couples issues

The Platinum Rule: How to Enrich Your Intimate Relationships

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Platinum is a symbol of true love, purity, rarity, and strength. These qualities of platinum are equivalent to the ideals of eternal true love, something couples strive for in their relationships.

We all want to connect in our intimate relationships, yet most of us have difficulty holding ourselves back when partners voice their frustration. Most people respond either by offering words of reassurance, try to solve the problem, or worst offer constructive criticism.

If you use one of the methods above, you wouldn’t be surprised if I say your partner’s response is not the one you might have been expecting. Your “help” might have not have landed the way you expected or had the effect you intended. Most people respond by feeling more irritable or frustrated than they were before they even shared their concerns.  

Working with numerous couples struggling in their relationships, I’ve learned empathy towards one another works best to build on intimacy and get more out of the relationship. First, I ask couples to commit to empathy before they verbally engage. As a relational therapist I lead with empathy in the room and then ask couples to use the same method and see how the partners respond.

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Not that starting out with words of empathy, understanding and compassion will always work. There are times when nothing can. But particularly in troubling situations where the startup is likely to determine the outcome, there’s no safer way to open a discussion than seeking to genuinely “participate” in your partner’s state of mind. This is most effectively accomplished through accurately identifying with their feelings, whether they’ve been overtly stated or implied by language, facial expression, and tone of voice.

When your partner experiences that you’re sincerely making an effort to grasp where they’re coming from, the odds that they'll be more receptive to where you’re coming from. The strong desire to feel understood and non-judged increases emotional intimacy and connection in the relationship.

Healing  yourself  heals the relationship.

Healing yourself heals the relationship.

How to improve your relationship?

As a therapist working with couples I find that couples fights have similar themes. Some of the issues coming to surface is money, chores, sex, parenting styles, and communication issues about all of the above. In general, people get tired of the same fights and I believe their intentions are to really improve their relationships. In my experience, when each person in the relationship is willing to address the underlying feelings that contribute to these arguments, progress can be made. We all get so upset that our partner spent too much money, didn’t pay enough attention to us, or slacked on the household chores that we sometimes stop doing the most important thing: listening.

Some of most important aspect of a successful relationship is respect for and attention to your partner’s feelings. It is important to not be distracted when your partner is hurting and address their needs. Awareness and understanding what your partner is experiencing can help bringing collaborate support into your relationship. However, the partner sharing their feelings and needs has a critical job. If you criticize, blame, or accuse your partner as you express what you are feeling, it is hard for your partner to listen.

According to research, many couples start to come apart seven years after the wedding because our culture doesn’t teach us how to maintain and strengthen our emotional bonds. That’s where The Gottman Institute (relationship expert) comes in. The seven ideas below, drawn from four decades of real science, will make your love last a lifetime.

1. Seek help early.
The average couple waits six years before seeking help for relationship problems. And keep in mind, half of all marriages that end do so in the first seven years. This means the average couple lives with unhappiness for far too long. If you feel there’s any sign of trouble in your marriage early on, seek help.

2. Edit yourself.
The most successful couples are kind to each other. They avoid saying every critical thought when discussing touchy topics, and they will find ways to express their needs and concerns respectfully without criticizing or blaming their partners. 

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 3. Soften your “start up.”
Arguments often “start up” because one partner escalates the conflict by making a critical or contemptuous remark. Bringing up problems gently and without blame works much better and allows couples to calmly engage in conflict.

4. Have high standards.
Happy couples have high standarts for each other. The most successful couples are those who, even as newlyweds, refused to accept hurtful behavior from one another. Low levels of tolerance for bad behavior in the beginning of a relationship equals a happier couple down the road.

5. Learn to repair and exit the argument.
Happy couples have learned how to exit an argument, or how to repair the situation before an argument gets completely out of control. Examples such as: using humor; offering a caring remark (“I understand that this is hard for you”); making it clear you’re on common ground (“We’ll tackle this problem together”); and, in general, offering signs of appreciation for your partner and their feelings along the way.

If an argument gets too heated, take a 20-minute break, and agree to approach the topic again when you are both calm.

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6. Focus on the positives.
In a happy marriage, while discussing problems, couples make at least five as many positive comments to and about each other and their relationship as negative ones. For example, a happy couple will say “We laugh a lot” instead of “We never have any fun.” A good marriage must have a rich climate of positivity. Make regular deposits to your emotional back accounts.  

As Dr. Gottman says, “Everything Positive you do in a relationship is foreplay.” If you are having problems in your relationship, try looking for positive ways to engage your partner. Even if there is conflict, making a kind remark, or a thoughtful gesture can go a long way if your relationship is stuck in a rut.