Last weekend found me googling I hate my spouse. Mr. Bunny had done something to make me totally livid and I was consumed with loathing.
You’ll be shocked to learn that googling I hate my spouse doesn’t lead to a whole lot of productive reading. I saw a few Internet Objects with the basic flavor of i hate my husband & want 2 murder him what shud i do? and then decided to take a different tack. Perhaps refreshing my knowledge of the factors that predict marital satisfaction would help.
Not that we know what predicts marital satisfaction. So many variables–SES, personality, conflict resolution style, gender identity and gender roles, blah blah blah. I suppose I just wanted to read something empirical that would make me feel better about myself. Like a paper titled, Occasional loathing of spouse does not predict divorce.
Phew, I’d say.
It took a while to find what I wanted (lots of things like Korean pastors and their wives’ marital satisfaction and its predicting factors–could you get more specific, please?), but I did. It turned out to be a paper about gratitude. In this study, participants who felt more gratitude towards their spouses also had higher marital satisfaction ratings. Intriguingly, feeling gratitude predicted your partner’s martial satisfaction, whereas actually expressing that gratitude didn’t. As Gordon and colleagues write, “…having an inward experience of individual gratitude appears more relevant to the spouse’s happiness than actually expressing gratitude outwardly to that spouse.” (Gordon, Arnette, & Smith, 2011, p. 342).
After reading this paper, I used my laptop for good instead of evil, and booked Mr. Bunny a night in a hotel. He’s pretty swamped at work and could use a break. (I know, all I had to do was FEEL gratitude, but sometimes it’s hard to stop…) And I’ve been trying to combat my feelings of annoyance with feelings of gratitude.
Meanwhile, that very day, a friend of Mr. Bunny’s was suffering a sudden and catastrophic stroke, falling into a coma, and being DNRed off this mortal coil. Leaving her husband utterly stunned and bereft.
Psychologists have a whole theory (well, many, but here’s one) discussing the work we humans have to do to keep thoughts of death at bay–it’s called terror management theory. The basic idea is that we can’t possibly be continually aware of our mortality or we won’t be able to function, so we’ve evolved defense mechanisms to keep those thoughts largely unconscious. So I’m not suggesting we all go around thinking MY LOVED ONE MIGHT DIE AT ANY MOMENT SO I SHOULD NOT BE AN ASSHOLE. That’s not going to fly.
I guess I was just struck by the fact that there’s gratitude (yay, he got gas!) and GRATITUDE (this life is so fucking fragile).