The Guide to Romantic Relationships

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Our relationships - especially with our partners - are the most profound sources of happiness and wellbeing. Dig into some of the science behind relationships, what may cause a bad relationship, and what we can do to improve our own.

 

“Happiness is love. Full stop.”
-George Valliant

Relationships are everything

We love to obsess over other people's relationships

Brangelina. Kimye. George and Amal (Georgmal?). These celebrity couples and their dramas fill our televisions, newsfeeds, and annoying little screens in our taxis.

To a lot of us it’s absurd that they get so much attention. But the reasons why they get this attention are pretty interesting.

On one level, they get attention, because they get attention. It’s part of a media feedback loop: the media shows them --> which gets people to care  --> which gets the media to show them even more.

There’s also something inherently interesting about knowing the inner lives of famous people.

But beyond that, and more important for our wellbeing, is the fact that obsessing over the relationships of other people distracts us from the challenges inherent in our own relationships.

We do it with A-List celebrity relationships, we do it with D-List celebrities (real housewives), and we do it with our friends.

Relationships can be challenging, but you can become an expert

Our own relationships are hard work. Telling other people what they should do in their own is much easier.

That’s why when people get stuck in obviously shitty relationships, or even abusive relationships, it’s obvious what needs to be done from the outside. But from the inside of a relationship things are much more complex, nuanced, and often painful.

And yet our relationships - especially with our partners - are the most profound sources of happiness and wellbeing. Regardless of the challenges involved, understanding how relationships work and how we can truly learn to navigate the challenges they present is one of the most important skills we can learn (and one that almost never gets taught).

We’re going to dig into some of the science behind relationships, what may cause a bad relationship, and what we can do to improve our own.

  • What is the science behind happiness and relationships?

  • The Four Dark Horsemen of the Apocalypse

  • How do I improve my relationships?

  • What tools will help me improve my relationships?

The science of relationships

Why spend time on bettering your relationships?

Ok, maybe an obvious question. We all know that good relationships are important to our happiness. But here are some things you may not know.

The Harvard Men’s Study

In a 75 year long study that followed the entire adult lives of a class of students, starting in the 1930s, it was found that the strength of a man’s relationships was one of the greatest predictors of overall life satisfaction.  (1)

How do you know if you’re relationship is in danger?

The Four Dark Horsemen of the Apocalypse

I’ll be the first to admit that some of the most exciting relationships I’ve been in have been the most unstable, dramatic and volatile. Initially there is some appeal in these relationships, the constant fighting keeping it interesting or leading to intimate passionate moments. Research has shown however, that relationships like this decrease overall health and happiness of the participants.

According to Dr. John Gottman, professor emeritus and PhD in the psychological study of relationships, there are four classic signs of a terminally fated relationship. (3)

  1. Criticism; Partners chronically criticize the other’s personal traits or actions instead of constructive advice, complaining or teasing.
     
  2. Contempt; sarcasm, eye rolling, mocking and condescension. Disrespectful behaviors that increase conflict and  communicates disgust.
     
  3. Defensiveness: avoidance of responsibility in the relationship, unwillingness to change or hear the other person out.
     
  4. Stonewalling: shut down, ignore anything the partner is saying and refuse to listen.

If these signs appear in your relationship, don’t panic, but there maybe some decisions to think about. Dr. Gottman has done years of research on this topic and states that there are times when couples are gridlocked.

He has a list of strategies here. Identify the issues in the relationships and break these old patterns. Have open and honest conversations about what your relationship looks like.

How do I improve my relationships?

COMMUNICATION!

Quantity doesn’t matter. Quality does. This is often misconstrued. It doesn’t matter if you talk to each other every minute of the day. What does matter is what you say to each other. Tell your partner how you are feeling. Maybe you need some alone time or maybe something your partner did upset you. Tell them.

So many issues that happen in relationships come from an unwillingness to discuss or hear the truth. Or maybe you do talk, but important conversations take place over text. Communicate in person or with eye contact and tell each other how you feel on a daily basis.

  • Turn off your phone!: Give your partner one on one, in person attention away from technology.
     
  • Tease each other: Friendly teasing and laughter in relationships increasing satisfaction and happiness. Plus it can be used in a kind way to vent about some of those habits that might bug you.
     
  • Try new things: Go to a new restaurant, dance in your kitchen, cook dinner together. Whatever the activity mix it up!
     
  • Have Sex in a different place: Don’t let sex get routine! Mix up places and ways you have sex to deepen and enrich your relationship.
     
  • Say Thanks! Practicing gratitude will make both you and your partner happier!
     
  • Hug it out: Get the support and rush of dopamine and oxytocin you need through a quick hug. Really feel and appreciate your partner.
     
  • Locate your love language! Figure out how you express love. Maybe it’s through cooking for your partner, touch or communication. Find out what it is and do more of it!
     
  • If it can’t be fixed: Don’t mistake comfort for happiness, although breakups and falling out of friendships can be  hard, make the decision that will be right for you in the end.

 

What tools will help me improve my relationships?


Books:

From the Living Room to the Bedroom: The Modern Couple's Guide to Sexual Abundance and Lasting Intimacy By Bill and Ginger Bercaw

The Complete Kama Sutra: The First Unabridged Modern Translation of the Classic Indian Text Paperback By Alain Daniélou

The Relationship Cure By John Gotteman

 

Courses:

Online courses to nourish relationships:

Trans4mind: http://www.trans4mind.com/relationships/

Turning love into a daily practice: http://everydayfeminism.com/relationship-course/

 

Apps:

Couple: A texting app where you and your bae can draw together, share videos and texts and even thumbkiss

Fix A Fight: allows you to share and locate feelings each partner has after an argument.

69 Places: discover new places to get freaky with your lover.

IceBreak for Couples: use this app to give each other personality and fact questionnaires to get to know each other even more.

Kindu: lets you beta test everything from a new date spot to a new kama sutra pose on your special someone

Simply Us: Sync calendars and to do lists.

Theatre: Sync up movie watching when you’re apart

Lok Lok: Write goofy messages that you can save as your home screen.

Kouply: Send points to your sweetheart when they do something loving.

 

Counseling:

Couples counseling has been proven to help couples to learn to communicate more effectively, leading to greater intimacy both in life and in the bedroom

 

(1) http://finance.yahoo.com/news/harvard-psychiatrist-says-3-things-164000284.html

(3).http://relationshipresourcecenter.com/articles-concerning-relationships/relationship-articles/the-four-horsemen-of-the-apocalypse/