Relationship Tips

How to create healthy relationships?

Making Couples Happy  

The four part series on ABC Television /tv/programs/makingcoupleshappy.htm screened in February / March 2013, showed how a scientifically based approach to relationships can save the relationships of four couples in crisis.

How happy is your relationship?

Take the test on . How happy are you in your relationship? Do you reach the average happiness score of 60 out of 100? If not, perhaps it’s time to see a relationship counsellor. 

Ten tips by Ken Warren

1. Focus on your own behaviour.                             

Although it takes two to make a relationship work, you need to focus on the part that is in your control.

2. Think before you speak or act.                                                                              

Practice thinking “Will what I am about to do or say help or hurt this relationship?”      

3. Do less of what hurts.                                                                

Often the hurtful interactions need to reduce before you talk about tough issues or improve the relationship.          

4. Do more of what helps.                                                                           

Remember times you have related better in the past and recreate these conditions, if you can.

5. Interrupt the usual pattern.                                          

Plan ahead to do at least one thing different and notice what works.

6. Break your partner’s negative stereotype of you.

Surprise your partner by doing the opposite of any behaviour that they see negatively.                       

7. Realize that there is more than one way to see a situation.  

You do not have to agree with how your partner is seeing things, but you can at least respect they have their own view. 

8. Seek compromises or understanding for the future.  

Make suggestions about what you both could do in the future to help.

9. Realize that lasting change requires practice and persisitence.      

Setbacks need to be seen as an opportunity to learn and to revise or recommit to the plan for change. 

10. Seek professional help.                                                      

Remember, that you are always better to act sooner, rather than to leave it until things are much worse.

Gottman’s Marriage Tips

Since 1973, Dr. John Gottman  has studied what he calls the “masters and disasters” of marriage. Ordinary people from the general public took part in long-term studies, and Dr. Gottman learned what makes marriages fail, what makes them succeed, and what can make marriages a source of great meaning. By examining partners’ heart rates, facial expressions, and how they talk about their relationship to each other and to other people, Dr. Gottman is able to predict with more than 90% accuracy which couples will make it, and which will not. What advice does Dr. Gottman have to offer? Below are some of his top suggestions for how to keep your marriage strong.

  • Seek help early. The average couple waits six years before seeking help for marital problems (and keep in mind, half of all marriages that end do so in the first seven years). This means the average couple lives with unhappiness for far too long.
  • Edit yourself. Couples who avoid saying every critical thought when discussing touchy topics are consistently the happiest.
  • Soften your “start up.” Arguments first “start up” because a spouse sometimes escalates the conflict from the get-go by making a critical or contemptuous remark in a confrontational tone. Bring up problems gently and without blame.
  • Accept influence. A marriage succeeds to the extent that the husband can accept influence from his wife. If a woman says, “Do you have to work Thursday night? My mother is coming that weekend, and I need your help getting ready,” and her husband replies, “My plans are set, and I’m not changing them”. This guy is in a shaky marriage. A husband’s ability to be influenced by his wife (rather than vice-versa) is crucial because research shows women are already well practiced at accepting influence from men, and a true partnership only occurs when a husband can do so as well.
  • Have high standards. Happy couples have high standards for each other even as newlyweds. The most successful couples are those who, even as newlyweds, refused to accept hurtful behavior from one another. The lower the level of tolerance for bad behavior in the beginning of a relationship, the happier the couple is down the road.
  • Learn to repair and exit the argument. Successful couples know how to exit an argument. Happy couples know how to repair the situation before an argument gets completely out of control. Successful repair attempts include: changing the topic to something completely unrelated; using humor; stroking your partner with a caring remark (“I understand that this is hard for you”); making it clear you’re on common ground (“This is our problem”); backing down (in marriage, as in the martial art Aikido, you have to yield to win); and, in general, offering signs of appreciation for your partner and his or her feelings along the way (“I really appreciate and want to thank you for…”). If an argument gets too heated, take a 20-minute break, and agree to approach the topic again when you are both calm.
  • Focus on the bright side. In a happy marriage, while discussing problems, couples make at least five times as many positive statements to and about each other and their relationship as negative ones.  For example, “We laugh a lot;” not, “We never have any fun”.  A good marriage must have a rich climate of positivity. Make deposits to your emotional bank account.