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4 Signs You Have a Healthy Relationship

I was on Tiktok the other day as usual and came across this video that I thought was really good, 4 things healthy couples do. SHOW VIDEO. I thought it would be helpful to expand on this a little bit – so today we're going to be talking about these 4 tips, why they are healthy, and how you can integrate them into your own relationship.

So the first one is that They encourage more than they complain or critique. I'm a Gottman-informed couples therapist so this point resonates because John & Julie Gottman coined this the Magic Ratio, which means there is 1 negative interaction to every 5 positive interaction. Now there might be some couples out there who do this naturally – they don't have to work at it, they have just naturally arrived at this ratio in their relationship. But for most long-term relationships, this is a very intentional practice.

Let's say I've had a tense conversation with my wife. It might feel natural for me to not really engage – maybe I keep my space, or text her more coldly, or just act in a way that's not escalatory, but also not engaging. Or maybe, after I've cooled down, I go to her and possibly apologize, or simply ask her if there's anything else she would like to talk about or share, then we give each other a hug.

To me, a couple having this ratio means that they're both very intentional with how they interact, and they want to be proactive about the snowball effect. If there is a negative interaction, they're quick to right the ship, instead of being more passive and allowing it to continue to go further off course.

The second point is that They respond to their partner's attempts to connect – one example that he gives is asking each other how their day was. Again, I totally agree, and in Gottman therapy this is called Turning Towards Bids for Connection. The bid for connection is asking how their day was, how they're feeling, or even making a random comment about something – for example if you're having breakfast, one partner is looking out the window and says, wow look at that beautiful cardinal.

Turning Towards means that you're reciprocating that bid for connection. This could mean that you get into an in-depth conversation about your day with each other, or it could be as simple as replying with, "Hm!" to the cardinal comment.

The reason why this is crucial is that it's the bread and butter of a relationship. This theme is usually not dramatic and deep; it's usually these really quick moments that you can easily not even recognize if you're not paying attention. But the important part is the environment you're creating for your relationship. If you have this, you're both likely to turn to each other often and consistently get little bits of connection and closeness. This is a glue that keeps the two of you together, and things feeling smooth.

But if you don't have this, it can become a major problem. If I'm trying to connect with you and you're turning away (for example, not responding to me if I make a comment that's directed towards you), or even worse if you turn against me (if you tell me to stop bothering you in a frustrated tone), I'm not going to reach out to you anymore. And this is often not as a punishment – I've stuck my neck out there to connect with you and have been rejected. Why would I keep doing that?

So this is a big one: try to make bids of connection with your partner, and try to reciprocate your partner's bids.

Alright, the third point: They express love in the way their partner prefers, rather than what's most natural or easiest to them. If you haven't heard of the 5 Love Languages, they are words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and gifts. If mine is physical touch and yours is words of affirmation, we could easily miss each other. In my mind I'm expressing my love for you through physical affection, but that's not landing for you. Maybe you think that it's nice, but it's not hitting home – where many couples get to is you feel neglected, you share that with me, and I'm dumbfounded because I've been showing you so much love (in my own way).

If I were to understand that physical affection doesn't hit home, I could make it a point to become more experienced with words of affirmation. Maybe it feels forced at first, but if that's what resonates for you, I can put effort into that. This is also a theme that might have to be a conversation throughout your relationship. I'm not saying every week or every month, but maybe once or twice a year the two of you can sit down and take stock of how you've been feeling. Oftentimes we'll need reminders (from the other person or your own reminders) to show your love in the way that the other person craves it the most.

I would also encourage you to get more detail on what the other person needs. For example, guys are often physical-touch-oriented. This does not mean that the only way you can show affection or love physically is through sex – a lot of guys I work with say that they would be happy with a more intentional hug or kiss. A second example, women are often words-of-affirmation-oriented. This also doesn't mean that you need to write her deep poems about your love – a lot of women would be thrilled with hearing why you love them, what you appreciate about them, so on and so forth.

If you have different main love languages, try to find out more about the other person.

And the last point, They take responsibility for their baggage (or actions). This therapist seems to be talking more about baggage from their past, but I view it more from the present. And this again connects to Gottman therapy – one of his "4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse" that predict divorce is Defensiveness, and Taking Responsibility is the antidote to that Horseman.

One of the easiest ways to stay in an argument is to be defensive with one another – to go back and forth, telling the other person how bad or wrong they are, and responding with defensiveness and passing the blame to each other. But taking responsibility totally disrupts that cycle.

Imagine the following conversation:

Hey, I'm feeling frustrated by how you reacted earlier – I felt pretty criticized.

What are you talking about, you're always making such a big deal out of nothing.

That's only 2 sentences and you can tell where that conversations going.

How about this:

Hey, I'm feeling frustrated by how you reacted earlier – I felt pretty criticized.

Yeah, I'm sorry about that. I've had a rough morning with work and took it out on you. You didn't deserve that.

The first option is likely going nowhere, with both partners feeling even more frustrated and upset after the conversation is over. But the second option? That could easily go down the path of the two smoothing things over and that moment of conflict becoming a non-issue. Not only does it become a non-issue, but both partners actually feel even closer after having that conversation, and more confident that in the future they can continue bringing up difficult feelings to each other.

So I think all of these were great, and just to recap: have 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction, turn towards your partner's bids for connection, express love and affection in the way that resonates the most for your partner, and take responsibility for your actions and missteps in the relationship. These are way easier said than done, but having them as goals you can continue to strive for can really solidify your relationship.

Let me know down in the comments if there are other dynamics you can think of that healthy couples have, and I may make another video like this in the future. Also, if you're trying to work on some of these but you're having a tough time, couples therapy is always a great option to investigate. But thank you for watching, if this was helpful feel free to subscribe and leave a like, and I'll see you next time. Have a great rest of the day

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