It’s time for your job performance review and it turns out that you’re a very good fit. However, there is one area that “needs improvement”. A few days later, what are you still thinking about?
The negative thing, of course. Part of you knows it’s ridiculous to let that thing bother you. After all, there’s a lot more good than bad, but you can’t seem to fix it.
Unfortunately, we do the same in our romantic relationship. We all have a negativity bias or a tendency to focus on the bad aspects of experiences. It makes us more critical of our relationships than we should be. Along the way, we take the good times for granted and they become an underrated part of our relationship. And the problems in all this? They stand out. Our partner’s insensitive comments, moods and mess regularly capture our full attention.
Mix that with a relationship that has lost a bit of its spark, and it can be hard to notice anything other than the issues. As Daniel Kahneman describes in Thinking, Fast and Slow, we tend to see only what is right in front of us and overlook what is not there at the moment. When problems are all you see, it feels like it’s your whole relationship.
In fact, we have such a tendency to pick up bad things that we can even create problems that don’t exist. A study published in Science suggests that if our relationship doesn’t have major problems, we’re more likely to take what would once have been considered a small problem and think it’s more of a problem.
When we spend our time worrying about the bad things, we don’t have time to appreciate the good things. This not only means that our view of the relationship is skewed, but it also means that we are missing a significant opportunity. While working through problems is one way to improve a long-term relationship, it’s equally important to reflect on the good qualities of your partner and the positive aspects of your relationship.
The 10 Pillars of Healthy Relationships
To change perspective, start by paying more attention to the facets of your relationship that are stable, consistent, and comfortable. These peaceful, drama-free, status quo elements are easy to forget, but they are sources of strength.
Here are 10 pillars of healthy relationships which, according to research, are the key to a satisfying and lasting bond. Many of them are probably present in your own relationship; you just need to pause and take notice.
1. You can be yourself. You and your partner accept each other for who you are; you are not trying to change yourself. You can just be yourself and show your true identity without worrying if your partner will judge you. This is helpful because research shows that partners who accept each other tend to be more satisfied with their relationships.
2. You are best friends. In many ways, your romantic partner is your best friend, and you are theirs. This is good news, as research suggests that romantic partners who emphasize friendship tend to be more committed and experience more sexual gratification. Romantic relationships that value friendship emphasize the emotional support, intimacy, affection and maintaining a strong bond. They also focus on meeting needs related to caregiving, safety, and companionship.
3. You feel comfortable and close. Getting closer to someone is not always easy. But in your relationship, you’ve been through that, and you’re comfortable enough to share your feelings, lean on each other, and be emotionally intimate. Even though vulnerability can sometimes be difficult, you have learned to trust your partner and realize that they bring you closer. You no longer impose emotional walls and constantly worry about your partner leaving, which provides a sense of stability.
4. You are more alike than different. You and your partner have a lot in common, and key areas of similarity can help make your relationship more satisfying, new research suggests. Sure, the differences stand out, but beyond those few contrasts, you’re similar in many ways. For example, your partner may enjoy superhero movies while you enjoy romantic comedies. Although it sounds like a major contrast, the two of you are people who like to cook a meal together and then crash on the couch to watch TV shows while you debate each other’s life choices, laugh at awkward dialogue and try to guess the next twist. In the end, you have much more in common than differences.
5. You feel like a team. Words matter. When you speak, do you often use words like “we” or “our”? If someone asks you, “What’s your favorite show?”, do you answer, “We started watching Desperates Housewives”? This use of “we” shows a strong sense of cognitive closeness, or shared identity, in your relationship. Research suggests that interconnected couples like this tend to be more satisfied and engaged.
6. You make the other a better person. Your partner helps you refine and improve who you are. Here, your partner does not take charge and tell you how to change, but rather supports your choices for personal growth. Together you seek out new and interesting experiences that contribute to a sense of personal development. According to relationship researchers, as you develop and grow as a person, so does your relationship.
7. You share the power. While the partners may have their own areas of expertise (e.g. one takes care of lawn maintenance, while the other takes care of interior decorating), the partners often share the taking of decision, power and influence in the relationship. When both partners have a say, relationships are stronger, more satisfied, and more likely to last. And, unsurprisingly, couples are happiest when they feel the division of labor in their relationship is fair.
8. You are basically good for your partner. What do people look for in their partner? It’s surprisingly simple: a reliable, warm, kind, fair, trustworthy and intelligent person. While these traits aren’t flashy and don’t immediately come to mind when creating your relationship wishlist, they do provide the basis for a resilient connection. Research suggests that when partners have agreeable and emotionally stable personalities, they tend to be more satisfied with their relationship.
9. You trust yourself. We must be able to count on our partner, to create a feeling of trust. Not only do we trust our partner with our phone password, or with access to our bank account, we know that our partner always has our best interests in mind and will be there for us when we need it. need. Research suggests that this is a positive cycle: confidence encourages greater engagement, which encourages greater confidence.
10. You don’t have any serious problems. There are problems, then there are problems. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook all the issues and major red flags that we don’t have to deal with. “Dark side” issues such as disrespect, cheating, jealousy, and emotional or physical abuse are relationship killers. Sometimes light can come from the absence of darkness.
Spend a few moments thinking about how each of these elements applies to your own relationship. At this point, you may want to give yourself some kind of score to say that your relationship is in good shape. How many of these 10 pillars do you have? How many are you missing? But that’s not really the point. Chances are your relationship has elements of all 10. The key is to do a better job of noticing and, if necessary, cultivating these core areas. Often, strengthening these pillars is as simple as savoring whatever works in your relationship.
I hope you also noticed some highlights that are not on this list. This is great, because this list is by no means exhaustive. More importantly, it shows that you’re starting to notice more of what’s working and aren’t obsessing over what’s broken.
Of course, you shouldn’t use a few positives to justify staying in a bad relationship. Focusing on strengths is only useful for those who have good relationships and seek to improve them. Good relationships are based on mutual respect, love and friendship between equals.
The lesson here is also not to pretend that your relationship has no problems. On the contrary, it is much easier to solve these problems when you appreciate how well your relationship is already going. Relationships are hard enough without making them harder. When you only shine a light on what’s wrong, it’s easy to mistakenly accept that your relationship is in trouble. But when you stop taking the good for granted and give more credit to your partner and your relationship, you can realize that your relationship is stronger than you think.