plate, Glenn Burke who was the next one up, thrust his hand enthusiastically over his head to greet his friend at the plate. Baker, not knowing what to do, smacked it. Baker said, "His hand was up in the air, and he was arching way back so I reached up and hit his hand. It seemed like the thing to do.” And as they say, the rest is history...!

As I looked deeper into the high five, I thought, “What does a ‘high five marriage’ look like?” My conclusion is a high five marriage is one that stays positive in all things and circumstances. A "high five marriage" understands that being ONE in all things is a marriage that remains solid and firm.
Bottom line is a high five marriage is one that stands on solid ground. As a daily reminder that your marriage is an important relationship, all you need to do is look at your hand and see what each finger represents.

Pointer/Index Finger:
The first finger to look at is your index finger, also know as your pointer finger. When you give your marriage a high five on a daily basis, you point towards a positive relationship over a negative one. Did you know that research shows that positivity has incredible benefits?
Here are just some:
  • Increases your life span
  • Lower rates of depression and distress 
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Better psychological and physical well-being 
  • Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease 
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
And what is one of the best benefits of building a positive marriage aka a high five marriage? It builds a stronger marriage and happy kids.  So, when you think about your pointer finger, always think, “We strive to point our marriage towards positivity!"
Ring Finger:
Your decision of commitment, through thick and thin, ups and downs, richer or poorer. It means just that “I’m in this”, “We Got This”, “Let’s stay in the game!”  The power of commitment and team is a necessary entity in your marriage. Commitment is not a one-time event. It's a daily process that helps you and your spouse immensely! It is essential to the longevity of your relationship today and beyond! When you think about your ring finger, always think, “WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER!”
The small things matter. We live in a world where we are busier, distracted by deadlines and obligations, and our attention in work and life is constantly in demand. As a result, our marriage suffers because we forget about the small things. If you go without the small things for any length of time, the relationship will eventually die!
Little things totally matter! High five your spouse by doing the small things. For example:
  • Buy a rose, tie, or T shirt of his favorite sports team. 
  • Weekly dates are crucial but if time is limited, do something twice a month. Twice a month is better than zero a month. For example, go bowling, miniature golf, or do wine tasting.
  • If you don’t have any money to spend, take a walk or hike together. 
  • If you have kids, set boundaries for them letting them know you have mom and dad time. Connection is key and it is sacred. You have to protect it!
When you look at your pinky, think, “The small things always matter!”

Middle Finger:
We all know what the middle finger represents… and it ain’t pretty. One of the main reasons we lash out on those we love the most is because we get too comfortable forgetting that they are human like you. Research shows that negativity has strong physical and psychological effects. Dr. Gottman, who is a psychologist from the University of Washington, created what he called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which are indicators of behavior that predict relationship distress. After 20 years of this research, it was determined that a marriage that takes on these four indicators on a consistent basis is doomed for marital destruction. They are:
1)    Criticism: This attacks the personality rather than behavior; blames. Criticism begins with You. Words like never and always demonstrates a criticism filled marriage.
2)    Contempt: Dr. Gottman says that most divorces happen at the contempt level. Contempt has the goal and intention to insult and psychologically abuse your partner. Worse, contempt takes on a facade of ‘just kidding,’ name calling, hostile humor, and mockery.  If a marriage falls into this level, the relationship moves quickly from bad to worse.
3)    Defensiveness: The third indicator is defensiveness. This means that the other spouse defends themselves after a feeling of being backed into a corner. A common defensive statement in a marriage is, “It’s not my fault. You were supposed to pay that bill, not me.”
4)    Stonewalling: The final indicator is stonewalling. This means the other checks out or withdrawals from the tension. On the surface, stonewalling looks like the right thing to do as it seeks to ‘be the better one and walk away.’ The reality is it is not healthy to respond to tension without responding at all. Interestingly, 85% of stonewallers are men. 

A marriage that demonstrates these four indicators on a regular basis is a relationship that unfortunately decided to check out long ago. Here a few suggestions on getting your marriage back to a high five state even when you don’t feel like it.
  • Find the core of the tension before it turns into a bigger problem down the road. 
  • Time outs are an important part of stopping potential dangers. 
  • Agree that each sees it differently. 
  • Be empathetic and put yourself in the other’s shoes. 
  • I’m sorry (without the BUT) can be a great, immediate conflict buster.   
When you look at your middle finger, ask yourself, “Is this fight worth the battle?” Believe it or not, keeping the fight going will hurt YOU the most, not the other.      

The Thumb, A Thumbs Up!: 
In a few countries, like Iran, Iraq and Thailand, for example, the thumbs is a very obscene gesture.  But most countries universally conclude that a thumbs up symbolizes ‘well done,’ ‘great,’ and ‘alright.’

In your marriage relationship, the thump represents stability and a good job! The thumb is an extension of the high five and we need a thumbs up all the time in our relationship! It will provide the stability, consistency, and steadiness all marriages need and want!

A marriage that celebrates a thumbs up approach is a relationship that is able to sustain those difficult times or frustrating moments. Take the better approach by always lifting up your spouse with words of encouragement and support rather than tearing each other down. Your tongue can be a vicious weapon or a breath of life. Choose the better approach and watch your marriage relationship thrive.

I hope that you can implement the high five into your marriage in a new way. And as you look at your fingers, ask yourself, “What am I doing today to make my marriage a high five?”  Creating a strong, successful marriage community is one that encourages and supports each other always. If any of you are doing something that makes your own marriage a high five, please share with the rest of us so we could improve our relationships even more. In the meantime, put your hand up and give a huge high five to your spouse

Rob Lane
Marriage Mechanic

Rob is proud that his wife Cara plays an instrumental part of what he does. They have a combined 20+ years helping individuals and couples with their relationships and marriages. Rob has a BA in Christian Education from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology and is an Online Psychology Professor for Grand Canyon University. Rob is also certified marriage counselors in the PREPARE/ENRICH program. He is a non-denominational ordained minister and officiates wedding ceremonies. Rob combines his experience and education along with his unique approach that is sincerely relational, empowering, hopeful, honest and compassionate. To learn more about Rob, The Marriage Lane and his approach read here.

*Lead photo created using the app A Beautiful Mess, available for sale here in the iTunes app store! Thanks ABM app for the creative tool!


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