Emotional Credibility (E.C.) is a term I coined which means trust + 'likeability'.
Think of it kind of like the stock market. In any relationship, your E.C. can go up or it can go down on any given day, depending on various factors.
These factors fall generally under the moniker 'personal behavior': you know, things like the tone of your voice, follow-through and commitment, what you do with your anger and anxiety, your intentionality, and the subject matter of your conversations.
With me so far? Good, now keep that last one in mind as we go forward.
Ok, now generally the E.C. starts to go down in marriage as time goes on because our behavior loosens up as we get closer to someone, as we start to behave less like the person they thought we were, and more, well, badly.
I've written about this phenomenon in several different ways, including the one about how we go back to behaving the way we did with our family-of-origins, as well as the one about how we eventually change from a peer-peer dynamic with our spouses to more of an adult-child one.
Question: In order to stop the downward momentum of the E.C., we need to rebuild what two key things? Right! Trust + liking each other and wanting to be around each other: you know, all that stuff that went downhill as our marriages succumb to one of the two dynamics I just mentioned.
So, as far as the trust part goes, you ask, trust with what?
Well, the 'microtrust', a term I use to mean trusting someone with your heart; knowing that not every conversation–or even the majority of conversations–you have with them will end in you feeling badly.
As the tune of our conversations begins to change, the microtrust increases and we begin to look forward to interacting with the other person more, or at least to not having to avoid them; and we actually slowly find ourselves wanting to be around them more. The Emotional Credibility increases.
So, start turning it around right now by simply doing this: Say non-upsetting things.
Start to raise the E.C.-average by mixing in bits of conversations that are at the very least non-upsetting, and, of course, that can also be complementary or stimulating.
So, while you're also working on your adult skills of Restraint, Tone, Stopping, Anger Modulation, Anxiety Modulation, etc., begin right now to pepper your interactions with pleasant, non-emotionally-loaded, non-upsetting bits in order to raise your average E.C.
In other words, start to rebuild, (or build for the first time), the relationship by providing it with a steady diet of quality, trust and likeability-producing, bits of conversations and interactions.
Many couples eventually feel like they have nothing in common, or that they don't really have a basis for a continued relationship because of the lack of such everyday content and an abundance of discord or complete neglect instead. In other words, very low E.C.
For example, instead of complaining about the weather, work, or whatever other complaint or negativity you might expose your spouse to on a regular or semi-regular basis, try a statement of fact from the day's events; i.e., “Paper says the school board voted 'no' on blah blah blah…”
Or, how about, “This is a really nice sauce/salad dressing.”
Or, “I think it'll be nice to get together with everyone this weekend.”
Keep doing this and, trust me, over time your spouse won't be as sensitive or allergic to your voice and he/she will like having you around more because, on average, what you present to them will become more, well, pleasant.
This is how, in mental health speak, we become less 'toxic' to each other, i.e., how we rebuild the Emotional Credibility.
By the way, this by no means is supposed to be about keeping things superficial or artificial with your spouse. It simply presumes that most of our marriages could use a boost in our average E.C. points, and this simple yet powerful technique will definitely help you do that.
Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.
Author, Don't Get Married! Unless You Understand a Few Things First