Last June my wife, Yvonne, and I picked up a copy of The Daniel Plan and jumped in with both feet looking to improve our bodies and minds. Little did we know to what lengths our culinary skills would be both challenged, and improved. One of my challenges has been to be certain that I pay enough detail to the recipes, to be sure to get all the ingredients into the meals, and in the right proportions as well.
(Hint- be sure to add 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar to your slaw, not 2 tablespoons)
When we were making our chutney last week the first ingredient we added was cilantro. Over the past twenty years or so I have become a pretty big fan of cilantro, often wondering why my mother never introduced it to our family kitchen when I was growing up, but I digress… Although I enjoy this spicy, seasonal herb, chopping up cilantro by itself and topping our salmon with it in its pureed form would have probably ruined the meal. It was imperative that I added the other six ingredients to make our chutney become what we hoped that it would be.
The second ingredient we used in our chutney was olive oil. Olive oil is one of those wonder foods that we can use for a variety of purposes. For our purposes, it was used to create the creamy texture of the chutney, and to support all the other ingredients to combine to one another. The second ingredient for a great marriage, nurturing fondness and admiration, works in a similar way. Fondness and admiration work to support all of the other ingredients by shaping the lenses through which we view everything our spouses do, or ever has done.
When I work with couples one of the first exercises I do with them is to have them tell me the story of when they first met. This gives me a great opportunity to watch body language and certain facial expressions that identify how much fondness and admiration remains with the couple. When I see their eyes widen and their faces emit positive expression when they tell their stories, I know that we have something to work with. Research has shown that 94 percent of the time, when couples have a favorable perspective on their stories and their spouse’s character they are likely to have a positive future.
This works by reminding ourselves of our partner’s positive qualities. Couples who are intentional in doing this-even when they wrestle with one another’s flaws-prevent happy marriages from deteriorating. This happens because fondness and admiration are antidotes from contempt. Contempt often takes form in disgust. Couples who have a strong fondness and admiration for one another are less likely to act disgusted with each other when they are in conflict.
If you and your spouse find fondness and admiration in short supply there is hope.
Fondness and admiration can be built up and stored in hearts and minds like coins in a bank. The path to begin the process of rebuilding your fondness and admiration “bank” is to get into the habit of intentionally looking for characteristics and actions that you can appreciate. Then, let him or her know that you are thankful for what they do. Notice how well she cares for your children. Thank him for mowing the yard every week without having to be asked. These every day appreciations do not have to be about big things. Look for the small, unremarkable events.
Over time, the conscious effort it takes to discover items and issues to appreciate in our spouses will become instinctive, and you and your spouse will be building fondness and admiration intuitively.
Nurturing Fondness and admiration is the second ingredient in the recipe for a great marriage. Like olive oil was to our chutney, fondness and admiration provide a base for all of the ingredients to blend together, which can produce long-lasting and happy marriages.