For a Happy Marriage, Find Your ‘Needle-Movers’

In other words, don’t sweat the small stuff

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In a marriage, minor (and major) squabbles happen. Still, if we’ve learned anything from relationship experts Jocelyn and Aaron Freeman, it’s that how we repair after a fight that matters most.

One particular piece of advice? Instead of focusing your make-up sesh on the problem at hand, look at it in the context of something they call a needle mover. According to the duo, a needle mover is an unresolved issue or pattern that, once addressed, could bridge future distance between you.

So, let’s say you’re having an argument about a stack of dishes left in the sink. The Freemans say that, instead of talking explicitly about the dishes, it’s better to identify two to three things that are critical to your union and would halt future fights along these lines.

For example, a marital agreement to clean-up daily could be a needle-mover. (This means letting go of days where you’re both too busy to get to that pile of dishes until after the kids go to sleep.) Another needle mover could be making a promise to say hello and goodbye to each other each day before and after work, which would make you less likely to blow up at each other. Or a needle mover might be resolving not to bring defensive energy to conversations—no more “I only left the dishes in the sink because you didn’t set the alarm early enough!”

The Freemans point out that some couples may not even know the needle-movers that would help their marriage. (Take this as your cue to ask!) They also note that one person’s needle-movers don’t have to be identical to their partner’s. What matters most is that you’re tuned in to the other person’s needs so that you can work in tandem to address them.

These touchpoints can help lead us to better emotional attunement (something else the Freemans discuss on their Empowered Couples podcast) and help us reduce the time and energy spent sweating the small stuff.

About the Expert

Jocelyn and Aaron Freeman are relationship coaches and co-authors of The Argument Hangover.

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