Your relationship origin story doesn't need to be like a hero’s origin story (dark & twisted=))
Every relationship has an origin story where it all started. You met at a friend’s party and connected. You were high school sweethearts and lightning struck. You first got in touch with each of you swiping right, and boom, and the first date was magic.
Even if your origin story isn’t a fairy tale, and shit, rarely is it “perfect”, both people in the relationship look at it fondly, and in the retelling you can see a sort of semi-rehearsed rhythm as they recount how they met. Both people are smiling, someone touches the other person’s arm, their eyes are often accessing their memories to put the story into words.
That origin story reflects either the reality of how you met or the way you want to remember it, but either way, people will express joy from that meeting EVEN if the way they met was not as joyful. I had two friends meet under very difficult circumstances where one friend’s parent was very sick, and the other friend came over to his house because her dad was his doctor. Despite the difficult circumstances of their meeting, they still express their origin story in joyful yet melancholic language.
When that origin story turns grey
Most relationship origin stories start off joyful and positive, and the image evoked of their meeting is bright and full of color. Still, I noticed as time went on, I ran into many couples that had been together for a long time.
I asked them to tell their stories, and one person would start telling it, the other person would cut in and criticize the partner in their telling. I say criticize because it would go something like, “You were late even on our first date, you have no conception of what it means to be on time.” The language, energy, and body language was not fondly recollecting, but cutting and negative. The other person would then snipe back at their partner another negative part of that day… “You chose a cheap restaurant, somethings never change.”
Even when the couple could take a step back to dive into their story, their re-telling was more matter-of-fact and dispassionate than excited to remember. The story felt a bit lifeless and listless, but the more disconcerting fact was that the language to remember that day was critical, negative, and harsh.
Their origins story starts to sound like a Hero’s Origin Story, where every part is dark, twisted, and painful. In fact, the science indicates that this rewriting their origin story represents a tell-tale sign of potential divorce/separation. In their book “The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work,” John Gottman and Nan Silver state that this negative sentiment that slowly bleeds into a couple’s collective memory is a strong sign of divorce. No more is this indicative of a problem in marriage than in one’s origin story, where the positive sentiment often is the strongest.
Test your marriage by telling your origin story
When you and your partner tell your origin story, how does it go? Give it a try, record your partner and you telling your story together. See how the body language looks like, the words you use, and the picture you paint.
If the picture is grey, harsh, and dark, maybe it is time to inject positive sentiment into your relationship again. Try a romantic date night where it is just the two of you, write a gratitude journal for your partner or create new positive memories by trying a new experience together (a little rock climbing maybe?)