Do New Things Together: as helpful as Marriage Counseling

May 14, 2010 by

A recent New York Times article by Tara Parker Pope, author of The Science of a Good Marriage, explores fidelity research and the commitment or “fidelity gene”.  Marriage counseling has long sought to prevent affairs. Pope concludes with the concept of Self-Expansion as a kind of commitment glue. The idea is pretty basic, sounds obvious ¬ to keep your marriage healthy and successful, do new things together, so you don't have to switch partners to find excitement and stimulation.

Pope suggests that, “… it may not be feelings of love or loyalty that keep couples together. Instead, scientists speculate that your level of commitment may depend on how much a partner enhances your life and broadens your horizons…”  This concept of enhancing on another’s horizons is called self-expansion. Valuable relationship tips can be found in Pope’s article, The Science of a Happy Marriage.

Marriage counseling researchers used a series of questions to measure this quality and have the couples perform various silly, fun and novel activities together.  They asked couples:  How much does your partner provide a source of exciting experiences? How much has knowing your partner made you a better person? How much do you see your partner as a way to expand your own capabilities?

Marriage Counseling asks you to examine your own behavior first

Although we enter a relationship because other person expands us, we must also take personal responsibility to do our share of the expanding. In Imago therapy we would ask you to reflect upon your contribution to expansion. Ask yourself the questions that the researchers asked the couples:

How much do I provide my partner a source of exciting experiences?

How much has knowing me made my partner better person? How much am I instigating fun, affection, learning, love and adventure?

How much do I offer my partner ways to expand their own capabilities?

Marriage counseling researcher, Dr. Arthur Aron states that enhancement is why people who fall in love stay up all night talking and it feels very excited in one another’s company. “We think couples can get some of that back by doing challenging and exciting things together.”

Look at your contribution to enhancement and take positive action.  Be careful not to say, “We never do ________anymore!”  Instead say, “How about we do ____________ this week?” Take the initiative and use this relationship tip to refresh your connection.

The full article can be found at this NY Times link. To find more relationship tips visit our website, where you will find free resources, marriage counseling specialists and marriage education.