Monday, November 23, 2009

Telling How You Met May Tell All

posted by Michele Olson

Psychology Today sometimes reruns articles…the ones that are particularly interesting or struck a chord with a crowd. They reran a very interesting article on the importance of examining how you recall your “love story” or how you met as a couple. In fact, author Suzanne Leanord recounts how psychologist John Gottman Ph.D felt that after listening to the oral history of 52 couples, he could predict with 94 percent accuracy which couple were going to separate and which were there for the duration. All based on how they told the story.

Interesting right?

The article points out that once there is a decline in the quality of the marital relationship, it sets off a downward spiral that is hard to reverse without active effort. (Plug here for online classes and healthy relationship coaching = effort on a couples part. Available from

When this downward spiral occurs, disappointment become easier to recall than the high points in the relationship. The article states: “Whether the recasting of history is a sudden or gradual process, the turning point is always marked by the emergence of contempt. When couples view each other as having lasting qualities that they loathe, it’s mighty hard to turn back the tide.”

The article goes on to describe couples in a stable marriage as talking positively and remembering positively about details of their relationship.

A sure tell tale sign of problems ahead? If a husband is telling the story in a disillusioned fashion. Things like:“ I wish we had waited longer to get married.”

Is fondness part of the retelling? Those in a good relationship tend to minimize the bad times and emphasize the good. When criticism is part of the story telling, that’s another bad sign.

In fact, contented couples could have the exact same experience as disgruntled couples, and tell the stories in a whole different light…in a positive manner. The author points out that we walk around with the stories of our relationship in our heads. The tone evolves based on our current emotions, but the overall tone can affect how we will treat our spouses in the future.

Listen to how your spouse…or how you tell the story of your chance encounter or the friendship that led to marriage. Really listen. What do you hear?


M. Denise Wilmer Barreto said...

What an awesome and interesting concept!

Even in the midst of an awful storm in our marriage last year, both my husband and I consistently tell the same fond story of our meeting in a Best Buy nine years ago.

In fact, quite the opposite of the story, we actually have added details about each other that we did not tell before... like length of time we talked and enthusiasm around the whole number exchange scene which was always told quickly but has drawn out in the latest version.

Very cool - thanks for sharing. said...

Hi M,
Isn't that interesting that even in a storm you still told the story fondly? According to the author, that was a tell tale sign that things were going to be OK! I thought it was a pretty interesting concept too, and it will probably have us all listening more closely when we meet people and ask how they met!
Thanks for blogging.