“Will it last?”
It’s the question that can’t help crossing most people’s minds when a couple announces an engagement. There are a few good indicators of which relationships are going to see the distance and which are likely to be doomed.
Years of helping couples as a therapist means I’ve seen the good, the bad and the downright ugly when it comes to couple relationships. I supplemented that experience with a thesis that explored emotional intelligence in couple relationships. So, here’s the juice on how I can guess pretty accurately whether a couple is likely to last or fall apart under pressure.
For me there’s 3 major factors:
1. Turning towards one another.
Psychologists Gottman and Gottman and others have spent many years examining the most important components of couple relationship satisfaction. What ‘turning towards’ means is being kind and giving your attention to your partner when they make a move towards you to connect. I see love as a special form of attention, meaning that love really isn’t felt without the giving of a positive presence towards the other person. Staying present emotionally is especially important under pressure, or when you don’t agree. Couples that last turn towards one another seeking comfort, support and solutions to problems tend to be strengthened by challenges. Those who habitually turn away from one another when there’s a problem, withdraw, lash out or look to outsiders for help, tend to be on a road to unhappiness.
It’s usually easy to spot whether there’s any trace of friendship left between partners, even in troubled times. Some will still manage a joke, a smile, an expression of hope or a good memory in couple therapy, but others are just past that point. When there’s a lasting joyless, flat deadness in the energy between partners, there isn’t much scope for a future together. A lack of friendship makes it really difficult to connect to something deeper in the relationship, now or in the future. Friendship means knowing one another well, being interested in each other’s lives and creating shared meanings together. As author Eli Weisel wrote, The opposite of love isn’t hate – it’s not caring.
The destruction of trust is difficult to return from. Generally couples must build a new way of seeing one another to recover from serious breaches of trust. Far better than painful recovery is prevention. Transparency in your relationship means not having secrets. Secrets like online porn use, hidden spending or secret liaisons with other people tend to be the biggest destroyers of trust.
Secrets are usually kept out of shame and fear of disapproval from the other partner. That means apart from surprise presents, secrets generally aren’t very healthy signs. That doesn’t mean however, that you should share every mundane detail of your lives. As in all things there’s a balance. Eroticism and passion thrive on a little mystique and you can cultivate a little mystique in an overall trusting and transparent relationship. It just takes a little creativity.
Want more relationship wisdom direct from a psychologist? Join my online community here.
Just BE the love that you ARE.