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If there's one article to read on romantic relationships, this is it.

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Is each unhappy marriage unhappy in its own way, as Tolstoy might say, or do all miserable marriages share something dysfunctional in common?

Kindness can change everything...

I just read this fantastic article that sums up the work of Drs. John and Julie Gottman over the last few decades about what ingredients are needed to make a lasting relationship. For those of you who are not familiar with Dr. John Gottman, he has his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in the field of Mathematics as well as his Master's and Doctorate degrees in Psychology.

This means that Dr. Gottman quantifies the world of Psychology in ways that no other Psychologist ever has. He gives us tangible facts based on years of data collection and research analysis. His brilliant mind has provided the rest of us in the Psychology world the opportunity to focus on and expand upon what is working in a relationship rather than focusing on what's not working.

If you want the hard and not so fast facts, click here to check out this published research for more extensive details on marital stress. 

This article is definitely worth reading all the way through if you are in any stage of a relationship or hoping to be in one at some point in your future. Here are some of my favorite points from my reading:

"Gottman separated the couples into two major groups: the masters and the disasters. The masters were still happily together after six years. The disasters had either broken up or were chronically unhappy in their marriages."

"The problem was that the disasters showed all the signs of arousal — of being in fight-or-flight mode — in their relationships. Having a conversation sitting next to their spouse was, to their bodies, like facing off with a saber-toothed tiger."

"Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it’s not there."

"Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from theirs has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved."

"There are two ways to think about kindness. You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don’t. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people, that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise. Masters tend to think about kindness as a muscle. They know that they have to exercise it to keep it in shape. They know, in other words, that a good relationship requires sustained hard work."

“Kindness doesn’t mean that we don’t express our anger,” Julie Gottman explained, “but the kindness informs how we choose to express the anger. You can throw spears at your partner. Or you can explain why you’re hurt and angry, and that’s the kinder path.” 

"Active constructive responding was also associated with higher relationship quality and more intimacy between partners."

"There are many reasons why relationships fail, but if you look at what drives the deterioration of many relationships, it’s often a breakdown of kindness. As the normal stresses of a life together pile up—with children, career, friend, in-laws, and other distractions crowding out the time for romance and intimacy—couples may put less effort into their relationship and let the petty grievances they hold against one another tear them apart."

"In most marriages, levels of satisfaction drop dramatically within the first few years together. But among couples who not only endure, but live happily together for years and years, the spirit of kindness and generosity guides them forward."

Click here or on the picture above to read the full article.

Ban the Silent Treatment

The silent treatment is a huge predictor of divorce. This demand/withdraw pattern is a common defense practice in many couples that can be easily removed from arguments with a better understanding of your partner's inner world. Why they are making particular demands or why they are withdrawing from demands can provide useful information that can help heal the relationship instead of make it more volatile.

Oftentimes, one partner is responsible for the demand part of the pattern and the other is responsible for the withdraw part. Catch yourself next time you feel this way and express to your partner what is coming up for you. Usually, the argument isn't about the subject at hand. It is most often about feelings that both partners do not feel safe enough to express. Getting out of this pattern can shift the way you connect to your partner and create a more loving forum for open conversation. If you feel you are stuck in this pattern, a few sessions of Life Coaching can potentially help change the way you converse with your partner.

Click here to read the full article.

Where did the love go? ...I’m not feeling the way I’m supposed to.

First off, I want to say that 'supposed to' is a very strong phrase. If this phrase ends up in your thoughts or perceptions, it's usually a good indicator that what follows it may not be a part of your authentic feelings about what you as an individual believe in. 

This article makes some excellent points about the fact that there are several myths on which we as modern day society base our expectations of ourselves and our partners in a marriage or long-term romantic commitment. The most striking of these myths is that oftentimes, two people think that if they love each other, they shouldn't fight. 

The reality is that any two people who spend enough time together will eventually find themselves in some sort of conflict. This reality has no bounds as far as which two people you consider. This could be with a family member, a lover, or a child. Just because there is conflict doesn't mean that the love has come and gone.

Conflict is a very natural and without it, we wouldn't have a forum to exchange differing ideas. Note that there are a plethora of ways in which conflict can be had productively and kindly. There is never a good time to go ballistic on anyone. Learning to manage conflict and to repair the possibly ruptured connection afterwards are key.

As you can read more about in this article, Dr. John Gottman's research found that a whopping 69% of the ongoing problems in marriage are unresolvable. This statistic may be comforting to many people. It means that the majority of couples are having the same difficulties you are – about money, sex, in-laws, kids, whatever. Stick with it, and you will find that choosing to move through time with a fellow flawed human, learning and growing with somebody you love and trust is, despite all the difficulty, is what really makes us happy at the end of the day.

For more great insight, check out the full article by clicking here.