skills for Healthy Relationships Intimacy, security, respect, good communication and a sense of being valued
these are some of the things that most people would agree make for healthy relationships. researchers would agree to there’s a large body of the literature on a romantic relationship, that’s identified the features of healthy relationships. researchers also agree on what makes unhealthy relationships things like, fighting so much that you just can’t work things out not being able to go to
your partner for support when you need it.
People would agree to make for healthy relationships and researchers would agree to there’s a large body of literature on romantic relationships that are identified the features of healthy relationships contempt criticism hostility violence.when these problems happen in relationships, they can cause significant unhappiness they can lead to the end of relationships and divorce and they can literally make people physically and emotionally sick .this is why it’s so critical that people have healthy relationships, but there’s a problem how many people know I mean really know “what to do on a day to day basis to create healthy relationships”.
My point is this, we may know what a healthy relationship looks like but most people have no idea how to get one and no one teaches us how to do so. we need to teach people how to have healthy relationships now you know when we typically do so after it’s too late it’s called couples therapy I do couples therapy and it can be a wonderful thing but many people come to couples therapy with so many ingrained problems and patterns that they just can’t change.
It’s too late you know what else we try to teach people how to have healthy relationships right before they get married it’s called premarital education and this is a good idea teach people how to have a good relationship while they’re still happy presumably and it can work.
But in my opinion, it’s still too late why because people have already selected the person they want to commit their life to what if they selected poorly no amount of premarital education can make up for a bad partner choice so the ways that we’ve tried to teach people how to have healthy relationships have been limited because they fail to address three important things genuinely knowing what you want and need in a partner in a relationship selecting the right person and developing and using skills right from the beginning and I don’t mean the beginning of any particular relationship.
I mean the beginning like as soon as possible we need to teach people especially young people how to have healthy relationships now towards this end my colleagues and I have developed a skills-based model of relationship functioning that we believe
can help people create the things that lead to healthy relationships and reduce
the behaviors that lead to unhealthy ones.
we’ve identified three skills insight mutuality and emotion regulation that forms the basis for what we call romantic competence. romantic competence is the ability to function adaptively across all areas or all aspects of the relationship process by figuring out what you need to find the right person to build a healthy relationship.
Getting out of relationships that are unhealthy I’ll tell you more about the skills in a minute but first, let me say we didn’t just make this up out of the blue we identified the skills based on a thorough review of theory and research and the skills really represent the commonalities across the major theories
Research findings on healthy relationships and because they represent the commonalities we think they really can help people with all the different parts of the relationship process and with all different people whether people are in a relationship or not. So let me tell you about the skill
the first one is insight
insight is about awareness and understanding and learning so with insight you’ll have a better idea of who you are what you need what you want why you do the things you do so let’s say you’re being really snappy to your partner with insight you work might notice or realize that it’s not that your partner’s doing anything.
It’s actually that you’re really stressed out at work and what you really need is to relax a little bit so it doesn’t bleed out over into your relationship insight will also let you know your partner better let’s say your partner shows up late for a date with the insight you’ll know why for example, maybe your partner’s late for everything it’s nothing about you it’s nothing about the relationship that’s just who your partner is with insight you’ll be able to anticipate the positive and negative consequences of your behavior.
For example, you know you’ll know that if you send that nasty text it’s not gonna go
well maybe you better make a phone call instead with the insight you’ll be able to
learn from your mistakes in ways that allow you to behave differently in the
future so maybe you’ll recognize that you’re the kind of person who tends to
jump in really quickly you get wrapped up in the romance of things and then
things don’t go well so you might be able to say well you know what the next
I’m just gonna take things a little more slowly and not repeat the same
mistake and with the insight you’ll have a better understanding about what’s really
right for you in a relationship maybe you’re the kind of person who really needs a monogamous relationship you’re not okay with your partner seeing other people or maybe you’ll realize it’s just the opposite that you’re not ready to settle down and you need a partner who’s okay with that so that’s insight.
The second skill is mutuality neutrality
is about knowing that both people have needs and that both sets of needs matter with mutuality you’ll be able to convey your own needs in a clear direct fashion that increases the likelihood that you’ll get them met.
so let’s say you have to go to a really stressful family vent and you’d like your partner to be there with you-you might say directly you know this is going to be stressful for me I’d really love for you to be there you’ll be a good buffer for me is there any way you can clear your schedule all to come with me within with mutuality you’ll be willing to meet your partner’s needs as well.
let’s say you know that your partner really likes to go to the gym, first thing in the morning it makes your partner feel better the rest of the day mutuality, will let you be willing to support your partner in this even though you’d really rather have your partner stay home and in bed with you and mutuality also lets you factor both people’s needs into.
Decisions that you make about your relationship so let’s say you get a
great job offer that you’d like to take but you know it means you’re going to
have to work more and you know how important it is for both you and your
partner to spend time together with a mutual approach you might say you
know I’d really like to take this job it’s really important to me but I also
am concerned about us spending time together if I promise to protect some time for us will you be okay with me taking.
