Insights

What’s luck got to do with it? 6 tips to build your best relationship without an inch of luck

By Dr.Emma Waddinton, Ph.D Psychology, M.Sc. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, M.Sc. Research Methods in Psychology, B.Sc. Psychology (Hons.)

Foreword (not part of main content)

Dr Emma Waddington, is a senior clinical psychologist and has 20 years of experience in the field of mental health. She worked as a Clinical Psychologist in UK local services, hospitals and in the private sector for over ten years prior to coming to Singapore. In this time, she worked at developing a Dialectical Behaviour Therapy service for young people and adults at a local hospital in addition to lecturing at the Anna Freud Centre, and was a visiting lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, London.

Today, Dr.Emma explores the psychology of building successful relationships, and how to nurture, and preserve your existing relationships.

Here are 6 tips to build your best relationship without an inch of luck

We often hear; “they got lucky” when we see others in a happy relationship. However, research into the science of long-lasting relationships shows us that happy relationships are not due to luck.

Obviously, choosing a partner that aligns themselves with your values, preferences and goals in life will help you set off on the right path. But life happens, and things change.

This is where having a relationship that continuously nurtures connections, works on having effective conflict and develops deep and meaningful friendships is the recipe for a long-lasting and happy one. It’s not luck that will get you there. Instead, there is a workable recipe and we will talk about it here today.

How do we nurture our relationships?

The Gottmans have lots to say on this. John and Julie Gottman have devoted their entire lives to the research and practice of building healthy, long-lasting relationships through clinician training and the creation of transformative products for couples globally. They’ve spent the best part of 30 years researching couples, ‘happy couples’ in particular, in their so-called ‘love labs’. Throughout this time, they’ve seen over 4000 couples go through their research labs.

Through this work, they’ve identified the couples who will succeed in having long-lasting loving partnerships and those will end the relationship or simply live a long and challenging life tolerating each other. Interestingly, luck wasn’t one of the factors they identified as a variable to long lasting love.

Based on Gottman’s research, here are 6 tips on building your best relationship!

Friendship

The first and most important predictor is friendship. Happy, long-lasting relationships are built on a deep friendship. Your partner being the person you know best and vice versa. They are your best friend, your confidant. You spend time chit-chatting daily and updating each other on what has been happening and evolving in your lives. These regular updates keep you in touch with everything that your partner is feeling and experiencing and helps you feel understood and known, building a deep sense of connection in the relationship.

Physical Affection & Expression of Fondness

Long-lasting and happy relationships regularly express their fondness and admiration and appreciate each other. On a DAILY basis they will touch, cuddle, and kiss. They will express their love and what they cherish in each other. This builds a wonderful foundation of fondness and good feelings. We feel loved and we love back.

Compassion & Support

These foundations help us nurture a positive perspective on our partner. Such that when our partner says the wrong thing or makes a mistake, we give them the benefit of the doubt. We feel protective of our partner and our (and other people’s) perspective on our partner. We don’t like thinking badly of them and we want to think of them as a good and loving person.

Resolving conflict together

When we feel positive about our partner, we want to manage conflict more lovingly. Conflict is inevitable, and sometimes, necessary, but with these foundations, conflict is seen as an opportunity to be curious, not to fight it out and see who wins. Instead, we are protective of how we voice our upset and we are careful to listen to our partner’s perspectives. The goal is to learn to manage conflict, not to win or put our partner down.

Appreciate differences

We recognise that some of our differences do lead to conflict. We appreciate each other’s differences as part of the whole – not as something to dismiss and reject. We are curious about what lies behind these opinions and perspectives.

Why is order so important to my partner?

Why does my partner care about our kids’ manners so much?

Asking these questions leads to a deepening of our understanding of our partner’s beliefs and values. We can be influenced by our partner’s perspective and we care to help them live by their values and dreams.

Working together, as a team!

Finally, we work together to find shared meaning. We think about our future as a couple and what is important to us. We work to make each other’s hopes and dreams come true. None of the above is luck. It’s all about skills and the right skills can build a wonderful partnership that will be long-lasting and loving.

In summary, building a fulfilling relationship isn’t about luck; it’s about nurturing the right mindset and understanding each other! Drawing from the research of experts like the Gottmans;

Friendship
Expressing affection
Providing support
Resolving conflicts…constructively!
Appreciating differences

and working together as a team, are the key to a long, beautiful relationship!