By Darren Wilk, MA, RCC Certified Gottman Therapist & Trainer, Co-owner of Best Marriages
With Christmas just around the corner, excitement starts to build about how everything is supposed to go including hopes and dreams about the love and goodwill amongst all of our relationships. Unfortunately, from a counsellor’s experience this is also a time of increased stress for relationships. Why? Because those positive expectations of less fighting and more love, paradoxically increase fighting and decrease feelings of love. So, what does research tell us we can expect from a really solid relationship?
Here’s a spoiler alert…
a successful relationship is one where the couple stays together and more or less likes each other.
Research has found that the idea of soul mates or falling in love with a person that can read your every thought, is not a part of how successful couples define their relationship. These are very North American ideals that are unsupported in research. Meaning, the rest of the world doesn’t buy into those theories and according to studies, neither do we. The Masters of relationships are defined as couples who can be respectful and treat each other well while they move through time together. It’s as simples as that.
Couple’s counselling is about helping you have conversations that are not hurtful to each other. Often not respecting someone is about having unrealistic expectations and not understanding their position. Marriage is not like any other relationship in our lives. We choose to share our homes, lives, money, children, bodies with each other. Sometimes we look at our friends and say, “Everyone else thinks I am great, why can’t you see that?” In short, our friends don’t have to live with us and share all those challenges that a partner does, so that is an unrealistic comparison.
In long term relationships it is not about falling back in love, but rather being there for your partner when they are in pain and when they are hurting, and yes, when they are happy and excited as well. John Gottman says the number one thing that creates a good relationship and builds trust is attunement. It is saying in your head but also out loud as well, “Baby when you are in pain, sad, scared or upset… my world stops and I will listen.” Love is so much more about being there in the small moments than trying to impress in the big ones.