Denise Evans, Clinical Counsellor

Creating A Healthy Relationship

Articles >>

On Valentines Day our culture celebrates romantic love. But how much do you feel like celebrating if your relationship isn’t working? If that is so, Valentines Day may underline your unhappiness, so that you become more determined to leave. However, unless you understand your part in what went wrong in the relationship, you may simply recreate some or all of the problems in your new one.

John Gottman is one of the premier couples researchers in the world today. He has identified a number of factors that are present in successful relationships and others that are in failed relationships. His predictions of divorce are up to 95% accurate.

Failing relationships are marked by the “4 horsemen of the apocalypse” and by a ratio of positive to negative remarks of less than 1. The 4 horsemen are: criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling and contempt. We all know what criticism is—that negative comment about someone’s behaviour or intent. Generally the recipient of the comment feels that they are lacking in some way and depending upon how often and what kind of criticism they have received in the past, they will react with varying degrees of defensiveness. This is marked by anger, ceasing to listen and usually making a negative remark back. Stonewalling is a withdrawal from the other person, either physically or emotionally and often a complete shut down of communication. This more often occurs when your emotional reaction to the remark is so powerful, that you are overwhelmed with feeling and have to shut down and self sooth before you are able to engage again. The most dangerous of the four horsemen is contempt—anger mixed with a lack of respect of the other’s position or person, expressed verbally or non-verbally (for example, the eye roll.)
If these four are a common pattern in your relationship, is the relationship doomed? No. But you have some work to do.

In healthy relationships the majority of the interactions are positive, although there may be some instances of the 4 horsemen. However, Gottman’s research showed that if your positive to negative interactions maintained a ration of 5 (or more) to 1, a break down of the relationship was very unlikely. So one of the ways to keep your relationship healthy is to monitor what you say to your partner, notice when he or she does something positive and express your gratitude and appreciation for that. Of course, if you are both trying to do positive things for each other and both are also working at noticing when those positives occur, the relationship will become appreciably better.

There are many other skills that can be learned to help a relationship, but it is possible to begin here. Notice when your partner is attempting to please you and let him or her know that you noticed. Sustained love, companionship and passion are possible. But you don’t just fall into it, you create it.

Read Article in Squamish Chief


© 2010 Sea to Sky Counselling, Denise Evans. Website Development Goodwin Studios