After making a massive amount of mistakes in previous relationships, meeting Bridget motivated me to look at myself (and relationships in general) and try to figure out what’s gone wrong in the past, what has worked, and try to unravel why couples act the way the do – even when they don’t want to.
This has made for an interesting journey – one I bet I’ll never finish – however it has unlocked some insights that I’ll post here over the next little while. I post them in the hopes that someone – maybe even you – might read an article, quote or post and have a light bulb switch on – one that explains what’s been happening in your relationship/s or your own behaviour (the good and the bad).
This leads me to the joy gap.
A joy gap is the length of time between moments of shared joy between partners in a relationship.
If falling in love is about joy (quite literally as falling in love floods the body with dopamine and oxytocin), then couples who stay in love throughout their relationship / marriage are couples who are able to keep their joy levels high. This would also make the opposite true: Falling out of love is the absence of joy in a relationship. The wider the joy gap becomes, the worse off the relationship becomes – until the relationship can feel hopeless – this normally sneaks up over time.
How do you close the Joy Gap?
Marcus Warner & Chris Coursey, authors of The 4 Habits of Joy-Filled Marriages, suggest making a “PLAN”:
Listen for Emotion
Play together is literally finding ways to have fun together. Laugh. Something that you both enjoy. To me, this can sometimes be the hardest part, because often you and your partner have different interests, hobbies etc, and the main thing you spend time doing is watching Netflix together. No matter what, don’t give up on this. Take cooking lessons together (or cook a new meal together), start martial arts, cycling, go to comedy clubs…. this is something I’d really like to hear your feedback on. What do you do? Or, what would you suggest others to do?
Listening for emotion – don’t problem solve. You’ll know me well enough that I’ve extensively studied emotions and behaviour – I can detect a slight twitch that reveals any number of emotional responses when I’m paying attention – however what do we do with this information? Most men fall into the category of “solve the problem” rather than listen and empathise. Stop. I’ve been guilty of this for most of my life, and still is my natural go-to response to a problem. However stop. Guys talking to guys will problem solve with each other and it’s normal, whereas woman speaking to each other first and format usually empathise. As soon as a guy goes into problem solving with a woman, she often feels like she’s not being listened to. Here’s one of the best videos I’ve ever come across to help illustrate this point: It’s Not About The Nail.
Appreciating your partner daily is a self explanatory. Say thank you (and mean it) for those little things your partner does. If you haven’t done this for a while, you’ll probably have forgotten so many of the little things that you take them for granted – so just appreciate.
As a side note, I want to mention Love Languages (if you don’t know yours or your partners, make sure you find out!). If your partner’s love language is Words of Affirmation, they will naturally want and respond well to appreciation, recognition, kind words etc – and will be deeply wounded (more than “normal”) by criticism and being taken for granted. Also if you’re not naturally a Words of Affirmation person, it makes it more difficult and maybe even fake feeling to sprout out kind words – however they will go a long way.
Nurture rhythm just means to make time for each other. Make sure your schedules work, you have the same time off, same rest times, same free evening (for that date night or hobby to do together). This is sometime I’ve learned and wanted to make sure I got right second time (marriage) around, so wherever practical we walk the dog together, go to the gym at the same time (we don’t work out together, to me it just means we’ve blocked out the same time for the same activity which leaves the option for more time together if we’re organised!), and make sure we watch something we both like (I’m not a fan of watching TV in different rooms) – plus give shoulder massages a few nights a week in front of the TV.
No, it’s not perfect. Next step is to get more time together of better quality (ie no distractions, focused on each other and not doing separate things in the same room).
Shrink That Gap
I’m really interested as to what you might do to help minimalise the Joy Gap. Thanks so much for reading – if you found it interesting, please post some feedback or your thoughts!