By: Cristina Trette
All couples have their rough moments. Fights, missteps, and miscommunications will happen. It is unrealistic for our relationships to be blissful 100 percent of the time. Yet, some relationships dip into the negative too often. This can have both partners experience high stress which is not good for the relationship or personal wellbeing. Keep reading to shift out of negative patterns and into positive ones.
John Gottman, PhD and author of “What Makes Love Last” has dedicated his career to researching couples and romantic relationships. Gottman's research tells us to aim for having a ratio of five positive moves to every one negative one.
The 5 to 1 ratio is not an arbitrary formula. It turns out that couples who hit the 5 to 1 ratio are more likely to stay happily married, while those with more negativity are more likely to divorce.
If you are frustrated in your relationship there are several key moves that you will want to stop doing (or at least do less of)! Keep reading.
Blame is common! It can happen fast, often below our level of consciousness. We do this out of self-protection. It is far easier to say our mistakes are the result of external factors instead of looking at what we are doing to create our problems.
“Things would be great between us if only...
she was not such a nag…
he would help with the kids and house…
she would want more sex…
he would be home more”.
Focusing on what he/she does that frustrates you does not create change. It will only keep you stuck.
Self-blame is also unproductive. Although it will be beneficial to examine all the ways you contribute to your dynamic, blaming yourself entirely for your relationship struggles won't help. Both of you are in this cycle and both of you have done things to the relationship.
Note, if you are experiencing abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, financial) this article will not be helpful to you. Please seek professional help immediately. For more information go to www.thehotline.org.
When working with couples, I help them shift blame to the cycle itself. This allows couples to join together against their struggles. It is often a relief to know that neither one is at fault, but instead, they get swept up in a cycle that leads to all sorts of difficulties. Together they are empowered to change the cycle, not the other person.
All of us will be negative sometimes. We have hard days and bad moods. Sometimes we vent or complain. It is normal and healthy to be able to share our upset.
Toxic negativity is different. It centers around wanting to bring down your partner and hurt him/her in some way, whether this is conscious or unconscious. Critical comments, passive aggressiveness, and put-downs, will add up and take a toll on the wellbeing of your relationship.
Underneath harshness or criticism is almost always a yearning for closeness and feelings of hurt. This does not excuse the hurtful behavior but it should provide more insight. It should also provide hope because there is so much room for growth.
Find ways to express your feelings, needs, and requests with respect and care. If either you or your partner are not able to do this on your own, start couples therapy with a therapist trained in Emotionally Focused Therapy.
You will have complaints about your partner. Everyone has shortcomings. It is likely you will judge your partner from time to time.
Often, our judgments have more to do with our self than they do the other person. Take a look within yourself and see if there are certain behaviors or qualities you have that you may want to shift.
On the other hand, if your partner is doing something with his or her life that creates a lot of angst within you, it is important to bring this up directly and have conversations about this.
See if you can shift from judgement to acceptance, of yourself and of your partner. Then, if needed, take action.
Defensiveness prevents meaningful communication. It also prevents learning and growth. When someone points out my mistakes, I can quickly go to defense.
I have learned that the moment I defend is the perfect moment to stop talking and start listening.
The next time you catch yourself wanting to defend, see if you can pause. Then try to hear and accept what the other has to say. If you stay quiet and listen, it is possible you will learn something very important about yourself, your partner, or the relationship.
Hello! I am Cristina Trette. I am a Couples Therapist and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I write about relationships, parenting, and wellbeing. Have you noticed that stopping certain moves or behaviors have improved your relationship?
Hello! I am Cristina Trette. I am a Couples Therapist, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and Certified in Perinatal Mental Health. I write on all things related to relationships, parenthood, and connection.