- Partners use a ‘soft start-up’ when bringing up an issue.
A ‘soft startup’ refers to how partners communicate verbally and nonverbally, when they bring up issues, share a frustration, or express their dissatisfaction. In contrast to a ‘harsh startup,” a soft startup takes an approach that is firm yet tactful and gentle. It allows partners to express any dislikes or upsets without attacking the other’s character.
They do not sugarcoat or beat around the bush, yet avoid talking down, or making disapproving or judgmental comments, like the plague. Here are examples of a ‘soft’ and ‘harsh” startup:
Soft startup: “I’m really upset that you forget our anniversary.”
Harsh startup: “How can you be so insensitive to not even get me a card?”
- Partners accept one another’s influence.
In addition to delivering complaints tactfully, partners have the ability to respond to their partner’s requests or upsets without getting defensive, such as with angry outbursts or refusals to address issues.
A top predictor of marital success, according to Dr. Gottman’s research, is the husband’s willingness to accept influence, which makes sense since, culturally speaking, men are raised to not accept influence of their partners, as a sign of “masculinity.”
The facts speak for themselves, however. A husband’s willingness to accept influence alone predicts marital success 80% of the time.
- Partners know how to make “repairs” by offering assurance following an upset.
Even after a “failed” argument, where defensiveness and reactivity surfaced, partners in successful relationships know how to make effective repairs by offering assurance. Assurance serves to refresh partners emotional and mental energies, and instills them and their relationship with powerful emotions of hope and belief in one another. In effect, it works much like a refresh button on the computer. An example of giving an assurance that effectively repairs:
Effective repair: “We got worked up on this, and I said things I didn’t mean. I’m sorry. I’d like to start over fresh. I know we can do better. And I’m willing to work harder on this. Would you be willing to work together?”
- Partners honor their own and their partner’s dreams and aspirations.
Successful partners are genuinely supportive of one another’s dreams and aspirations. Human beings are wired with inner emotional drives to love and be valued in relation to the other. A conflict naturally ensues as to how these inner strivings “should” be met.
When resolved in healthy ways, conflict is nature’s plan to help you strengthen intimacy, as it affords an opportunity to help you get to know and understand yourself and your partner more deeply.
When partners resist one another’s requests for change, it is often because one or both do not feel recognized or valued as individuals in the relationship. A wife who refuses to be on time, for example, may find it impossible to stop this behavior, in part, because this may be the safest way to subconsciously express her anger. Successful partners feel valued and are not dependent on the other to make them feel valued. Their shared vision and personal goals helps them look beneath the circumstances, identify the unfulfilled expectations, and move past challenging situations more quickly and easily.
- Partners observe a ratio of 5 to 1 positive to negative actions.
Last but not least, another key to lasting couple relationships has to do with what happens in the span of time partners are not in conflict.
Interestingly, research shows that successful partners do have conflicts; however, they do something distressed partners do not. In the interim, they regularly interact in positive ways, for example, they show appreciation, express acceptance, plan fun outings together, share affection, flirt, and so on.
Research by Dr. Gottman has identified a formula. Successful partners seem to adhere to a ratio of five to one positive to negative interactions. The degree of positivity that partners engage in between arguments seems to act like an emotional bank account to draw on in times of conflict.
Ultimately, a lot of this is the Golden Rule. Treat your partner as an equal part of your partnership together and support them in ways that you in turn would like to be supported. These are good reminders.
Also, the title of this article is terrible. Blech.