The dodo bird might be able to tell us something about building a strong marriage. To explain why this is, I first need to tell you something about what researchers have found in studies investigating how much couples actually benefit from getting couples counseling. There are a few different well-established techniques for doing couples counseling (these techniques have names like integrative behavioral couple therapy, emotionally focused couple therapy, and insight oriented couple therapy), and each counselor usually believes that his or her own chosen technique is the best. Studies have been conducted that are like contests between the different techniques, testing them to determine which technique works best. Often, these studies end up finding that all the techniques are effective. Psychologists sometimes call this the dodo bird effect, named after the dodo bird from the book, Alice in Wonderland. In the book, Alice joins a seemingly endless circular race, which ends when the dodo bird declares “All have won and all must receive prizes.”
The thing we learn from this is that, sometimes, it does not matter what you do, just as long as you are still in the race. Why is it that several different approaches to couple therapy have all been found to be helpful? Part of the reason might be that all the approaches tested in these studies are programs that were developed by experienced clinical researchers. But, another more important part of the reason is that, when couples start therapy, they are taking steps to improve their relationship. They are investing time and making an effort. The type of therapy they receive may not be as important as the fact that they are actively doing something for their relationship. Of course, this basic lesson can apply to all types of relationships, and not just couples in counseling. It can be used to make a good relationship better, or to help a new couple build a secure relationship strong enough to last a lifetime.
So, what can we learn from the dodo bird? The important thing is not so much what technique you use to make your relationship strong, but rather, whether or not you actually invest time and effort in any technique to make your relationship strong. Don’t forget to do something today to invest in your relationship. Regardless of what you do, chances are, you will receive the prize.