Do you ever try to keep things positive in your relationship, but your partner’s energy brings you down? Or do you take your partner’s bad moods too personally?
One of the biggest challenges in relationships is protecting ourselves from too much negativity. It can be hard to stay in a positive space if our partner is really grumpy.
But if we think about this task not in terms of eliminating the negative, but of reaching the proper balance of positive to negative, it becomes far less daunting.
Dr. John Gottman’s research has shown couples who stay together have at least a ratio of 5:1, positive to negative, while truly happy couples maintain a ratio of 20:1. “Positive” means anything the couple defines as such, and consists of interactions which create good feelings, connection, or contributions to the joint emotional bank account.
So keeping spirits up to create loving, fun, and nourishing interactions is the key to success.
This seems pretty basic, but there are some real challenges that get in the way. One is the tendency to “pick up” energy which is not our own. The lines become blurred. Our partner’s issues become our own in attempts to “fix” something that doesn’t belong to us.
Does your partner get mad when you get mad (just because you are)? When we take on our partner’s moods and fail to hold the space of our own positivity, one person ends up having too much power to bring us down. It’s crucial to have a clear sense of our own feelings, separate from our partners.
In addition to these boundary-related challenges, we fall prey to the common myths: successful couples resolve all serious disagreements, and communication skills are the answer.
The truth is successful couples, aside from possessing a clear sense of where their feelings end and begin, endure longstanding unresolved disagreements, and are by no means perfect in their communication.
So the best approach to protecting yourself from bad vibes is to focus on expanding the positive aspects of your relationship.
Negativity: How to protect your relationship
Here are some strategies to expand the positive energy in your relationship:
Table unresolved issues, or agree to disagree. If you are in gridlock on a topic, consciously turn away from the points of conflict and toward something positive. What we focus on grows. So even while “working” on problems, we remain stuck in the problem’s paradigm. As Einstein said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that we used when we created them.” Instead, we must build new structures within the relationship and reside there as much as possible, leaving the old ones empty.
Connect in small ways daily. This means turning towards each other, supporting each other’s interests, and being there when the other is vulnerable. This is far more effective than more punctuated, grander gestures which occur on anniversaries, birthdays and Valentine’s Day.
Successfully make up and repair hurt feelings. Update to new information if your partner is trying to change. Avoid globalizing your partner’s character, and stick to the issue at hand. And most importantly, accept imperfection.
Be best friends. How do you treat your best friend? Delight in your partner’s company, show mutual respect, fondness and admiration. If you are challenged on this right now, think of things you used to enjoy doing together. What are the things you love about your partner? Put a new pair of lenses on that will allow these qualities to re-enter your awareness.
The key to protecting your relationship from too much negativity is to invest your conscious intentions and energy into the creation of good times. Not everything has to be solved first.
Try these out on your relationship and if you want to discuss this topic further with me, join my Free Call on Monday, March 4th, at 5 pm CT. I will email you the details before then.