Unresolved frustration breeds bitterness, and resentment, and loneliness, and disconnection .... And and and and nothing good!!
When we are frustrated with our partners it is easy for this to escalate into negative thoughts about them as people, incorrect assumptions and unkind labels such as “you are so selfish”!
I have found generalised superlatives such a “you always” and “you never” wedge a big space between us. Invariably one of us will be on the attack and the other on the defence as a result. What you’re left with is two adults feeling more like frustrated, misunderstood, sulky children. For this reason I have become intentional about forcing myself to find positives to squash this negative when I find myself starting or continuing unproductive conversations of “always” or “‘never”.
For example: Couples firm favourite - “You never listen to me!” would be the negative superlative. But this isn’t ALWAYS true really, because 1. He remembered what type of restaurant I want to go to the next time we eat out. And 2. He is way more emotionally intelligent then I’m giving him credit for.
By verbalising my “Intentional Appreciation” for my partner I remain connected to him, without becoming overly critical or personal. This serves to strengthen our relationship and bridges the harsh, hostile space between us during our conflict. It also softens us so that we are better equipped to deal with the reasoning behind WHY we were frustrated in the first place.
This exercise is derived from what relationship Guru, Dr Gottman refers to as the MAGIC RATIO 5:1. This means that for every 1 negative interaction during conflict, a stable and happy marriage has five (or more) positive interactions. Fascinatingly, by observing couples, Dr Gottman was able to predict which couples would stay together and which would divorce with over 90% accuracy based on this balance of positive and negative interactions.
Here is a list of interactions that happy couples regularly use to maintain positivity and closeness when frustration, resentment and bitterness is bubbling!
1. Be Interested in WHY your partner is complaining.
2. Express Affection (yes even during conflict) as this reduces stress and encourages intimacy.
3. Intentional Appreciation. Compliment your partner!
4. Demonstrate what matters to them matters to you.
5. Accepting and respecting that your perspective is AS valid as your partners perspective. Simply by saying this and meaning it!
6. Empathy is one of the greatest forms of human connection. To feel WITH your partner! There is no limit to this!
7. Remember you’re on the same team. Don’t make your partner the enemy.
8. Be playful with one another: when did relationships stop being FUN!!
Test this out in your relationship:
Observe how you and your partner interact. For every negative interaction that happens, are there more positive interactions? If not, take it upon yourself to create more positive interactions in your relationship. It is never too late.
Keep a journal for one week that notes the positive interactions, however small, in your relationship and discuss how experiencing each of these in your week made you feel.
Your Registered Counsellor Rooted in Love