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How do you know when he or she is “The One“? Does everything magically fall into place when you find a partner who ticks all the boxes both personality and looks-wise? Or is it more about how he makes you feel? Whatever it is, we all know there’s no magic formula to finding and maintaining a successful relationship. But while every partnership is different and works in its own way, there are some definite signs that point to troubled waters if you’re looking to head down the aisle – and researchers agree.
In the study, “Marital Conflict in Older Couples: Positivity, Personality, and Health”, by James Iveniuk and Linda J. Waite, it was reported that relationships, where the husband showed higher levels of positivity, experienced lower conflicts overall. Waite also commented that conflicts were categorised not as violence or fights, but rather “whether one spouse criticises the other, makes too many demands, or generally gets on the other person’s nerves.”
Further backing this study is a famous theory by researcher Dr John Gottman, who is reportedly able to predict whether a couple will get divorced with 94 per cent accuracy. According to Gottman, who has been studying couples’ interactions for over 25 years, happy, successful couples have a 20-to-1 ratio of positive to negative interactions. Imagine this to be the difference between paying a genuine compliment, “You look nice today”, and an offhand comment such as, “You didn’t close the cupboard again.” The more the ratio is skewed, the more likely the couple will split up.
On his website, Gottman names the corrosive negative behavior patterns as:
Criticism: Stating one’s complaints as a defect in one’s partner’s personality. Example: “You are so selfish.”
Contempt: Statements that come from a relative position of superiority. Example: “You’re an idiot.”
Defensiveness: Self-protection in the form of righteous indignation or innocent victimhood. Example: “It’s not my fault that we’re always late; it’s your fault.”
Stonewalling: Emotional withdrawal from interaction. Example: The listener does not give the speaker the usual nonverbal signals that the listener is “tracking” the speaker.
Granted, it’s highly unlikely that these behavioral patterns will be present in each relationship from the start. As the years pass, couples grow complacent, and begin to change how they interact with each other. Many relationships sour this way, and end up becoming toxic. If your relationship is beginning to exhibit constant “red flag behaviours”, as stated above, it may be time to take a second look at your commitment, or look for outside help and counselling.
It should also be noted it is human to engage in some of these behaviours on occasion. Nobody is perfect. We all lash out, and have our moments sometimes. What is most important is that each partner is aware of their actions and the toxic effect they can have on the relationship, and be mindful of limiting their own negative behaviour and making amends.
If you’re still floundering, here are some questions adapted from Psychology Today to help you assess your own relationship.
1. Is my relationship negatively affecting other areas of my life?
2. Do I feel upset a lot of the time?
3. Am I always distracted by my relationship?
4. Do I rarely feel like myself anymore?
5. Am I always anxious toward my relationship partner?
6. Do I feel like there is something wrong with me that I need to fix?
7. Has my relationship affected my friendships negatively?
8. Do I always feel ashamed of myself?
The questions are not exhaustive, but they should give you a good idea of the warning signs to look out for. The right relationship should ideally make you feel fulfilled, and expand your world, instead of constricting you and stressing you out.
While plenty more research has been done on what factors make a relationship successful, much of it can be easily summed up in two words: Be nice. Always treat your partner with love and respect, and on the rare occasion when you slip up, apologise from the heart, and treat the incident as an opportunity to grow and develop your bond with your partner. And if you’re not treated the way you want to be treated in return? You might just be in the wrong relationship, after all.
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