The Gift of Zero Negativity, The Good News
As I’ve shared in my previous blogs, couples face many internal and external obstacles. However, the good news is that thanks to decades of research on couples and the brain, not only do we know what pulls couples apart, but we also know a great deal about what holds them together. I firmly believe all relationships are an opportunity for self-discovery and growth. All the leading couples’s experts agree we can reduce our vulnerability to reactivity and judgment, if we go into conversations with openness and curiousity. I have found, the more we are aware of our personal triggers or hot topics and our body cues and have tools for soothing ourselves, the easier it is to have our emotions work for instead of against us.
Sue Johnson, the creator of Emotion Focussed Therapy (EFT), emphasizes that in order for people to feel securely attached and feel connected they need to trust that their partner is really there for them. There are many things we can do in our daily lives to create a positive climate. Relationship experts, John and Julie Gottman, recommend partners carve out daily and weekly time to connect. You can use this time to deepen your love maps or awareness of your partner’s inner world as well as engage in daily stress reducing conversations. These conversations provide an opportunity for each partner to vent about outside stressors. This is a great chance to practice the skills of active listening: reflecting back and asking for clarification, validating or expressing empathy and identifying the deeper longing underneath. Because we are less likely to be triggered, we can help point out our partner’s strengths and capability to solve the problem. When we fully attune to another person’s experience, especially someone we care deeply about, negativity is less likely to seep into the conversation. As an added bonus, the Gottmans explain, we actually increase our power when we yield to win; meaning when we are open to accepting the influence of our partners they feel heard and are more likely to be open to our point of view. Common ground is uncovered and compromises are more likely to be reached.
I recently heard happily married couples therapists, Gay and Katie Hendricks, share some of their secrets for marital bliss: creating variety and newness in the relationship, laughing together, spending time meditating or in quiet connection. They also emphasized the importance of sharing intimate details and personal struggles with our partners to keep things juicy.
Simple things like expressing appreciation to one another and using Rick Hanson’s Take in the Good HEAL meditation can help couples savour and notice all the good experiences in their relationship.
For even more tips, check out http://www.huffingtonpost.com/harriet-lerner/12-simple-steps-for-a-sus_b_1195448.html from bestselling author Harriet Lerner.