Long-term relationships have a way of shaping our lives.
Some parts of this process are obvious – sharing a home with someone has an impact on the things we buy or the kind of environment we live in. Sharing our lives with a spouse can teach us the importance of compromise, help us learn to be patient, and so on…
For many married couples, the relationship simply IS the major component of their lives – as much a part of individual identity as where their from or what they do for a living.
Marriage, especially over a long period of time, can affect couples in other ways too, and most of us might not even notice it happening!
In the book Powers of Two, Author Joshua Wolf Shenk, describes way that pairs of people – not even necessarily couples – change when they spend significant time with one another over a long period of time. Based on of those traits, you can do a little evaluation of your marriage to see how connected you and your spouse really are!
Now, before we dig any further into this – don’t worry too much if these things don’t apply to your marriage. Don’t think that your relationship is doomed or not good enough… This is meant to be a fun way to see how marriage can change people. Don’t fret if it doesn’t quite describe your marriage.
To see how your marriage stacks up to Shenk’s signs of super-connected couples, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have jokes that only you and your spouse understand?
- Do you make jokes with each other that no one else seems to find funny?
- Can you make a face or say just a few words, and your spouse gets exactly what joke you’re making?
- Do you know exactly where your spouse’s ticklish spots are, or how to make them smile even when they’re having a bad day?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, you’ve passed part 1 of this little test – you and your spouse have the “inside joke” thing nailed, and that shows that you’ve shared positive experiences together, and that those experiences remain strong enough memories to affect your day to day marriage!
- Do you just say whatever comes to mind to your spouse?
- Do you feel like you can share an unfiltered version of your opinions, concerns, hopes, and frustrations with your partner?
- Do you speak to others, even your friends and family, with more reservations than with your spouse?
- Do you feel like you can truly be yourself?
A “yes” to these questions means that you’re communicating without “self-censoring” – which is a strong sign that you and your spouse trust each other, even with things that you don’t feel like you can share with other people. This level of comfort only comes with time and true connection.
- Do you and your spouse finish each other’s sentences?
- Do the two of you use the same terms, slang, adjectives, or expressions?
- Do you notice yourself adopting pieces of your partner’s speech – or them adopting yours?
A series of “yes” answers here shows that you are communicating – and have been for a long time. The more we spend time together, the more we start to mimic and match each other’s speech patterns. This can include tone, word choice, even the length of pauses between words.
You’re likely unaware that you’re doing it, but if you start to look for it, you’ll notice!
- Do you ever notice that you and your spouse use the same body language?
- Have you ever made the same movements as your spouse, almost at the same time?
- Has anyone ever made the (maybe dreaded) comment that you and your spouse look alike?
“Yes” to these questions might make you feel a little concerned, but don’t be! Just like mimicking each other’s language patterns, the more time you spend together, the more likely you are to start matching physical actions as well. It could be posture, the way you walk, the way you stand when you’re deep in thought – any little muscle movement. It could even be in the way you smile.
We tend to reflect the behaviors of the people we’re closest to – a phenomenon known as “shared coordinative structure” – so if you share some characteristics, it’s just a sign that you’ve spent a lot of quality time together… And that’s a good thing!
- Do you have names for things or places that only you and your spouse know?
- Can you speak to your spouse in a way that most people would just find confusing?
- Do you have a “language” that you can consider your own?
A “yes” here shows a truly communicative and deep connection. This idea of “private language” shared between a couple helps form a shared identity with the relationship at the center. Some studies even show that the more “secret” words and phrases a couple uses, the happier they are together in the long run!
These are all signs of couples that have created and enjoy some form of combined identity. Language, mannerisms, etc. are all surface products of a truly deep connection, and indicate not only a long time spent together, but time spent together becoming closer and closer.
If these things aren’t present in your relationship, don’t fret! Every last trait listed here comes from communication and quality time spent together. You can set your marriage on the path to this kind of strength – you just have to build the connection!