Capitalise on the Positive
Most marriage counselling and education focuses on conflict and incompatibility. It seeks to help couples find constructive ways of dealing with challenges in the relationship. It’s a kind of ‘damage control’ approach that seeks to minimize the impact of negative experiences.
One of the strategies for couples that is often overlooked is ‘capitalising’*. Capitalising is when we amplify the pleasure of a good situation and so build on the upward momentum of the event. It’s about taking advantage of a good experience so that we maximize the possible positive emotion. For example, when we come up with a good idea, a capitalising response is one where our spouse reacts enthusiastically and positively: ‘That’s a great idea!”.
If something positive happens to us, such as a promotion, a capitalising spouse might respond: “Congratulations! I knew you would get it!” It’s a practical expression of an optimistic outlook. This is habit that we personally have been actively working on. We are both biased towards pragmatism.
Re-think Your Reaction
When a good idea or a positive event is presented, our instinct is to look for the potential problems. So we might say “it’s an interesting idea, but it’ll probably cost too much” or “I’m sure your promotion is a good thing, but I suppose you’ll have to work longer hours now?” This is a real kill-joy for the other.
In contrast, when we capitalise on the positive events and good ideas we lift each other, and our marriage, up. We elevate and embolden our relationship. It builds a buffer zone around us so that when challenges hit, we have a kind of marital resilience; a capacity to not just weather the storms of life, but turn such challenges into an active good for the relationship.
Think about it: How much capitalising do you do? Rate yourself on the scale: 0 (none)… 1 (rarely)… 2 (occasionally)… 3 (frequently)… 4 (consistently)… 5 (incurably!) For a reality check, ask your spouse or a close friend to rate you as well.
* Shelly Gable, UCLA