We all understand how important it is to know that your spouse will be there to support you during the hard times. Having someone to rely on in difficult times gives couples a sense of security and confidence in their marriage.

In fact, many a couple has come undone in the aftermath of a crisis for precisely this reason – just when their life seems to turn a corner for the better, one or both spouses quit the marriage because the other failed to support them sufficiently in their time of need.

But being around in the tough times is only part of a long-lasting marriage. As it turns out, happy couples not only know how to tough it out together, but they also know how to make the good times count.

The Power of Optimism

Research from the positive psychology field* has demonstrated that the way spouses respond to positive events is possibly even more important to marital satisfaction than how they respond in tough times. When a spouse gets a promotion or enthuses about a new experience, a sour response is a killjoy that, if habitual, can become a weight that smothers an otherwise good marriage.

In contrast, the ability, or the willingness, of spouses to encourage and celebrate success with each other amplifies the positive emotion in the relationship, creating a strong sense of team identity. No one enjoys being around someone with a pessimistic, negative outlook, especially when the negativity transpires as petty jealousy towards the other or morose self-pity.

An optimistic outlook, on the other hand, helps one to notice the blessings in one’s life and to be grateful for them. They generate a positive energy cycle that ‘attracts’ more positive interactions; not only are these couples less likely to get overwhelmed when difficult times surface, but they’re also less likely to fall into blame and arguments about it.

Optimistic couples have learnt that passion and joy in marriage is not always spontaneous but it can be, and needs to be, cultivated. Our hearts long for companionship in both the sorrows and joys of our lives.

When couples stand at the altar, most don’t anticipate that the bad times will be as bad or as frequent as often experienced. But what really sets happy couples apart from the rest is not how well they handle their misadventures, but how well they celebrate their triumphs.


*More information: Shelly L Gable, University of California, Santa Barbara, 2006. A supportive response from a spouse to cheerful statements, was more strongly associated with higher relationship satisfaction than a sympathetic response to negative news. This suggests that how partners respond to good news may be a stronger determinant of relationship health than their reaction to unfortunate events.

Originally published at SmartLoving. Photo by Gustavo Fring.

Published On: December 20th, 20230 CommentsTags: , , , , ,

About the Author: Byron and Francine Pirola

Married for 25 years, with 5 children, Byron & Francine Pirola are the founders and co-authors of the SmartLoving Series – marriage enrichment and marriage preparation courses designed to help build successful and resilient marriages. International speakers and authors of numerous articles on marriage, more than 3000 couples have attended their programs, workshops and conferences in Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain Byron & Francine are Executive Directors of the Marriage Resource Centre from which they run SmartLoving programs and produce digital resources. Francine graduated from Fordham University with a Masters in Religion and Religious Education. Byron is a founding partner of the strategic consulting firm, Port Jackson Partners Limited, and a Director of both listed and unlisted companies. He holds a PhD from the Commonwealth Centre for Gene Technology, Adelaide University.

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