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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Everyday aspects that (badly) affect a relationship and how to avoid them

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“You don’t do anything at home. Do you want me to make you a video tutorial so you know how to turn on the washing machine?”. It’s possible that such allegations sound like more than one. Maybe with a different wording, but with a similar content. Good yes John Gottman If she heard anyone say that, she would throw her head in her hands. And it is that in this simple sentence two of the four horsemen of the apocalypse appear in a relationship.

Gottman, an American psychologist, has studied couple relationships for 40 years. He has defined and collected in numerous books which aspects lead to the failure of a relationship and which in turn help make it work. The first he named, inspired by the white, red, black, and yellow horses of universal mythology, are destructive criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and evasiveness.

Say “You don’t do anything at home” It contains two negative aspects which, if repeated, undermine the good mood at home. To speak in absolute numbers: never, forever or as in this case any. And another veiled accusation of laziness: If you don’t do anything, it’s because you don’t care what the house is like. Here is destructive criticism, the first tab.

The second would be the contempt reflected in the irony coupled with a certain aggressiveness when suggesting making this video tutorial. It goes even further when the couple, instead of accepting the lawsuit, reacts defensively and counters: Do you want me to make you an Excel file that I used to download the garbage? Or even if he does it, by showing an attitude of indifference, keeping his mouth shut, looking the other way while being spoken to, and not showing any sign of listening. Completing the defensive and evasive stance are the four horsemen leading the pair to the apocalypse.

The discussions that these expressions involve usually appear progressive and gradually erode the relationship. The more drivers drive through the conflicts and the more often, the worse it gets. And while it’s not entirely uncommon to fall into these kinds of attitudes when living together, there’s good news: knowing how to spot them is the first step to changing these behaviors and avoiding the lurch of disaster.

Have a good discussion in pairs

All couples have discrepancies, and it’s utopian (or maybe dystopian?) to think of one couple who never argue. If there is no discussion, it may be because conflict is avoided, and that in itself is a potential conflict. Likewise, a 2015 Gottman Institute study concluded that couples who argue have a stronger relationship. The issue is not so much disagreement about some issues, but the ways in which they disagree. In other words, arguing is not the same as arguing.

These aspects, which greatly affect everyday life, have to do with how and how we communicate. When we say “You do nothing. Do you want me to make you a video tutorial? for a: “I wish you would remember to turn on the washing machine. If you prefer we can make a schedule of housework” it is possible that the question will be solved much better.

But it is difficult to be friendly when the same proposal has been repeated 20 times, which is understandable, since the communicative work involves both parties. If a complaint is made in a friendly tone, the couple’s concerns must be taken seriously from the first wording. Because the opposite implies that certain topics become the ball and enter a phase of stagnation, i.e. they are always discussed for the same reason.

There are two keys to dealing with conflict as a couple. First, understand that the two people are going in the same direction. A fight cannot be understood as a confrontation of one against the other, but both against the problem. And the second is to communicate to find a solution, not to fight.

If a couple thinks these four horsemen of the apocalypse are riding nearby and wants to keep them away, they can play a game: identify them in their discussions. Get one red card at a time and pull them out as soon as you see one appear. That way, the accusations and accusations can turn into something funny and be a signal to change the way you communicate.

Gottman adds another fact to keep in mind: 69% of couple problems have no solution. It is necessary to solve those who have it (putting the washing machine will certainly be one of them) and learn to live with those who do not have it. A sense of humor can be a helpful resource.

Basic rules for good communication as a couple

  • don’t use always either never. The sentences “You always do this” or “You never listen to me” can be interpreted literally and lead to conflicts. Things aren’t usually black and white.
  • Talk about what is happening in the first person. “I feel this way” is a better formula than “you make me feel this way”. This second way can be interpreted as an accusation.
  • Let the other person finish. You must suppress the desire to interrupt or finish the speaker’s sentence. If the other person speaks slowly, it can be quite a challenge, but you can do it. You have to bite your tongue.
  • If something is not understood, you have to ask. And ask if
  • Don’t infer or take for granted what the other person wants or thinks. It’s common in couples for someone to think they know in advance what the other person wants or what’s best for them. And you can be wrong.

Arola Poch is a psychologist and sexologist.

Source elpais.com

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