“You really married up!”
“Yes I did. I out-punted my coverage.”
It got me thinking: Is there a connection between “marrying up” and a happy marriage? Actually, there is; and it’s not about downplaying your role or opinions. Healthy relating includes some conflict. If you never disagree, one of you may be unnecessary. So what is the connection?
The One Thing
Researcher Marcus Buckingham, points to a study of 105 couples who had been married for over a decade (Dr. Sandra Murray, SUNY). One consistency emerged in the survey among couples who identified as very happily married:
The husband rated the wife more positively than she rated herself on every single quality (and vice-versa).
Buckingham’s conclusion is that happily married couples write a generous narrative about each other. Their stories give the most charitable explanation for the behavior and character they see.
Some people will dismiss this claim as superficial. “Pull this lever and presto, happy marriage!” But peel back a couple layers. This one consistency is not some tactic of manipulation. Instead, it demonstrates the crucial role of attitude in building a life of significance and continuity.
Attitude builds the team
An example from college basketball might clarify the influence of attitude. I’m no UConn fan, but when I heard coach Kevin Ollie speak during the NCAA tournament, a little bell went off in my mind: This team might have the special sauce this year. (Too bad that bell didn’t ring when I was filling out my bracket predictions.) Ollie said, to get game-time a player needed two qualities: he had to be positive and productive, in that order. Tournament teams build each other up. They speak good things into the ears of their teammates. They keep telling a winning story.
My attitude about you starts with humility about me
When Paul (in the New Testament) describes how to model the character of Jesus, he makes this same point. “In humility, consider others as better than yourselves.” At first, this statement rubs people wrong. It sounds like the way to build others up is to put yourself down. That’s not the point at all. As C.S. Lewis puts it:
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself, less.”
There it is. Now, go energize your spouse, kids, or colleagues. Build them up with the most generous explanation of the behavior you see.