You might think that doing the right, hard daily work is crucial to having a fulfilling and lasting romantic relationship. The reality is it’s about doing that right, hard work on a moment-to-moment basis.
The research tells us that the couples that thrive and survive are the ones who are mindful of each other and interact in specific, positive ways in as close to every moment as possible.
Bids for Connection
Specifically, we want to ensure that when our partner is attempting to connect with us, we respond as often as possible in positive ways. Additionally, it is paramount that, in these moments, our partners notice and value these moments.
These attempts to connect are called bids for connection. From decades of research, we know that successful couples are the ones who notice and respond constructively to these bids at least 8.5/10 times.
These bids can be as small and subtle as you or your partner briefly making eye contact or smiling. These bids can be as large as you or your partner trying to share with you a big event from the day. Regardless of how big or small these bids are perceived, here’s the trick: view them as identically important.
The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse
Furthermore, when we begin to communicate we each other, the first 3 minutes are everything. So, we also need to be incredibly mindful and purposeful about them.
The research clarifies that this time period determines with over 90% accuracy how the rest of the conversation will proceed. Start it off correctly and you’re much more likely to hear and understand each other, as well as potentially land on solutions. Start it off wrong and you have a 9/10 chance of dooming the conversation.
Starting it off wrong means using the “Four Horseman of the Apocalypse”(criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling) in your talk. The following are explanations of these incredibly damaging forms of communication:
Criticism. This is where you feel like a finger is pointed at you. It might look like, “You did ___” or “you didn’t do ___.”
- Contempt. This is criticism with a dagger at the end. “You did this thing and it makes you a bad, lazy, mean person.”
- Defensiveness. The most understandable to response the aforementioned attacks. It presents as, “I didn’t do that” or “No you’re wrong.”
- Stonewalling. When our emotions get so intense, a natural response is our body essentially shuts off. Perhaps we don’t make eye contact with our partner or we leave the room, all in an unconscious attempt to bring our internal, emotional temperature down.
Tips from a San Diego Marriage Counselor on What we need to do Instead
- We need to maintain awareness of how we speak to each other, in particular in those first 3 minutes of a conversation.
- Use the gentle start-up as often as possible.
This is a skill where we bring up a topic by, instead of focusing on our partner, we first describe ourselves – in particular, our emotion. So, you might say, “I feel upset.”
Then, instead of describing what your partner did or didn’t do that made you feel that way, describe the situation. This could look like, “I feel upset when the dishes are left in the sink” or “I feel annoyed when the toilet seat is left up.”
The last step of the gentle start-up is where you make a specific request of your partner to make this situation better. So, this is where you can bring the “you” or “us” back into your communication. It could look like this: “I feel upset when the toilet seat is left up. I would appreciate it if you could be sure to put it down each time you use it or if we could do a better job of putting it down each time.”
Protect You and Your Relationship with Support from A Marriage Counselor in San Diego, CA
Through online marriage counseling in California and Oregon, you can dramatically improve your relationship and set yourself and your partner up for the most satisfying and lasting connection you both deserve. At Stress Solutions, our understanding counselor can give you both the skills to strengthen your relationship and puts you in the best position to have the happiest and most rewarding communication and connection.
- To get started, call 619-881-0593.
- Schedule your first appointment with a marriage counselor
- Start strengthening the connection between you and your partner
Other Online Therapy Services Offered in California & Oregon
At Stress Solutions, we provide support for relationships whether you are dating, engaged, long-term partners, or married. Additionally, we specialize in individual therapy for men. You can meet with our caring San Diego therapist for individual therapy for stress, anxiety, substance use, and trauma. While the practice is located in San Diego all of these services are offered online throughout both California and Oregon.