To answer simply, it perhaps is hard work. We have to work hard to not only achieve, but to also maintain, a happy relationship. Whilst it necessarily requires effort on everybody’s part to make it work, conflict as we all would have experienced before in our relationships with family and friends, is bound to occur every now and then.
Recovering and repairing in conflict is key to a strong, healthy and enduring relationship. The Gottman Institute in Seattle, USA, through 40 years of research, has created the “Sound Relationship House” as a guide to creating a strong marriage. However, this house can also be applied to relationships with family and friends. Today we will look at how this house can be applied in our relationships in these aspects: Friendship, Conflict and Shared dreams.
Image via The Gottman Institute
Friendship forms the foundation in all strong and happy relationships, be it with our spouse, family and friends. Here are ways to strengthen your friendship with those around you.
Level 1 Build Love Maps
A “Love Map”, a term coined by Drs John and Julie Gottman in their work (The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work), refers generally to knowing the other person in depth. The more you get to know about each other through asking crucial questions about each other, the more you get to understand each other, and hence deeper connections may be forged together.
Level 2 Share Fondness and Admiration
Showing appreciation for each other helps to develop fondness, affection and respect towards the other person. For example, tell someone that you are thankful that they did something (e.g. washing the dishes) without you asking. Such acts of appreciation effectively strengthen your relationship over time.
Level 3 Turn Towards Instead of Away
It is the little things that count. Be present, in the literal and figurative sense. This means giving your full physical and mental attention when you are with each other. For example, when conversing with the other person, it is good to turn yourself towards them and give them eye contact. This shows how much you prioritise the time that is spent together.
Make constant emotional connections with each other. This forms the intangible source of positivity for (in what Gottman calls) your Emotional Bank Accounts. The more positivity you deposit into your account, the more safeguard you have against future conflicts.
Level 4 The Positive Perspective
A negative perspective of one’s partner is undesirable especially when faced with conflicting views about things. Negativity tends to negate all neutral or positive messages from a person as your already negative mindset blocks the neutrality and positivity out.
Instead, show less haste in criticising, and show more genuine concern towards the other person. Try practising the first three levels of the “Sound Relationship House” with your friends, family or colleagues in order to create a positive frame of mind, which will be much needed when it comes to resolving conflicts together
Level 5 Manage Conflict
It is good to be open to other people’s perspective and take their feelings into consideration as both of you try to compromise. By holding dialogues about problems regularly, it will help alleviate any discernible trouble at its early stage and therefore helps you to make a mental adjustment quickly before it escalates into a fight.
Even if it escalated into a fight, practise the art of self-soothing. This is where you take a break away from your argument to do something that will relax and calm you down, thus helping you to better empathise with the other person’s reaction, in order to help alleviate the tension between you.
Level 6 Make Life Dreams Come True
Explore and understand such areas with your friends, family members and colleagues, and extend support to their life dreams and goals as much as possible.
When in any relationship, treat each other with care and respect. Remember, there is no need to bring someone’s dreams down just because you do not share the same viewpoints.
Level 7 Create Shared Meaning
Creating a shared meaning between the two of you brings one closer to the other. A common sense of purpose can be nurtured by participating in selected events together as friends, family at home or with colleagues at work. Every meaningful moment that you create will contribute towards strengthening your relationship.
And the two walls of the “Sound Relationship House”
The foundational walls of the house (i.e. trust and commitment) are important to the structural integrity of the House. Detect “cracks” in the walls of any relationship early. Signpost may include, among others, constant bickering which escalates into an intense quarrel.
This may indicate the need for an intervening neutral third party, e.g. a counsellor, to help reconcile the relationship, and eventually to help break any gridlocks so as to salvage the relationship before it is too late. Quick attention to mend the cracks that develop occasionally might enable the relationship to remain, if not, be made stronger.
Sound Relationship House
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