Sometimes it is easy to forget what brings us together in relationships when problems arise. When they do occur, it is important to remain united as a couple against what Dr. John Gottman, world renowned marriage/relationship researcher and therapist, calls the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? These four unhealthy communication styles are: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. It is so important to stand up, as a couple, against these unhealthy and unloving tendencies. Remind each other that you love one another, with all of your unique strengths, failures, beauty, and flaws.
Below are five basic relationship assumptions, adopted from the DBT workbook, Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life (Spradlin, 2003). Try keeping these basic relationship assumptions in mind, discussing them with your partner, the next time a problem arises.
1. We are both doing the best we can, given our respective histories and uniqueness.
2. We can both always do better. We are capable of learning, changing, adapting, and becoming more skillful with choice and practice.
3. We both want to do better. Both of us want to maintain and enhance our relationship, even when negative emotions and mindless patterns get in the way.
4. We both have to try harder, do better, and apply our skills to every relevant situation that either hurt or promote our loving bond.
5. Neither one of us have caused all of the problems in our relationship, but we both have to work together to solve them anyway.
How do you view these basic relationship assumptions as softening your view of your partner or bringing you closer together? It can be difficult to practice compassion towards someone we love when they are making us angry or hurting us, but it can be helpful to remind ourselves of these basic relationship assumptions. When we work together from a common ground of compassion, understanding, and love, we remind ourselves that most partners have the common goal of wanting to be close and loving.
Sometimes emotions or issues from the past try to get in the way of that loving bond. Begin the practice of letting it go. What do you choose now, in this moment, to express love and understanding? The past is gone. It is only alive if you water it with your thoughts and emotions. Choose to improve this moment.
In order to work towards making these basic relationship assumptions a reality in your relationship, there are six explicit relationship agreements suggested in the DBT workbook, Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life, to be discussed in tomorrow’s post. I look forward to sharing these six relationship agreements with you. How can you use today’s knowledge of these loving relationship assumptions in a positive way? What meaning can you take away from this to apply to your own life?
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Gottman, J. (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.
Spradlin, S.E. (2003). Don’t let your emotions run your life: how dialectical behavior therapy can put you in control. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Featured image: under my umbrella by The Alieness GiselaGiardino / CC BY-SA 2.0