“There is no hope or joy except in human relationships.” – Antonine de Saint-Exupery
Valentine’s Day is coming up and even if you don’t “celebrate” Valentine’s Day the day might start you thinking about your relationships.
Relationships are important. You may love who you are in relationship with – but still have difficulty getting along with them.
Women are relationship oriented. Relationships mean a lot to us. A good relationship can give us increased energy, support a positive outlook, and the oomph to pursue our dreams. A troubled relationship can wear us out and zap our zest for life.
Nothing affects us as woman like the quality of our relationships.
Research shows that when we feel emotionally disconnected from those with whom we are in relationship, our emotional brain becomes aroused and we move into flight or fight mode. This means we respond only in terms of defense and attack. The results are not good for our relationships plus it throws our physiology into chaos.
When women are in disconnected, turbulent, or emotionally fulfilling relationships, we become drained, negative, and feel like we can’t sustain these kinds of connections.
By contrast, relationship peace and fulfillment supports better health and well being, more vital energy and more positive moods. By almost every measure when we have close and rewarding relationships we do better than when we have turbulent relationship.
But don’t despair if your relationships aren’t what you wish they were. There are simple and effective ways to turn your relationships into energy generators instead of energy drainers. No matter what our path in life is it pays us huge dividends to bolster our relationship connections.
Spend More Time with Your Partner
Marriage researcher John Gottman has found that marriages that work and improve over the years have certain characteristic interactions. Happy couples spend more time on their relationships– an extra 5 hours a week.
Instill some of these Happy Relationship practices into your relationship to increase your fulfillment:
Greetings – a quick hug, kiss – some acknowledgment -when your partner comes home. And is you come home and your partner doesn’t notice go find them and you do the greeting.
Reunions –have a low stress reunion conversation at the end of the day. How was your day? What was the best thing that happened today? Any problems come up and how did you solve them? Do you need any support?
Affection –have more physical contact – about 5 minutes a day – laced with kindness and forgiveness
One weekly date –make time each week – at least 2 hours – to be by your selves in a relaxed atmosphere updating your life and relationship with each other, having fun, and enjoying each other. These dates are for connecting and enjoying – don’t talk about serious stuff. Save the serious stuff for regular Growth Council Meetings.
Growth Council Meetings – schedule into your calendars regular times once or twice a month to take a look at your relationship and your life and see what’s not working and what is working. Craft a plan together to keep/get things moving in the right direction.
Admiration and appreciation – at least once a day give each other some genuine affection and appreciation
Look to Each Other Strengths
One of the more amazing results of research on romance is that the more you hold onto your illusions about your partner’s strengths and virtues, the more lasting and stable the relationship is and the happier you are.
The crucial measure is the discrepancy between what your friends believe are your strengths and what your partner believes are your strengths. The bigger the discrepancy in what your partner believes about your strengths — in the positive direction — the greater the romantic illusion your partner has about you. You may have average conversational skills but if your partner sees you as a great conversationalist this “romantic illusion” is a great win for both of you.
Happier couples look on the bright side of the relationship, focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses — believing that bad events that might threaten other couples do not affect them. These couples thrive even when they are actually threatened with such events, and they do so in proportion to the size of their illusions about each other.
Positive illusions are self–fulfilling because the idealized partners actually try to live up to them. They are daily buffers against hassles, since partners forgive each other more easily for the transgressions of daily life and use the alchemy of illusion to downplay faults and elevate shortcomings into strengths.
Strive to see your partner’s little faults as cute, quirky, and charming characteristics that make them the unique person they are.
The optimistic and pessimistic styles of each person in the marriage impacts how healthy, stable and viable the relationship is and how workable and happy it is. Any combination of optimism and pessimism can work except when two pessimists get together.
When two pessimists are in a relationship, it is easy for a negative downward spiral to occur – the odds are against you. In a situation like this, it is important for one or both of the members of the relationship to get to work on changing their pessimistic outlook into a learned, more optimistic style.
Be A More Responsive and Attentive Listener
Responsive and attentive listening can help make a good relationship better and a poor relationship a good relationship. Validation is a crucial aspect of responsive listening.
Letting your partner know that you hear what they are telling you is an important step towards letting your partner know that they are important to you. You should go out of your way to validate what your partner is saying. The more your partner cares about an issue the clearer your validation needs to be.
Validation by you as the listener (“I see what you are saying ,” “Yes, I hear you”, “OK, I get what you are saying”) let’s your partner who is speaking know that they has been seen, acknowledged, and are understood.
It is also important to let your partner who is speaking know that you either agree or at least are understanding or sympathetic with what they are saying by nodding, or saying “I agree”, ” Right” “I can see how you would think that”.
Non-responsive listening can be the result of inattention due to external factors such as noise or a distracting situation or internal factors such as fatigue and listening to your own thoughts instead of the speaker, and boredom. To increase your partner’s feeling of validation it is important to move past such factors.
Your partner will feel invalidated not seen nor heard – not valued- if you are non-responsive.
One internal factor that often gets in the way of responsive listening is the practice of preparing your rebuttal while listening to your partner. A good way to overcome this habit is to begin your response with a paraphrase of what you heard your partner say – this let’s both of you know you are on the same page.
Your ongoing emotional state is also a barrier to responsive listening. When you are experiencing negative emotions you are more likely to hear what is wrong with your partner’s point rather than what is right. In this case, the best practice is to admit the negative emotion and ask to put off the conversation to another time when you can be more present or apologize for the non-responsive reply and try again when you feel more ready to listen.
By being more responsive as a listener, you show your partner that you are paying more attention to them in a higher quality way and that you care about maintaining the connection with them.
Capitalize On Your Communication
The quality of your response to good or positive news from your partner can turn any good relationship – marriage, parenting, friendship – into a great one. If you react positively and enthusiastically, your relationship is likely to be more committed, more caring, and more satisfying – at the time and later on.
Shelly Gable divides the possible responses to good news into the following four categories:
Your partner tells you about a big promotion and raise they just got at work. How do you respond:
Do you “react enthusiastically” (active-constructive)? “That’s the best news I’ve heard this week, and I’ll bet it’s just the first of many big raises you’ll get.”
Do you “point out the potential problems or down sides of the good event” (active-destructive)? “Are you sure you can handle the added responsibility?”
Do you say little, but convey that you are happy to hear the news” (passive-constructive)? “That’s very nice, dear.”
Do you seem uninterested” (passive-destructive)? “Isn’t all this rain something?”
The first category, active-constructive, capitalizes on the situation, amplifying the pleasure of the good situation contributing to an upward spiral of positive emotion.
Capitalizing turns out to be a key to strong relationships.
When your partner in a relationship tells you some good news or something they are excited about, take the time and energy to convey your enthusiastic positive support. Save any downsides that you see until another time.
More Relationship Happiness
What 3 ways are you going to use to build happier relationship?
Supportive and fulfilling relationships contribute to good all around and for everyone. No matter what your work in the world or the path you are walking close and kind relationships make everything easier. But good relationships take work and with just a few targeted changes, you can reap the benefits of stable, connected and satisfying relationships.
“What do we live for if not to make life less difficult for each other?” – George Elliot
Cultivate Thriving – If you would like to move more deeply into creating and unfolding your Thriving Life consider working with me in Cultivate Thriving Life Coaching. Click here to find out how to get your complimentary Cultivate Thriving consultation.
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