National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

I Gotta Be

Family Matters

BY Art A. Bennett

April 29-May 5, 2001 Issue | Posted 4/29/01 at 2:00 PM

 

My wife thinks I'm too “blunt” and “pessimistic” at home. I think I'm “honest” and “realistic.” who's right?

— T.B.B. Everett, Washington

APopular psychology and our culture tell us we have an obligation to express what we feel. I feel X, so I express X. If I felt Y, I would express Y.

The problem with this approach is that it means we're driven by our moods. If I'm in a good mood, then I'll express happiness to others. If I'm in a rotten mood, I won't.

Let's assume that love is the only appropriate response from one person to another and that love is willing good for others. Then, if I love you, I'll want to do good for you as often as I can — even if I don't feel like it.

Our expressions and our attitudes should be a product of what people around us need — particularly what our family needs.

Dr. John Gottman points out what he calls the 5-1 ratio. His studies show that in happy marriages there are five positive and supportive interchanges for each zinger or criticism.

Sharing such happiness with our families makes us feel better, too. When we do what's good, we feel good about it because we're doing what we were created for — to love others.

Art A. Bennett is a licensed marriage, family and child therapist .