Every couple will have some conflict at one point or another in their relationship. When these conflicts arise, whether small or large, a great deal can be told about the future of your relationship by how these issues are handled. How you interact with your partner during conflict and how these conflicts are managed and resolved, can help you answer this question "Will this relationship work?"
John Gottman, Ph.D., a psychologist and researcher reported that an unhappy marriage can increase your chances of becoming sick by 35% and you may die four years earlier than if you were in a happy relationship. Gottman describes four behavioral patterns during conflict that are consistent with unhappy relationships. These behavioral patterns are called "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" and they are as follows:
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse:
1. Criticism: It is absolutely healthy to disagree, but attacking your partner is not beneficial. Character attacks are not useful in conflict resolution. Here is an example of a complaint versus a criticism: "I am upset that you did not bring milk home tonight" and "You forgot the milk again, I can't depend on you for anything, you are just not responsible." (this is used by women more frequently)
2. Contempt: This is one step from criticism. It is always disrespectful and includes such things as, insults, sneering, eye rolling and name calling. These behaviors do not rebuild the relationship they continually damage it and the relationship will continue to decline. When disagreeing try to remain respectful and focus on the specific issue at hand.
3. Defensiveness: This is a defense mechanism which may be a natural response, but does not facilitate reconciliation or resolution. You need to take responsibility for your actions and try not to make excuses. Many couples find themselves one upping each other with complaints. This is not a useful technique in problem solving and will take you off course from the specific issue you are trying to resolve.
4. Stonewalling: This is when you disengage from communication. Sometimes this can be healthy but if utilized frequently it can be ineffectual and the relationship will deteriorate. (this is used by men more frequently)
Most couples will use some of these behaviors occasionally. When they become frequent and the essence of conflict resolution you need to implement new coping strategies. The key to resolving conflict is communicating as effectively as possible. It is okay to feel angry as long as the anger is managed and communicated appropriately. Be aware of the Four Horsemen in your next disagreement and try to implement positive communication.
Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to be therapy or treatment, it is for informational purposes only.
We connect with people daily, at the grocery store, work, grabbing a coffee in the morning or a sandwich at lunch. These interactions can lead to acquaintances, friendships or romantic interests. Relationships come in and out of our lives frequently. They have a beginning, middle and an end. The duration and end point are different for each one. Relationships can be long term or short in duration and may end over different reasons, growing apart, moving away, a disagreement or a myriad of other reasons.
Here are five characteristics which are needed for a happy and healthy relationship, whether with a friend, family member or partner.
1. Honest and vulnerable: Being truthful to yourself as well as others. Many of us rationalize reasons not to share different things about ourselves because we may feel vulnerable. Being honest, also means being vulnerable at times. Sometimes we work hard at NOT feeling vulnerable in a relationship, because vulnerability is scary. Being vulnerable in a relationship helps grow trust and intimacy. It all starts with honesty.
2. Mutual Respect: Supporting each other in a respectful manner. Making decisions with your partner about those things that affect your relationship is a sign of mutual respect. This is not to say that you will lose all decision making ability, you will still be able to buy a Cafe Mocha without consulting. Use your judgment and make important decisions together and/or those that will affect the relationship. This exhibits mutual respect and understanding.
3. Trust: Building trust in a relationship is very important. This is one of the key characteristic for a long term healthy relationship. Being faithful to your partner is not enough, both of you must feel emotionally/mentally/physically safe in the relationship. It will be difficult for the relationship to grow without feeling safe. Trust is important for intimacy to grow and to feel more connected to each other.
4. Forgiveness: "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." - Mahatma Ghandi. Forgiving someone who hurt you is a very difficult task. Letting go of the anger you feel when someone close to you hurts you and forgiving them, can seem impossible at times. Having compassion toward the person who hurt you helps in the forgiveness process. Try to remember that most people have feelings and the person who hurt you most likely feels terrible about what happened. Holding on to anger can lead to resentment and bitterness. These feelings are not good for you psychologically, emotionally or physically. They are also detrimental to the relationship you are in and other relationships in your life. This does not mean you need to forgive the person immediately, forgiveness is a process and individual to those who are experiencing deep wounding.
5. Communication: Healthy communication is very important in every relationship we have. Listening, sharing and responding to your friend/partner in a non judgmental way. Validating what your friend/partner is saying, even if you disagree, is very useful in healthy communication. Try not to fall into negative communication patterns such as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Communicate with respect, even when angry and upset with each other. Refrain from name calling and utilizing sarcasm when communicating.
Relationships ebb and flow, and require hard work through the difficult times. Those of us who have these characteristics in our relationships, should be experiencing happy and healthy relationships. Relationships are not easy but they are worth it when you find the right people to be your friends and the right person to be your partner.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a replacement for therapy or treatment.
