How satisfied we are in our relationships depends on how connected we feel with our partner, research suggests. However, ‘connection’ is something determined at childhood and therefore is difficult to re-jig in our adult years. In a study by Prior and Glasser who looked at our ability to connect with others- or our ‘attachment style’- and found the majority of children have a secure attachment style (65%) and only a small remainder with an insecure attachment style (35%). Adults with insecure attachments show jealously, obsession and seem to be constantly riding an emotional rollercoaster.
However, the good news is that despite insecure attachments, you can develop your connection with your partner by developing a deeper friendship, spending time together by doing things you both like or staying up to date with your partner’s changing likes, dislikes and interests. Staying in tune with your partner helps to keep you connected.
Like old times…
Remember the fizz of the first stages of your relationship; three course dinners out, and butterflies in the stomach before seeing them? Naturally, the early-day spark does die out and is taken over by a warm glow of a long, strong relationship, although you can still actively show your partner appreciation by making a bit more effort; can a compliment a day keep divorce away?!
The Here and Now
How your relationship weathers depends a lot on your mutual availability in the present moment. Couples tend to spread apart over time without even realising, until one day they suddenly realise their distance. For a rock-solid bond, accept sways within your relationship; be open and listen when they want to share with you, and if they need private time, let them go about it without feeling hurt or interfering.
Positive Mental Attitude!
Researchers have found that unhappy couples focus on the negative aspects of their relationship. An early study by Robinson &Price shows that unhappy couples underestimate the number of pleasurable events in the relationship by 50%, whilst Fincham, Beach &Baucom found that individuals in strained relationships were highly likely to attribute negative intentions to their partner’s behaviour.
When stuck in the rut of distorted thinking, try to think of a neutral explanation as to why your partner reacted that way, or even better, talk to them about it. Asking in a non-judgemental, open way why they said ‘x’ could lead to interesting insight into your other half’s mind.
Sharing is Caring
As Gottman’s research shows, when there is a lack of willing for one partner to share power, there is an 81% likeliness of the relationship breaking down. Hoarding power indicates you do not tryst or value your partner’s opinion. Instead, develop a more accepting attitudes and aim for compromise.
A study looking at data from a UK dating site found that 13% of couples reported losing shared goals. Further research shows that couples with shared dreams and goals have much longer lasting and more satisfying relationships. Have a conversation in which you can get back into sync with your shared ideas, re-establish similarities and show interest in their values and aspirations.
An Anger Mask?
Anger is a natural human experience. But when anger is constantly in the background within your relationship, advises emotion therapist Sue Johnson, re-evaluate how you are really feeling. She states that ‘anger is a secondary emotion, felt only after more primary emotions such as sadness or a fear of being abandoned’. Consider why you’re feeling angry and don’t be afraid to discuss things with your partner in a calm and open way. Sue advises thinking about your last argument with your partner and looking for hidden messages that were masked by an aggressive, angry tone. For example, “you’re a workaholic!” might really mean “I miss you and want to spend more time together”.
In troubled relationships, one partner tends to be critical and demanding and the other withdrawn. Emotion-focused therapist Douglas Tilley notes that 85% of the latter type are generally men. The reason may be biological, as men’s cardiovascular systems are more responsive to stress and thus tuning out your mate is an attempt to avoid uncomfortable situations. The next time things get heated, try to hit the balance of open and communicative, and avoid having discussions that propel from feelings of immediate anger.
An argument is always fixable. One major area of contention among many couples is finance; economist Jay Zagorsky found that 33% of couples have seriously divergent views on income, wealth and debts, particularly in the initial stages of a relationship. To avoid situations where finances spiral out of control, discuss an action plan with your spouse; an arrangement you can both live with comfortably and realistically.
Relationship scientist John Gottman found that 69% of relationship conflicts are persistent problems that resolve around the same old issues. Therefore, to thoroughly ‘fix’ the problem, things need to dug out from the very root, and dealing with such difficult emotions may be aided by seeking meditation or professional assistance. When your partner is talking, be sure to listen without judgement. When it is your turn to speak up, be honest and open, but gentle around areas you know are contentious.