This guest article from Psych Central was written by Nathan Feiles
Have you ever had one of those days where it’s clear that your relationship is more aggravating than soothing?
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Every relationship has its share of frustrating days. An occasional bad day is expected and normal in any relationship. Only when the negatives begin to outweigh the positives is it time to become concerned.
Dr. John Gottman, a relationship specialist, identified through his research a concept he calls positive sentiment override. This refers to the lens through which we view and experience our relationship and partner on a regular basis:
Is our relationship and view of our partner generally positive with moments of negativity, or vice versa?
Gottman’s research suggests that it is important to view our partner’s negative moments as the exception to a bank of positivity built up over time in the relationship. If it seems that our partner’s positive moments are only the exceptions to consistent negativity — whether in attitude or relationship environment — then there is a greater likelihood of eventual breakup or divorce.
Simply stated, the culprit of relationship demise is not always the content of the arguments or the frustrations. Our perception of these events and our overall relationship environment also are important. However, for many of us, creating this concept of positive sentiment override in our relationships is much more easily said than done.
So, let’s look at some ways to create a healthy relationship environment with our partner that’s based on a bank of positivity:
1. Three positives to every one negative.
When your partner acts in a way that triggers negative emotion for you, come up with at least three positive things he or she does that either make you feel good, or that support the positive nature of your relationship.
2. Weekly togetherness activity.
Try doing something together on a weekly basis. It could be a date, but it could also be a productive activity, such as planning an event, building a model, baking cookies, doing a puzzle, making a photo album, writing a story, etc. Make it active rather than passive (e.g., watching TV together is passive interaction).
3. Turn frustration into an opportunity.
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Is your partner having a bad day and acting coldly (or otherwise) toward you? Rather than joining in the negativity, try to understand what’s bothering your partner. See how you can be supportive to him or her. Keep in mind, once arguments start, listening stops on both sides. So having a productive conversation that can foster repair contributes to a healthy relationship environment.
4. Be mindful of the bad day.