Marble Jar Friends

Bingin Beach – Uluwatu – Bali, Indonesia

Every relationship is grown or degraded through trust.

Trust in your wife, your boyfriend, your friends, your mum, your coach, your teacher, your child and… your child’s trust in you.

If you think about the state of all your relationships you have right now, I bet you can give a score out of 100 for each person with the level of trust you have for them.

How did that trust grow and flourish? How did it vanish? How about those ones that just slowly faded, what happened there?

We often don’t realise how our closest relationships grew so greatly. Sometimes it is as though it just happened. Yes we may have had things in common, we like each other’s company, or we just take it for granted because we are blood. But a close relationship with ultimate trust doesn’t just happen. Like anything great that we desire to achieve in life, it takes one little positive step at a time.

Brené Brown describes the concept of the growth and decline in trust between people as ‘Marble Jar Friends’.

Imagine you have a room full of jars, each jar has the name of each person you have a relationship with. Every time you have a positive interaction with your friend, or your friend treats you kindly, empathetically, generously or lovingly, you add a marble to the jar.

The more positive interactions, the more kindness, the more reliability, the greater ability to keep what is sacred secret, the more honesty, the more vulnerability, the more selflessness and care… the more that jar fills up. The more full the jar, the greater the level of trust.

But every time your friend does something selfish and unkind towards you, a few marbles come out. She stops calling you, keeps bailing on lunch, doesn’t ever ask how you are anymore, leaves you out or says something behind your back. Or more than likely it is something much smaller and non sinister, but bit by bit it can degrade a relationship, such as slowly starting to take you for granted and not doing those small but important things for you anymore (a marriage or any other long term loving relationship anybody?).

Who has heard the “oh just you wait, all that will soon fade after you have been married for as long as we have!”?

I call bullshit.

Sorry, a little rant… but, this marble jar analogy is exactly how the trust in our relationships can ebb and flow.

And yes of course, the greater the betrayal, the greater the number of marbles will be taken out. In some instances the jar could be emptied in one hit and then smashed onto the floor into 1 million pieces. We’ve all had one or a few of those.

Like anything, the undoing can be so much more rapid than the building. That is why it is so so important to continually look to add marbles in the smallest of ways.

Every marble counts.

We cross opportunities to add marbles to the jar every day. More often than not they can take little effort, but the result is both the satisfaction and gratitude of your significant other and the self serving good feelings you experience when doing something nice for somebody else (as long as your intentions are primarily for your other and not to just ‘hey look at me’ yourself).

When we don’t realise how easy it is to add a marble to someone’s jar, especially when we are caught up in feeling bent-up by somebody, we miss these opportunities. Heck, we probably don’t even realise they’re there!

Every day we are faced with constant ‘sliding door moments’ as Dr. John Gottman describes it. Moments where we have the opportunity to add a marble, or not, depending on the decision we make. In Brené Browns ‘Daring Greatly’, Dr Gottman describes a time he was so immersed in a book he was enjoying. He was sitting in bed reading when he noticed his wife was looking upset in the bathroom. She was keeping it to herself, so Gottman had a choice:

1/ Pretend he didn’t notice and keep going with the book he really doesn’t want to put down.

2/ Even though he is so deep into the book and she doesn’t notice he noticed, put it down and be there for his wife.

He chose to be there. She added a marble to her Dr. Gottman jar, their relationship grew closer. Greater trust was built.

Yesterday I somehow convinced Court to come out into the surf with me. She’d never surfed. She’d rarely been to a surf beach. She’d never been out to a reef break before (a wave that breaks over rocks, not sand).

More than anything, I was just excited to see her paddle about on a surfboard with me. But if it wasn’t her thing it wasn’t her thing. I didn’t mind either way.

But being the absolute unicorn of a wife she is, she went out, for me.

We didn’t get far. The tide was lowering and the slippery, rocky pathway to the surf was far too treacherous for someone who had never been out on a reef before. What was I even thinking!?

We headed back in. Court wasn’t impressed, she had a small cut on her foot and she felt pretty stupid for not being able to get out there. She wasn’t stupid. I was. I should have read the water better and not taken her out.

She sat on the beach with tears welling up. But she was okay, I apologised for misreading the surf and we were all good. She told me to head out and go for a surf and she’ll sit on the beach. No, not in the way wives trap their husbands when they say they’re ‘fine’. She knew how much I wanted to surf and genuinely wanted me to head out.

To me this was a sliding doors moment.

Yes I could have headed out and had a ball in the surf. Probably with more chance of earning a busted ego and a waterlogged brain over getting cleanly barrelled (yeah I rarely surf anymore and this wasn’t a wave for casuals).

But.

Instead I decided to take Court back to our Villa for a shower, put the Kardashians on the TV and quickly zipped off to the Mini Mart for some chocolate. I could surf in the morning instead.

If I went out surfing and left Court on the beach we would have been just fine. No marbles gained, no marbles removed. But by doing what I felt was right we ended up capping off an incredible day in Bali in the best way possible… together, happy and closer than ever… just as the purpose of our trip was intended.

Take a look at your relationships. How many of those could be improved with just small simple acts of kindness, care, respect, selflessness and generosity? How many of those relationships have slowed or deteriorated because of a decline in marble adding?

One marble at a time.

Stu.

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