DURING NEARLY 24 years of marriage, my husband, Eric, and I have
picked up a few relationship-saving practices. Though we learned
them to help navigate our marriage, they are useful in any
The Art of Apology. An effective apology begins
with a sincere ‘I’m sorry.’ Don’t bother with excuses or
explanations until you know your apology has registered.
The Re-Do. If you blunder into a delicate
communication, request a re-do lest you dig yourself in any deeper.
When you’re granting a re-do, let your hackles down and listen as
if for the first time. (It’s also a good idea to offer the option
of a re-do if someone is flailing too much to request one.)
Freeze-Frame. You may have heard the saying ‘Be
still and know.’ When you practice Freeze-Frame, a
stress-prevention technique devised by the Institute of HeartMath
simply stop so you can evaluate a situation more clearly, become
still inside, and frame the moment. Then, focusing on the area
around your heart, generate a positive feeling. Using your
intuition, ask your heart for an answer to the stressful situation.
Most importantly, listen to what your heart says.
The Faithfulness Verse. During a particularly
low moment in our marriage, I issued a desperate silent plea for
something, anything, that might lift us out of the mire. At that
moment, a piece of paper that had been tacked to a bulletin board
wafted to the floor. On it was Rudolf Steiner’s Faithfulness verse.
It isn’t about sexual faithfulness, but about the dogged commitment
to see what is best and highest in those around us. Eric and I said
it out loud together every night for a year (sometimes even over
the phone when one of us was out of town), and we still say it
sometimes. I swear it works a potent alchemy. Here it is:
Create for yourself a new indomitable perception of
faithfulness. What is usually called faithfulness passes so
quickly. Let this be your faithfulness: You will experience
moments, fleeting moments, with the other person. The human being
will appear to you then as if filled, irradiated, with the
archetype of his/her spirit. And then there may be, indeed will be,
other moments, long periods of time when human beings are darkened.
At such times, you will learn to say to yourself, ‘The spirit makes
me strong. I remember the archetype. I saw it once. No illusion, no
deception shall rob me of it.’ Always struggle for the image that
you saw. This struggle is faithfulness. Striving thus for
faithfulness you shall be close to one another as if endowed with
the protective powers of angels. — Rudolf Steiner
Be Nice. Don’t underestimate the power of
simply being kind. John Gottman, a psychology professor at the
University of Washington, has developed an uncanny ability to
predict which marriages will dissolve based solely on the number of
kind and unkind interactions. His formula? When the ratio falls
below five to one, sound the death knell.
Nina Utne is chair and CEO of Utne.