A couple of weeks ago I started writing about how relationships start to crumble, this week I intend to explore some of the ways we can keep a relationship healthy and positive.
If you read my earlier blog you will remember I mentioned the model developed by John Gottman. He talked about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; stonewalling, defensiveness, criticism and contempt.
Joe and I decided that we needed to identify the four counter horsemen and this is what we came up with, the four “A”s; Awareness, Acceptance, Appreciation and Admiration.
Stonewalling or avoidance often arise when either differences of opinion emerge or sometimes just when we don’t understand each others interests. In some cases we have become disenchanted with the very thing that we thought was cute at the beginning of a relationship.
The counter to stonewalling is first awareness. We need to notice if distance is creeping in particularly where we feel as if we are withdrawing from each other. It is important to recognise and acknowledge difference and to engage in dialogue. By attempting to understand one another we are less likely to disengage further.
The second horseman is defensiveness and this is countered with acceptance. A key element is staying open and listening to one another. By listening we stay connected and we can then be open to the concept of difference being okay. If difference is okay defensiveness is unnecessary.
The third horseman, criticism is perhaps the most poisonous particularly if it has become a habit and automatic. To counter this we need to stay alert and search out ways to appreciate each other. Not only is difference okay it is also useful. We need a change of mind set where we can truly appreciate the uniqueness of our partner as the gift it really is.
In our marriage one thing I appreciate about Joe is his playfulness (we’ve been married 18 years). He is constantly changing his accent and being quite silly. This still makes me laugh and is something I can both accept and appreciate about him. Joe has often commented that he is surprised that I don’t get annoyed by his behaviours. It was talking about things like this that enabled us to come up with our Counter Horseman. We realised that in many other couples we had seen small things like making silly voices or noises become a source of contempt.
Often when you scratch the surface in relationships that have soured, the rot set in over small very unimportant differences that became inflated in the importance. By taking notice of these small differences and changing your perspective you have the opportunity to safeguard your relationship. If small things stay small, bigger issues are less likely to arise.
Relationship breakdown is rarely a sudden event, almost always it is a gradual escalation of lost respect, love and admiration. As love diminishes contempt grows
This brings me to our final Counter Horseman, Admiration. When was the last time you openly and overtly expressed your admiration of and to your partner? Do you tell others what you most admire about your partner? Do you take pride in their accomplishments?
Make a point every day to tell your partner what you appreciate and admire about them. As you do this notice how much more loving and secure your relationship becomes.
Let me know what you think. If you want to read more from our original article in Rapport Magazine click on the link below.
There is also still time to join us on our next NLP Practitioner training. Download my free MP3 on improving self esteem using NLP.