REPAIRS DURING CONFLICT ARE A SUPERPOWER OF EMOTIONALLY CONNECTED COUPLE
When you think about it, every couple in every relationship is set up for failure. It is impossible to be emotionally available to your partner 100 percent of the time. In fact, you will miss most of your partner’s bids for emotional connection out of mindlessness.
But failure is not the problem. Even a mother who failed to be responsive and available 50 percent of the time can raise a child to be a healthy adult who has healthy relationships. According to psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, the difference between “good mothers and bad mothers is not the omission of errors but what they do with them.” How a child copes with everyday failures and fluctuations is directly related to the degree in which their parent creates an environment for a secure attachment bond and how that parent repairs their errors.
This is no different in our romantic relationships. The difference between happy couples and unhappy couples is not that happy couples don’t make mistakes. We all do. How couples handle conflict resolution is what separates the relationship Masters from the Disasters.
“WE WERE ENGAGED TO BE MARRIED BUT SHE CHEATED ON ME”
The story of a man who was cheated and broke off his engagement and is rebuilding his life
We never imagine that something terrible can happen to us until it actually does. Was I a fool to think everlasting love exists? Was honesty too much to ask for? Should she not have just told me and moved on with dignity?
Engaged to be married, I caught my fiancé cheating and decided to call the wedding off.
It’s not easy when you share the workplace with your ex and I feel like all eyes are on me and all minds trying to sort out the Gordian knot that my personal life has suddenly become. It’s been two months and I haven’t seen her in the office. It bothers me to think what story she may have spun to explain what happened between us, especially when I get cold stares from her friends.
WHEN A MORNING PERSON MARRIES A NIGHT OWL
What can you do to avoid conflict if your sleep patterns do not align?
I have taken to adding on to whatever wish I inscribe on my gifts when I go to weddings, the phrase, ‘and wishing you sleep patterns that actually align!’
But by the time people unwrap those gifts and receive my well-intentioned but rather useless wish, it is usually too late. What do you do if you are Ms Night Owl and you have just married Mr Morning Lark, or the other way round?
Well, I guess you could try adjusting to the other’s routine and become Mr Morning and Ms Night Owl or Mr Morning and Ms Night Lark.
SEPARATE ROOMS FOR A MARRIED COUPLE TO SLEEP WELL?
In the Victorian era, husband and wife slept in separate rooms. Was it not the antithesis of marriage? Isn’t sleeping together the essence of marriage?
A sharp and insistent poke on my back woke me from my sweet slumber. Confused, I groped in the dark, rooting for the offending object. I wanted to turn around but couldn’t, as there was no room to manoeuvre my body from my usual sleeping-on-the-left side position. I rose, struggling to stop myself from falling off the edge of the bed and groped among the blankets again. The offspring had found his way into our room yet again, occupied his choicest spot in the middle of our bed and slowly poked his way into making space for himself. The husband had slid towards the other edge only to be hindered by the other offspring. Two is company but four is a crowd. A wave of weariness swooped on me, forcing me to fall back on my pillow, which was half outside the bed. This noble attempt of going back to sleep was hampered by the offspring who had by now turned and occupied the entire space on my side of the bed.
I stood up and dragged myself to the children’s room, closing the door behind me on the face of the dog who attempted to follow in the hope of a midnight snack. I fell on the welcoming bed, devoid of children, husband and dog. For the first time in many months, I slept peacefully for the rest of the night.
I DON’T THINK I LOVE HIM ANYMORE
(As told to Antara Majumder)
She worked from home and took care of the children, ran the household and handled financial responsibilities, but, that still was not enough.
(Names changed to protect identities)
It was an unusual Sunday morning. I lazed around with my coffee mug. Children are out on a camp from school. And…finally…I found some ‘me’ time by the balcony.
I heard Vivan discussing the academic and behavioural progress of the kids with his mother, at the breakfast table. Clearly, they weren’t very happy about my absence. My mother-in-law cited examples from the neighbourhood of mothers who have happily given up their careers to bring up the kids. Vivan switched the topic quickly, to how I should use my time more effectively, as most days I work from home.
I smiled to myself. We had a lot of discussion about this, which ultimately ended in a heated argument. Read more
THE FOUR HORSEMEN: CRITICISM, CONTEMPT, DEFENSIVENESS, AND STONEWALLING
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a metaphor depicting the end of times in the New Testament. They describe conquest, war, hunger, and death respectively. Dr. Gottman uses this metaphor to describe communication styles that can predict the end of a relationship.
The first horseman of the apocalypse is criticism. Criticizing your partner is different than offering a critique or voicing a complaint. The latter two are about specific issues, whereas the former is an ad hominem attack. It is an attack on your partner at the core. In effect, you are dismantling his or her whole being when you criticize.
- Complaint: “I was scared when you were running late and didn’t call me. I thought we had agreed that we would do that for each other.”
- Criticism: “You never think about how your behavior is affecting other people. I don’t believe you are that forgetful, you’re just selfish! You never think of others! You never think of me!”
THE ANGER ICEBERG
Have you ever wondered why we get angry? According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, “emotions are, in essence, impulses to act, the instant plans for handling life that evolution has instilled in us.”
In his book Emotional Intelligence, Goleman tells us that anger causes blood to flow to our hands, making it easier for us to strike an enemy or hold a weapon. Our heart rate speeds up and a rush of hormones – including adrenaline – creates a surge of energy strong enough to take “vigorous action.” In this way, anger has been ingrained into our brain to protect us. Read more
UNDERSTANDING EACH OTHER: THE FIRST PART OF THE STATE OF THE UNION MEETING
How you and your partner fight directly influences how emotionally connected and passionate your relationship is.
After four decades of research on thousands of couples, Dr. Gottman noticed that the Masters of relationships fought differently than the Disasters. The Masters focused on attuning to each other by seeking to understand before problem-solving, whereas the Disasters consistently devolved into the Four Horsemen: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.
To help couples successfully navigate issues like the Masters instead of the Disasters, Dr. Gottman created a weekly meeting called “The State of the Union.”
STOP TRYING TO FIX YOUR PARTNER’S FEELINGS
One of our deepest needs as humans is to feel understood, and true understanding is not possible without empathy. As psychologist Carl Rogers put it, “When someone really hears you without passing judgment on you, without trying to take responsibility for you, without trying to mold you, it feels damn good!”
Think back to a time when you were listened to and really felt heard. How did it feel to be seen as you were?
The last letter in Dr. Gottman’s ATTUNE model is E and it stands for Empathy. Brené Brown describes empathy beautifully in this brief animated video.
5 RITUALS TO RECONNECT IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP
In his book The Intentional Family, Bill Dougherty discusses “rituals of connection” as an important tool for successful relationships. A ritual of connection is a way of regularly turning towards your partner that can be counted on.
Erica and Rob, both in their late forties, have been happily married for ten years and are raising three children. When I asked Rob about the rituals in their marriage, he reflects:
We hug every day when I get home because physical touch is one of my Love Languages. Erica is not as affectionate as I am, but she’s up for it because she know’s how important it is to me.