What Happy Couples Do, Part 2

By  Richard C. Miller, Ph.D.


            Happy couples recognize that the road of life is full of many twists, turns and detours that threaten our secure sense of attachment and safety.  These are called ruptures.  These ruptures do and will occur.  The thing that predicts a healthy relationship is how well the ruptures are repaired.  A rupture is a flat tire on the road of life that needs repaired.


            Ruptures are characterized by emotional flooding in which the thinking part of the brain is not engaged and the defensive ego is in charge.  Being less defensive is helpful.  There are six broad areas of action and communication that couples can follow in the repair work.  I give a couple a repair check list with the areas defined and specific statements they can use.  The area are “I feel”, “I need to calm down”, “Stop Action”, “Sorry”, “Getting to Yes”, and “I appreciate.”


            For instance, “I see what you’re talking about” is a part of “Getting to Yes.”  The “Getting to Yes” is so important in helping happy couples find a way to reach a point of agreement.  Even “I agree with part of what you’re saying” or “Let’s find our common ground,” will bring the couple closer to a conversation about the issue and away from an entrenched, adversarial position.


            Happy couples validate the personal worth of their partner.  Validation of personal worth requires a type of relationship I call collaboration, by which I mean adjustments in one’s behavior to resonate with the expressed needs of the other person in the pursuit of mutual satisfaction.


            Getting to “Sorry” doesn’t mean a simple apology.  It may require saying, “My reaction was too extreme,” or “Let me start again in a softer way.”  The idea is important because our tone of voice is controlled by the autonomic nervous system and may indicate an unintended threat.


            By using these repair tools a person can engage their cognitive mind and reduce the emotional tone of voice in the conversation to a safe level.  By saying, “I need to be calmer right now,” or “Just listen to me right now and try to understand,’ there is an invitation for empathy and reduced stress.


            These are a few pointers on how to repair those “normal” ruptures in our important relationships.  A secure attachment to an important person increases our sense of well being.  Adults, as well as children, need to feel there is a secure base in one’s life, a basic connection that will be there at the end of the day’s destination.


            I invite you to create your own list of statements that will have a personal meaning and share them with your significant other.

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