The Cookie Jar Marriage

The cookie jar is an interesting concept.

It’s so much more than a storage container!

It’s where kids head for an immediate snack when feeling down or to celebrate when feeling great.

Know what? We never outgrow the lure of the cookie jar Only now there are different kinds of cookies in the jar.

Instead of chocolate chip cookies, there are different kinds of treats, a.k.a. immediate gratifications of primal desires.

We head for these cookies when we feel tired, mad, sad, glad or scared.

These “cookies” are labeled..

  • Procrastination
  • Sloth
  • Gluttony
  • Booze
  • Drugs
  • Greed
  • Anger
  • Fighting back
  • Withdrawing
  • Retreating into our self-protective bubble
  • Whining
  • Blaming
  • Grumpiness
  • Irritability

These “cookies” can become as addictive as the originals are.

We reach for relief from the cookie jar, and that can trigger our partner to reach for their cookie jar.

There is a way out of this cycle, which (to a large degree) is responsible for the ugly 50% divorce rate.

Here is the concept: it takes two strong individuals to make a strong marriage.

Two individuals who can (for the most part) resist the lure of the cookie jar.

Anyone who has ever struggled with weight management knows that resisting the cookie jar makes you stronger. Every time you make a better choice, your resolve grows. How does that relate to the cookie jar in marriage?

You need to be strong to be empathic. To listen well. To be transparent. To be curious instead of furious.

You need to be strong to take off the masks that hide who you really are. A part of you is afraid if you reveal who you really are you will not be loved or wanted or desired.

So, two people don masks, reach for the cookie jar and hope they will still be accepted, understood, and loved.

What do you think are the odds that two masked partners can create a lively, thriving, mutually supportive marriage?

Remember that ugly statistic? 50%.

You think the other half is living in high clover?

Neither do I.

So the percent of couples who are hiding from themselves and each other while enjoying a rich relationship are slim to none.

The antidote? Become stronger as an individual.

Become strong enough to be tender. To connect emotionally and physically. To create a mutual vision that excites your imagination. To be glad to see each other at the end of the day.

Nobody is ever strong enough to totally resist the cookie jar. Because sometimes those cookies just taste so good.

But every time you resist the jar, you get a little bit stronger.

Praise progress! You deserve it. You earned it.

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Pam Hamilton
Pam Hamilton

Can we turn the cookie jar into something healthy for a marriage? Like cookies can bring comfort too. So maybe couples could co-create their own cookie jar. For instance going to your partner for a hug after a rough day, having a glass of wine and spending time together, having sex, literally bake cookies together. Maybe creating an actual jar where couples write out things that make them feel good both individually and as a couple and put that into the jar. Then they can reach for the jar and pull something out when they feel stuck or hurt etc and try to engage in that activity either together or even individually if needed. Sometimes the act of trying to resist our natural urges for comfort can actually create a desire to engage in those activities more. So by having more resources to connect to when trying to change behaviours can make it easier.

Peter Pearson, Ph.D.

Dr. Peter Pearson, Ph.D., Relationship & Teamwork Expert for Entrepreneur Couples Pete has been training and coaching couples to become a strong team since 1984 when he co-founded The Couples Institute with his psychologist wife, Dr. Ellyn Bader. Their popular book, “Tell Me No Lies,” is about being honest with compassion and growing stronger as a couple. Pete has been featured on over 50 radio and television programs including “The Today Show,” "Good Morning America,” and "CBS Early Morning News,” and quoted in major publications including “The New York Times,” “Oprah Magazine,” “Redbook,” “Cosmopolitan,” and “Business Insider.”

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