Is Love Best When It Is Blind?

Marcus Buckingham wrote a book titled THE ONE THING YOU NEED TO KNOW.  In the book, Buckingham sites a study done at the Universities of New York, Buffalo, Michigan, British Columbia, and Sussex.  It was a study about what makes for a happy marriage.  I need to credit a message I heard from Andy Stanley which introduced me to this book and its application.

The study supports the basic premise of 1 Corinthians 13:7, which declares, ‘love always protects, always believes, always hopes, always perseveres.‘  It indicates that lasting relationships are partially made because of the choice to BELIEVE THE BEST about your partner rather than ASSUME THE WORST.

I have to admit that the results of this study are not only counter-intuitive, they are startling.  But here’s a portion of Buckingham’s description of the conclusions of this research.  It should also be stated that the example here is of a husband viewing his wife positively.  The same would hold true of the way a wife views her husband:

In the happiest couples, the husband rated the wife more positively than she did on every single quality.  For some reason, the husband in a highly rewarding relationship consistently credited his wife with qualities that she didn’t think she had.

A cynic might label the husband’s ratings delusions.  If my wife doesn’t think she possesses these qualities but, after ten years, I still do, then perhaps ‘delusion’ is not too strong a word.  The researchers opted for more measured terms such as ‘positive illusions’ and ‘benevolent distortions’ and ‘idealizations,’ but, whatever the label, there was no mistaking the conclusion:  in the happiest couples, the husband stays blind.

Now you might still wonder whether the happy husband, blinded by his positive illusions, is heading for a fall.  My wife and I may be happy today, but woe betide us both when my wife fails to fall in line with my expectations.

The same thought occurred to researchers, and so they decided to track these couples over the next few years.  What did they find?  The husband who rated his wife high on qualities that she didn’t think she had was not only more satisfied with the relationship today, but in the months following reported even greater levels of satisfaction, fewer sources of conflict, and fewer moments of doubt.

So there you have it.  The husband who assumes that his wife possesses strengths that even she doesn’t think she possesses will have a strong marriage today and an even stronger one tomorrow.

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Over time, my positive illusions create an upward spiral of love.  My illusions give me conviction.  My conviction leads to security.  My security fosters intimacy.  And my intimacy reinforces love.  Putting these conclusions together, this controlling insight can serve as the ONE THING you need to know about a happy marriage:

Find the most generous explanation for each other’s behavior and believe it.Love begins with positive illusions, but in strong marriages, these positive illusions don’t give way to dispassionately accurate understandings of each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  Instead, these positive illusions weave their strength into the fabric of the relationship, until they become the relationship.  They make themselves come true.  Stated more bluntly, your positive illusions will make your love last.

Christian Laliberte