Last week we said that all couples share lots of similarities when it comes to conflicts and problems in their connected relationships. Couples fall into the same types of habits over time. In part one we looked at 5 of the top themes that couples who are in stable, happy relationships have in common, they:
• Are not “ok with fighting”
• Don’t fall into the “communication traps”
• Have “safe” relationships
• Talk and try to understand at a “deeper level”
• “Repair” miscommunications or arguments
Let’s take a look at some more of the positive patterns or themes couples demonstrate when they maintain close, connected relationships with one another.
Couples in stable, happy relationships:
• Are intentional with their “time together”
This is the gradual, slow-slide couples allow, and one of the most common issues. When couples first get together, they spend a lot of time together. They talk about everything, sacrifice time to be with each other, have fun, romance, and passion. Then, time, careers, houses, kids, and other “busy” issues take root. Couples need strong boundaries to protect their relationship. Without planning and intentional decisions to keep connected, emotional distance is bound to happen. Connected couples have shared Rituals of Connection: Intentional times that partners spend together willingly. They can predict when they can count on the other’s presence. (John Gottman)
• Are careful “how they respond” to one another
When there is a “bid” for connection – which is some form of need for interaction, engagement, or communication – HOW couples respond is extremely important. John Gottman’s research with couples over 40 years has shown that a positive response toward that bid for connection either builds trust in the relationship, or it erodes trust. This is called “turning toward.” When couples have don’t respond or are preoccupied with something else it signals a lack of caring and concern for the partner over time. Couples need to be sensitive and aware to respond to all types of communications, verbal and non-verbal, in caring, positive ways.
• Have more “heart talk” than “work talk”
The reality in intimate relationships is that we connect at the emotional level, not just the cognitive level. “Work talk” is necessary in relationships and especially in home life, of course. There are many tasks to accomplish and solutions to come up with to get through the daily routines with work, schedules, kids, etc. But couples need “heart talk” so they can connect, express feelings and needs, and show care and understanding to each other. This type of communication helps them feel good about each other and creates a sense of purpose and importance in the relationship.
• Have the right “attitude” in the relationship
It’s easy to say what attitude we want our partner to have toward our selves. Open, honest, willing, flexible, understanding, caring, loving, etc. But when it comes to actually doing it, it is hard to have a positive attitude on a regular basis. Great relationships are ones that know their partner is different than themselves. And though they may not completely understand why they do what they do, or think like they think, they try to have the right attitude toward their “uniqueness” and even “weirdness.” We all come from different backgrounds and have different personalities. Hey, the sheer craziness of the differences in males and females is bizarre. But solid, loving couples honor and celebrate their differences, show empathy and understanding and are “interested and curious” (Movie Theater Attitude) about their partner’s idiosyncrasies and peculiarities!
• “Get help” before it’s too late
The reality is that even as much as we would like to think we can, or “should” be able to fix all of our own problems, we can’t. It is not possible for anyone! If you have tried and failed, if it just doesn’t work, then get some new resources. HINT: A lawyer is NOT a resource for helping your relationship. Find a wise, trusted friend. Read some great authors. Talk to a pastor or minister. Or get professional help.
The gaps in our knowledge and abilities can be bridged. There are masters of relationship. They have been there too. Find help SOONER THAN LATER.