A boundary is the line in the sand that is drawn between what is and what is not acceptable behavior, toward oneself. We have physical, emotional and mental boundaries which we should be setting in all of our relationships. Boundaries help us feel safe, secure and comfortable and help us define how others treat us. The idea is to have firm but flexible boundaries, you do not feel as though you are a controlling person and you may need to adapt some of your boundaries to different situations.
At times we may feel uncomfortable in relationships and in the moment we can not figure out why we are feeling this way. A question you should ask yourself, "Is there a boundary violation happening?" For example, someone is a close talker and moves into your personal space, you may feel some discomfort. It may take a few minutes or even days to figure out why you feel this way when this person comes over to your desk to speak with you. They are breaching your boundary of personal space. Another example is if you are interacting with a friend, family member or your partner and during the interaction, you start to feel resentment toward this person. You may feel they are taking advantage of you in some way, this may be a boundary breach. The next question to ask yourself is "Did I set this boundary?" It is your responsibility to take care of yourself, and set appropriate boundaries for you. If you did set the boundary and it is being violated, ask yourself "What should I do about this breach?"
Boundary setting can feel daunting at times, especially if you generally have loose boundaries. You may feel a little anxious setting limits and may be concerned about possible conflict, retribution in the workforce, being perceived as mean or feeling guilty. You may have many other feelings regarding boundary setting, they are real feelings but should not necessarily stop your boundary setting. Here are some tips for boundary setting.
5 tips for healthy boundary setting:
1. Be direct: State your boundary in a clear and concise manner, so people know exactly where you stand and what behavior is acceptable to you.
2. Saying no: Give yourself permission to say no. Saying no helps maintain boundaries and sets clear limits for what you are and are not willing to tolerate.
3. Practice self care: Self care is important in setting and maintaining boundaries as you need to start putting yourself first, at times. This will help you set limits as boundary setting is a part of self care.
4. Self awareness: Be tuned into your feelings in situations as they are the key to determining if boundaries need to be set. This will also help with recognizing boundary breaches or if someone is trying to push your boundaries.
5. Be assertive: Be assertive and polite when setting boundaries and when maintaining your boundaries during possible breaches. Assertive is not the same as aggressive and you should not become aggressive when setting or maintaining boundaries.
Many people feel that setting boundaries is selfish and that is not true. They help us define where each of us end and the other person begins. The limits we set help us to separate out who we are, our thoughts and feelings, from others in our lives. They improve our self concept and assist us in moving toward healthier relationships.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and not meant to be a replacement for therapy or treatment.
At times we may feel that we need to do things on our own without anyone else's help. Sometimes this can be cathartic other times it can leave you with a feeling of loneliness and a mild feeling of despair. It is very important for everyone to understand that we are not islands and it is healthy to reach out to our support system. We have support in friends, family and colleagues. It may be difficult at times to lean on this support due to issues that may have come up in your previous or current relationships. However, it is important to nurture and grow our support system.
If you look back, you may see that at different points in your life, you relied on different people for different things. Depending on our age, needs, wants and desires, we have turned to different people in our support system to assist with different areas of our lives. As we grow and age, some of us feel that relying on others is a flaw or limitation, that is NOT true! Reaching out to others in our support system is not a sign of weakness it is a sign of strength. It is just as important to be a support to others, as it is to be supported. Having a good support system is a two way street, we need to support those in our lives just as those people support us.
Here are 5 advantages of having a strong support system:
1. Sense of belonging: A sense of belonging is important throughout our lives. It starts with our family of origin and our friend group as we grow from children to adolescents to adults. We need to thrive, not just survive. With a good support system in place, we can flourish and reach our potential in whatever area we are striving.
2. Reduce Stress: A strong support system aids in stress reduction. Venting and spending time with loved ones can help reduce our anxiety, and increase our mood. Call a friend or family member to go for a walk, hike or a yoga class when you need to reduce stress. Having a strong support system can assist us in decompressing after a stressful day.
3. Improve overall health and wellbeing: A good support system helps with our overall physical health throughout our lives and especially as we age. Feeling as though we are not alone helps with physical health as well as emotional wellbeing.
4. Emotional support: An emotional support system is very important as good emotional health and wellbeing can increase overall physical health. A strong support system is pertinent to good emotional health as it gives us a community of support during the trying times.
5. Improved self-esteem: When we have people we can rely on and who can rely on us for support, we feel better about ourselves. It is always good to feel as though we have some people rooting for us on the sidelines as well as rooting for those in our support system.
Sometimes we find ourselves in a new city or location where we do not know anyone. If this is the case, try volunteering, take a class, music lessons, join a group such as a running or a book club, the idea is to find other people with similar interests as our own. As adults, many of us find like-minded people at our place of work, other times that is not the case. Look for organizations or meet up groups in an interest area and try to slowly build a support system in your new area.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a replacement for treatment or therapy.
Dr. Deb is a successful Psychologist who practices in New York City. She is an Anxiety Specialist who works with adolescents and adults providing both individual and couples counseling.