4 skills you need in order to have a long-lasting relationship
Bonding therapy helps couples and singles to create lasting relationships by using the principles of the Gottman method, Emotion Focused Therapy and mindfulness.
Remember that grandma and grandpa who stayed together “till death did them part”? Unfortunately, maintaining relationships has become very challenging since then. Our society has changed in various ways: there is less pressure to get married and we try to stay away from toxic codependency.
Romantic movies and the seemingly abundant dating scene feed our fear of missing out. You may wonder what determines that a relationship stays strong nowadays? What is the secret of those couples who preserve their love for decades? Are there some specific skills they have?
Luckily, scientists such as Helen Fisher and John Gottman wanted to find answers to these questions. Based on their results, here are 4 skills you need in order to maintain lasting relationships:
Helen Fisher found that couples in long-term relationships have more empathy than the average person. No wonder that sharing emotions as well as empathising with one another is one of the key elements of modern couples’ therapy (i.e. Gottman Method, EFT). Empathy is crucial for understanding the other's perspective and for supporting them when they are feeling down.
We can improve empathy by daily practice, especially by checking in with our partner (ie. “I have a feeling that you are tense, is that so?”) or reflecting back on their emotions (i.e. "This must be very disappointing for you.”) Love and kindness mediation can also increase empathy.
2. Emotional regulation
The other part that is more developed in long-term couples' brains is responsible for regulating emotions. Emotional regulation doesn’t mean you should stay calm all the time, but it’s knowing what you need to do in order to soothe yourself so that you don’t harm your relationship (i.e. instead of shouting, punch a pillow, or when a conversation gets heated, take a break and listen to calming music).
These strategies also help partners to talk about their problems, instead of piling them up and only addressing them when it's too late. This finding of Fisher is aligned with the results of Gottman: how couples deal with conflicts, predicts if they stay together happily or not. Couples who often get overwhelmed or avoid confrontation because they can’t deal with the stress, end up in an unhappy marriage or separate.
3. Positive illusions
The third area that was very well developed in long-term couples’ brains is responsible for positive illusions. Positive illusions simply mean amplifying things we appreciate in our partner and overlooking the annoyances. In other words: gratitude.
Gottman also found that couples who have a strong “fondness and admiration” system built in their relationship, have much smoother conflicts. We can nurture this system by expressing our appreciation of our partner's qualities and behaviour regularly
4. Erotic intelligence
Helen Fisher was also curious about the “brain in love”. She wanted to know which areas become active when we are deeply in love. She found the following three areas: sex drive (produces testosterone), feeling of novelty (increases dopamine), and feeling of physical touch (increases oxytocin).
Keeping the spark
As a conclusion, if you want to keep the spark: increase sexuality and physical closeness in your relationship, as well as romance. Not only Fisher but Esther Perel - the well-known couples' therapist - emphasises the importance of sexuality and erotic intelligence in relationships. According to her, exploring desire and creating mystery in our relationships is essential if we want to stay committed in the modern world.
Want to start bonding therapy? Sign up for a free intake session with Marianna now. Online therapy sessions are possible.