Many of us tend to focus on when things are going in the wrong direction. Not surprising, since our brain was designed to scan for threats before it scans for rewards.
But how about when they are going in the right direction? How do you know if the relationship is healthy?
According to the Gottman method, researchers have learned what skills are the right ones to build for couples’ relationships.
Here are the most important ones on how couples interact:
The approach towards conflict is gentle
If you have something you want to bring up, you do it in a civil, gentle way. You have a conversation about it and you introduce it the same way as you would if you were talking about current events. You inform what’s bothering you (make lots of “I” statements) and you totally avoid criticizing the other.
Healthy partners accept influence from one another
It’s not one partner or the other that rules the house and makes all decisions. Your partner’s opinion has the same weight as yours.
You compensate for the ugly words
During conflicts, you try to say at least 5 positive things for every negative thing you say. Although you may have a difference of opinion, you say (and you mean) that you accept each other for what they think (I know, this is super hard)
You keep your physiological arousal low
If you feel your head is pumping blood into or our heart and making it pump faster, we take a moment to breathe and slow down. If you notice your partner is also getting aroused, you also take a step back and cool things off. Go away for a while, take a walk, do house chores. You will have a lot of energy that you can use in another direction. Resume the conversation later.
You keep control of where the conversation is going
As things escalate, you de-escalate as quickly as possible. Your higher brain knows that you need to control your lower brain.
You create shared meaning
If you can’t agree with your partner or you don’t like a certain aspect of your partner, you focus on what you can create together that you both like. Many couples want to bring their individual self into the relationship and forget that both make up one shared unit. You create the “story of us”.
These are some characteristics of a healthy relationship. Do you or your partner engage in any of these skills? If you do, that is tremendous!
If you’re not there yet, try to remember to practice one of these skills when you get in an argument. As much difficult as it is to remember, you can practice and get better as you go. Small increments of improvement are what I ask for.
If you are unable to create any of these skills on your own or as a couple, please schedule an appointment with me for a free consultation for a couples session.