How Interdependent is your Marriage?
Interdependence is one of the objectives for many couples in marital therapy. Husbands and wives recognize that what once was a mutual dream for their lives together has become parallel paths where spouses rarely meet. With our busy lives it sometime becomes difficult to find time to even talk about our day with one another. We become effective at accomplishing our daily tasks, and we live exclusive lives.
Interdependent spouses are happy in themselves and also mutually rely upon their partner. They may spend the day away from each other volunteering, parenting or working and share these rich experiences daily. When they need support or wish to share an exciting experience they immediately think of their spouse. This is the person with whom they have created some history and a context for current and future experience.
How interdependent is your marriage?
Wegner, Guiliano and Hertel studied interdependence at the cognitive level and coined a term “transactive memory” to capture the idea that shared experience by the couple creates a shared reality. This mutually organizes their time and creates a bank of experiences they use in their life together. This cognitive interdependence is an element of couple life that keeps them connected. What they think about and how they think about shared experience has a positive impact on intimacy.
For example, you and your spouse attended a dinner party. The topic of concerts comes up and you recall a concert you attended three years ago. You may ask your spouse to remember the name of the opening act, the date of the concert or their favourite moment. When your spouse responds with the information it affirms your mutual experience, or even better, your mutual recall of an emotion or feeling of that experience.
“Creating experiences together, recalling them and reminiscing about the events and feelings are all functions of transactive memory.”
Creating experiences together, recalling them and reminiscing about the events and feelings are all functions of transactive memory. It also allows you an opportunity to “bid” for your spouse’s attention as was discussed in the recent blog post “We Communicate to Feel Validated.” Utilizing such strategies in your day to day life reinforces your connection with one another.
Your therapist may ask you to recall how you met your spouse, what you thought at the time and how you felt then. They are working to increase your transactive memory. When you are trying to connect with your spouse, recall some good memories or make some new ones. Increasing your transactive memory builds interdependence and is an investment in your future together.
Wegner, D.M, Guiliano, T. & Hertel, P.T.(1985). Cognitive Interdependence in Close Relationships. In W.J. Ickles (Ed.), Compatible and Incompatible Relationships (pp.253-276), New York: Springer-Verlag.
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