5 Principles to a Stronger Relationship

Thanks to David at Select Psychology in Tynemouth who asked me to write a short piece for their website for Valentine’s Day. I thought it was the least I could do in recognition of all the fresly brewed coffee and teapigs green tea he lets me drink there!

I’ve seen many couples for relationship therapy over the years: some have managed to part with a better understanding of why they found it so difficult to sustain a loving relationship, while many leave grateful for the opportunity to deepen their relationship and move to the next level of togetherness as a result of facing difficulties.

I’m a Relate trained therapist, and also a big fan of the Gottman Institute’s work in researching thousands of real couples since the 1970s (https://www.gottman.com/about/research/) as I believe it’s important to base therapy on a sound evidence base. I’m a bit of a relationship geek and actually enjoy reading research papers!

Four of the principles from the Gottmans’ work that I find myself using all the time are included in their book ‘The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work’ and their ‘Sound Relationship House’, both of which can be easily found online.

69% of conflicts go unresolved: not every disagreement has to be worked through and many successful couples never address 69% of these. Make it a rule to consciously choose which conflicts are worth working on together and which are not important.

5:1 ratio: often when couples come to see me they’ve become frustrated because in trying to improve the relationship they’ve got to a point where every interaction is negative. This is an easy trap to fall into because humans naturally focus on problem solving, but research shos that every negative or problem solving statement needs to be balanced by at least five positive ones. I think of it like vaccinating your relationship in advance of the bugs of life!

Love Maps: often when we date we stay up all night talking and finding out about our partner, but when things become more familiar we forget our partner is changing all the time. Making time to find out how their day went, whether their favourite colour has changed, where they would love to go on holiday helps to build a shared foundation for togetherness.

Turning Towards, not against or away: when conflict calls there are two really unhelpful ways to manage things, you can fight, or you can run away. The only successful way of managing differences of perspective in a relationship is to turn towards each other in calm moments and find ways to speak and hear each other respectfully and with empathy.

In addition to these, in ‘Romancing the Shadow: A Guide to Soul Work for a Vital, Authentic Life’ Connie Zweig and Steve Wolf write about the relationship as being the ‘third body’ that needs to be nourished. I prefer to think of a relationship as a garden that grows between two people. If one (or both) parties neglects the garden then weeds and pests will quickly invade the space and take over, but if both people make space and time to cultivate their shared garden it will flourish and grow as they would wish.

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Armele Philpotts is a relationship and family therapist working at Relate and privately in the North East of England. She is a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and the Association for Family Therapy

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Relationships Advent Calendar . Day 17 . Share Something New

After a while together it’s easy to assume your honey knows everything about you, but stop a minute and think about that .. in reality you go out and learn new stuff about yourself every day, you’re constantly changing and growing and there’s no way your partner could keep up with all those new bits of you ..

So share something your honey doesn’t know about you today .. a new favourite food, or maybe somewhere you’d REALLY like to be kissed (behind your ears, between the sheets or maybe in public?) 😉

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The Truth about Internet Dating

This month I invited Carol Stoker from A Friendly Face introduction agency, to share her experiences around internet dating. She founded the agency after spending a few years becoming frustrated with dating through the internet.

For the rest of your life“Internet dating is a massive business, catering for all sectors of the community and there are thousands of profiles out there. Freedom of choice is great, but there are downsides:

Rejection . Are you prepared for responses like “Not in a million years” and “I don’t date old women”? (I didn’t make these up, unfortunately).

Safety . You’re going on ‘blind dates’ every time you meet someone. You may have ‘spoken’ via email for weeks, but who are they really? TELL SOMEONE when and where you are going. DO NOT divulge personal details (eg where you live) until you have seen them a few times and seen some form of ID. I ask all my clients for a recent utility bill.

Photographs . It has been known for someone to use a picture of her better-looking sister as a profile picture (true story). Or more commonly photos are from five years ago. This is the biggest bugbear amongst internet daters I have spoken with.

They’re Married . If this doesn’t bother you then ok. But be aware of this if you’re joining a dating site to meet someone to spend the rest of your life with.

Time-wasters . The people who email for weeks and never meet up; they’re just passing time sitting on their computers. Or the people who reply, night after night, with short answers… “I’m ok, how are you?” “What you been up to?”

Social Isolation . You realise you never make the effort to go out with your friends and family anymore.

Scruffs . Your date turns up looking as though they haven’t bothered about their appearance, even though you have spent the last hour and a half making sure you look your best because he/she might be ‘The One!’

Friends with Benefits . And lastly, the men or women who meet you, charm you, you get on well with, and they announce at the end of the night all they want is a sex buddy!”

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afriendlyfacelogoCarol meets with members of A Friendly Face more than once, to get to know them and the things they value about a relationship.

The agency has members from all parts of the UK including Scotland, and believes that love isn’t necessarily found on your doorstep.

http://www.afriendlyface.co.uk

@CarolFace12

What do you think? Do you agree with Carol? Have you had any disappointing experiences with internet dating? Would you like some coaching in how to date smarter? I’d love to hear from you.

8 Ways to Babyproof your Relationship .. after the arrival

The goal is to have a conversation in a way so that you can have another conversation tomorrow . Unknown

babynewsmWhen your baby is born it may feel like it’s your birthday, with lots of attention, gifts and well wishers, but the reality is that looking after a new baby can be hard on your relationship as well as on you individually.

Children are both the best and hardest challenge for a couple, they bring joy and love as well as frustration, anxiety and test parents to their limits. Amidst all this it’s easy to lose track of what brought them here in the first place, your relationship.

Once your baby arrives it’s important to look after yourselves, not just for your own sakes but everyone in the family:

  • Take time out to talk, listen and to have fun together
  • Make time for each of you to be alone, hang out with friends and remember what it’s like to be you, not mum or dad
  • Be flexible, and be prepared to change your approach as your child’s needs develop
  • Be realistic about what you can manage .. Simplify, simplify, simplify!!
  • Avoid being territorial about the baby, share with your partner even if they do things differently to you
  • Be each other’s cheerleaders and point out successes at least once a day
  • Keep an eye on each other to watch for signs of postnatal depression or other indications that you’re finding the adjustment tough
  • Find outside sources of support in your community or online, like mumsnet or http://newdadsnetwork.com to help you through this time

And above all don’t give up, if you feel you need additional help with your relationship contact a specialist relationship counselling organization like Relate or a qualified private relationship counsellor.

With thanks for much of this material to Elizabeth Martyn, whose book Babyshock, is one of a series of books by Relate on maintaining happy and healthy relationships.

babynewWhat do you think? Have you been given any really useful advice about becoming a parent? Are you finding things difficult and would appreciate a confidential place to talk about it?

Get in touch using the form below or using my contact details.