Partners who think and act in certain ways nearly guarantee themselves love relationships in which they feel fulfilled, loved and appreciated.
First, the good news is both you and your partner are wired for love, your body’s health depends on it.
Second, you are wired to release of a certain love hormone, Oxytocin, the chemical known as the “cuddle hormone,” in response to certain behaviors.
Feeling loved and secure has everything to do with knowing how to create an Oxytocin response that makes you and your partner feel loved and secure.
What about couples that don’t currently have Oxytocin response patterns in place?
“No, problem,” says neuroscience. Because of the brain’s neural “plasticity,” a lifelong ability to grow and develop new neural circuitry, partners can learn to rewire their own and their partner’s love patterns, even late in life.
In a groundbreaking book on the subject of healing marriage relationships, “Emotional Intelligence in Couples Therapy, Dr. Brent J. Atkinson presents a tour of some of the most revolutionary findings from neuroscience and the science of intimate relationships, such as the work of Dr. Antonio Damasio on emotion and behavior and the groundbreaking work of Dr. John Gottman on “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail.”
According to Dr. Atkinson, he sums it up with five “prerequisite” groups of skills that predict relationship success. The five skill sets are as follows:
1. Partners use a ‘soft start-up’ when bringing up an issue.
A ‘soft startup’ refers to how partners communicate verbally and nonverbally, when they bring up issues, share a frustration, or express their dissatisfaction. In contrast to a ‘harsh startup,” a soft startup takes an approach that is firm yet tactful and gentle. It allows partners to express any dislikes or upsets without attacking the other’s character.
They do not sugarcoat or beat around the bush, yet avoid talking down, or making disapproving or judgmental comments, like the plague. Here are examples of a ‘soft’ and ‘harsh” startup:
Soft startup: “I’m really upset that you forget our anniversary.”
Harsh startup: “How can you be so insensitive to not even get me a card?”
2. Partners accept one another’s influence.
In addition to delivering complaints tactfully, partners have the ability to respond to their partner’s requests or upsets without getting defensive, such as with angry outbursts or refusals to address issues.
A top predictor of marital success, according to Dr. Gottman’s research, is the husband’s willingness to accept influence, which makes sense since, culturally speaking, men are raised to not accept influence of their partners, as a sign of “masculinity.”
The facts speak for themselves, however. A husband’s willingness to accept influence alone predicts marital success 80% of the time.
3. Partners know how to make “repairs” by offering assurance following an upset.
Even after a “failed” argument, where defensiveness and reactivity surfaced, partners in successful relationships know how to make effective repairs by offering assurance. Assurance serves to refresh partners emotional and mental energies, and instills them and their relationship with powerful emotions of hope and belief in one another. In effect, it works much like a refresh button on the computer. An example of giving an assurance that effectively repairs:
Effective repair: “We got worked up on this, and I said things I didn’t mean. I’m sorry. I’d like to start over fresh. I know we can do better. And I’m willing to work harder on this. Would you be willing to work together?”
4. Partners honor their own and their partner’s dreams and aspirations.
Successful partners are genuinely supportive of one another’s dreams and aspirations. Human beings are wired with inner emotional drives to love and be valued in relation to the other. A conflict naturally ensues as to how these inner strivings “should” be met.
When resolved in healthy ways, conflict is nature’s plan to help you strengthen intimacy, as it affords an opportunity to help you get to know and understand yourself and your partner more deeply.
When partners resist one another’s requests for change, it is often because one or both do not feel recognized or valued as individuals in the relationship. A wife who refuses to be on time, for example, may find it impossible to stop this behavior, in part, because this may be the safest way to subconsciously express her anger. Successful partners feel valued and are not dependent on the other to make them feel valued. Their shared vision and personal goals helps them look beneath the circumstances, identify the unfulfilled expectations, and move past challenging situations more quickly and easily.
5. Partners observe a ratio of 5 to 1 positive to negative actions.
Last but not least, another key to lasting couple relationships has to do with what happens in the span of time partners are not in conflict.
Interestingly, research shows that successful partners do have conflicts; however, they do something distressed partners do not. In the interim, they regularly interact in positive ways, for example, they show appreciation, express acceptance, plan fun outings together, share affection, flirt, and so on.
Research by Dr. Gottman has identified a formula. Successful partners seem to adhere to a ratio of five to one positive to negative interactions. The degree of positivity that partners engage in between arguments seems to act like an emotional bank account to draw on in times of conflict.
In sum, partners have more say than they think in how they are treated in their love relationship.
Individuals who want their partner to treat them better more easily achieve this by thinking and acting like persons who get treated well by their partners, both during and between conflict.
The attitude that predictably fails to get partners to cooperate is a quid pro quo attitude that proclaims, “I’ll change my behaviors if he or she changes theirs.”
Practicing certain behaviors or thinking patterns works. It causes certain neurons to fire together, and when they do, they “wire” together, that is, they create stronger electrochemical pathways. And, when you stop repeated certain limiting patterns, your brain will eliminate or “prune” these problem causing neural pathways. That’s more good news.
Whether it’s with soft startups, allowing influence, offering assurance, honoring one another’s dreams or maintaining a 5-to-1 ratio of positivity, you and your partner can discover how to consistently respond in ways that release Oxytocin response, and the result?
You will both increase how secure and connected you feel. Ready to amp up your Oxytocin response?