How to build a loving relationship

It’s easy to fall in love but to keep your love alive and enduring requires work.  According to Dr. John Gottman, the guru of healthy and happy relationships, we need to be aware of our negative behaviour patterns, called the “Four Horsemen of Apocalypse”:

Criticism

Attacking your partner’s personality or character with the intent of making someone right and someone wrong, i.e. “you always…” “you never…””you’re the type of person who…””why are you so…”

Contempt

Attacking your partnet’s sense of self with the intention to insult or psychologically abuse him/her.  Insults and name calling: “bitch, bastard, wimp, fat, stupid, ugly, slob, lazy…”. Hostile humour, sarcasm or mockery.  Body language & tone of voice: sneering rolling your eyes, curling your upper lip.

Defensiveness

  • Seeing yourself as the victim, warding off a perceived attack.  Making excuses that external circumstances beyound your control forced you to act in a certain way.  “It’s not my fault…”;”he/she made me do it…”
  • Cross-complaining: meeting your partner’s complaint, or criticism with a complaint of your own; ignoring what your partner said.
  • Disagreeing and then cross-complaining – “that’s not true, you’re the one who…” “I did this because you did that…”
  • “Yes… but” – start off agreeing but end up disagreeing.  Repeating yourself without paying attention to what the other person is saying.  Whining “it’s not fair.”

Stonewalling

Withdrawing from the relationship as a way to avoid conflict.  Partners may think that they are trying to be “neutral” but stonewalling conveys disapproval, icy distance, separation, disconnection, and/or smugness.  Stony silence; monosyllabic mutterings; changing the subject; removing yourself physically; silence treatment.

Healthy solutions:

  • Make specific complaints & requests –  “When you said or did this, I felt…; I want… “
  • Conscious communications – speak the unarguable truth and listen well.
  • Validate your partner.  Let your partner know what makes sense to you about what they are saying;  let them know you understand what they are feeling, see through their eyes.
  • Shift to appreciation – give 5 times as much positive feeling & interaction as negative.  Take responsibility: “what can I learn from this?” and “what can I do about it?”.
  • Re-write your inner script.  Replace thoughts of righteous indignation or innocent victimisatin with thoughts of appreciation, responsibility that are soothing & validating.
  • Practice not to be on the defensive.  Allow your partner’s comments to be what they really are – just thoughts and puffs of air.  Let go of your own perception / stories that you are making up in your head.