This job that’s a mutual approach to relationships the third skill is emotion regulation and emotion regulation is about regulating your feelings in response to things that happen in your relationship with emotion regulation you’ll be able to keep your emotions calm and keep things that happen in your relationship in perspective so you might think oh my goodness this is a disaster.
This is the worst thing ever how am I going to handle this with emotion
regulation you’ll think you know what I can handle this-this is gonna be all right there’s a way to deal with this I’m gonna figure this out everything’s going to be okay
with emotion regulation, you’ll be able to tolerate uncomfortable feelings and not act out on them impulsively so you’ll be able to think through your decisions more clearly.
So let’s say you’re waiting for your partner to text you back that text isn’t coming you’re getting really anxious you’re checking your phone every two seconds with emotion regulation you’ll be able to tell yourself you know what calm down
the text is gonna come I don’t need to check my phone every second I’m just
gonna put it away and focus on the task at hand and with emotion regulation, you’ll be able to maintain a sense of self-respect and commitment to your needs even when bad things happen in your relationship.
So let’s say you have a breakup you’re feeling really depressed you’re really missing your partner with emotion regulation you’ll be able to let yourself know that it’s okay that yeah you’re gonna feel depressed but you’re gonna get over it you’re gonna get through this if you beg and plead to get back together you’re not gonna feel good about yourself and you don’t even want to be in a relationship that wasn’t good for you so insight mutuality and emotion regulation.
I believe it’s people’s ability to use the skills on a day-to-day basis that lets them have healthy relationships so let me give you an example of how this works the other day I was talking to someone and she said that ‘when her partner asked her what she wanted for her birthday; she told him she didn’t want anything so guess what she didn’t get anything and she got really angry and they had a big fight, why because she
really did want a present she just didn’t want to tell him she wanted him
to somehow know it’s called mind-reading it’s a terrible idea it never works had.
She has been using the skills insight would have let her know herself well enough to
realize that she really did want something and if she didn’t get it, she probably
was gonna be mad insight also would have let her know that her partner was the
kind of guy who was just gonna take what she said literally mutuality would have
let her really ask for what she wanted directly and clearly, an emotion regulation would have let her deal with any feelings she was having that were
getting in her way of doing that so maybe she was feeling kind of anxious so
what would he think?
If I asked for what I needed or maybe she was feeling guilty
you know she knows they’re saving for a big trip and she maybe thought that he
would think that she a greedy or something so she had used the skills she would have been able to say you know what I know we’re saving or that trip but I really like that necklace that we saw the other day and it wasn’t that expensive he would have gotten it for her she would have felt respected and valued he would have been happy they would have felt more intimate this whole birthday gift thing would have gone well instead of ending in a fight that could really damage their relationship.
Now this was just an anecdote we have data to support this as well I’ve been studying romantic competence the ability for people to use insight mutuality and emotion regulation among young people in one of our studies we looked at 13 and 14-year-old girls early adolescent girls and we found that girls who were more romantically competent felt more secure in their relationships.
They felt comfortable being close to people they could trust people they weren’t worried about being rejected girls who were more romantically competent reported fewer depressive symptoms they had better mental health they also were more positive about their expectations about marriage in the future.
They were more optimistic that it could go well girls with greater romantic competence were engaging in more typical romantic activities for
their age things that were normative like dating and flirting and affectionate behaviors like hugging and kissing and girls who were more romantically competent were engaging in fewer atypical sexual activities like sexual intercourse which can be
considered pretty risky for a 13 and 14-year-old girl so even at an early age 13
and 14 years old.
When these girls mostly were not even in relationships the more romantically competent they were the more adaptive relational functioning they were showing and the better mental health they were showing we see the same things among young adults 18 to 25 years old more romantically competent men and
women feel more secure in relationships they also report making better decisions they
can see the warning signs.
When things aren’t going well and make conscious
decisions with confidence they’re also better at seeking and providing support
to their partners so they’re more willing to ask for what they need and use what their partners give them and they’re better at providing helpful support when needed and this isn’t just what they told us.
We actually observe them doing this in our laboratory when we ask them to talk with one another about a personal problem young people who were more romantically competent also were more satisfied in their relationships they were happier and again they reported fewer depressive symptoms and also fewer anxiety symptoms so overall being romantically competent.
At a young age is associated with greater more adaptive relationship
functioning and greater individual well-being and this brings me back to my
the point that we need to be teaching people how to have healthy relationships.
So like I said earlier on we may know what a healthy relationship looks like but
most people have no idea how to get one and no one teaches us how to do so and
this is a problem we need to help people genuinely know what they want and need
in a relationship, we need to help them select the right partner
We need to help them make good decisions and deal with the challenges that relationships bring and we need to help them build and use skills right from the beginning this is what the notion of romantic competence
It’s all about using insight mutuality and emotion regulation to reduce the behaviors that lead to unhealthy relationships like fighting and poor support and hostility and criticism and contempt and violence and create the things that lead to healthy relationships like intimacy security, respect, good communication, and of being valued and wouldn’t all of our
relationships benefit from this I think
they would thank you
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