Take a minute to forget the Hallmark cards, chocolate and romantic dinners that we often associate with wedding anniversaries. At their source, anniversaries are meaningful milestones that couples deserve to honor and celebrate. In fact, research now shows that marking important anniversaries can actually help strengthen relationships. We turned to two of America’s leading marriage experts to learn more about why celebrating anniversaries matter. Good news- the consensus is that an anniversary doesn’t have to be stressful, as long as you understand what its deeper value truly is. Here are their key reasons why celebrating anniversaries can strenghthen your marriage:
1. Anniversaries help you remember the past in a positive light
In his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman explains how couples’ memories of the past actually change over time, and can become tinted in either a positive or a negative light. Over time, we literally brainwash ourselves to remember some memories, and forget others. Whether we focus on the positive memories, or the negative ones, is a key factor in happy, lasting marriages.
Dr. Gottman is well-known for his ability to predict (with 95% accuracy) whether a couple will be married 15 years later, after observing them interact for one hour. One of his key findings is that in order for a marriage to survive, it must have “Positive Sentiment Override.” This simply means that positive thoughts about each other and the marriage are so pervasive that they tend to override the negative feelings. Fondness and admiration are two of the most crucial elements in a rewarding romance, and he says that fostering these emotions can improve Positive Sentiment Override.
So how does this tie into anniversaries? An anniversary is a positive day of celebration that allows the couple to step back from the daily grind, and remember a moment that changed their lives together. Reminiscing and showing admiration for each other can help remind a couple why they fell in love in the first place. This helps them focus on each others’ positive qualities, helping them reframe their relationship and see things more positively. So go ahead- get out your old pictures, find your wedding vows, and honor your early memories of budding love.
2. Anniversaries create new memories & lifelong traditions
Celebrations create new memories, and relationships are built on those memories. Nothing puts a smile on your face as much as hearing your partner say, “Remember that time when…” Establishing traditions early on in a marriage are equally as important, because these rituals take on deeper meaning over time, and actually help couples gravitate back towards each other when times get tough. An anniversary is a great opportunity to establish a tradition—whether you pilgrimage back to the place of your first date, or you give traditional wedding anniversary gifts, where each year has a symbolic material that goes with it (ex. First year is the paper anniversary, the second year is cotton, etc.)
3. It’s a day to make your spouse feel amazing
What does a woman want more than anything else? Dr. Neil Clark Warren, clinical psychologist and founder of eHarmony, says that more than anything, “a woman wants to feel wonderful about herself.” An anniversary is simply an opportunity when a husband can express those feelings to her, and show her that he puts her as a #1 priority in his life. Dr. Warren suggests that the day before the anniversary, as a husband is putting his plan into motion, his actions should reflect his inner feeling that she is, indeed, the single most important part of his life. “It’s not so much the type of gift exchanged as it is the thought put into his expression of love,” he closes.