Chris Berger is a Licensed Professional Counselor and National Certified Counselor with Foundations Counseling, LLC.
Q: Is there a secret to a long-lasting, successful relationship?
A: Believe it or not, the answer is... yes.
According to Dr. John Gottman, our nation's marriage and couples counseling research expert, "The secret weapon of emotionally intelligent couples is... repair attempts." A relationship repair attempt is any statement or action taken by one or both parties to repair a rift in the relationship. It can be a soothing word, a soft touch, or a simple apology. It can be serious, it can be silly — it just has to work. This stops negative interactions in their tracks. This one habit is a major contributor to successful relationships.
Whether relationship repair attempts are successful or not is primarily determined by the quality of the friendship that exists within the relationship. Good friends treat each other with respect and kindness — even when they disagree. If the friendship is solid, relationship repair attempts are more likely to be effective.
When negative interactions, such as criticism, contempt, defensiveness, or stonewalling, run rampant in a relationship, it becomes even more essential that repair attempts are successful and abundant. All couples disagree at times, all individuals become defensive now and again, and yes, we all have a tendency to hurt the ones we love. The key to a successful relationship is being able to repair things when necessary.
It is a significant sign of emotional maturity to engage in processing those unfortunate moments when a relationship turns sour. All relationships have these moments (yes, even the healthy ones). The secret to a long-lasting, successful relationship is learning how to repair the rifts when they occur, and to do so in a loving and respectful manner.