This was posted this week to The Happiness Coach's Blog:
One of the most significant conclusions from the positive psychology research is that other people matter to our happiness. Anyone in a committed relationship knows well that our partner can have a HUGE effect on our emotions. In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ve asked my good friend, San Diego relationship and intimacy expert, Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, to be the guest writer for the newsletter this week. She shares one of the best ways to bring more positivity into our primary relationship. – Eric Karpinski, The Happiness Coach
Complain. Bitch. Moan.
It is easy to complain when we have been in a relationship for a while. When dating, everything is new and exciting about our partner, and we are more likely to express our gratitude. However, in the long run, we often take for granted the positive aspects of the relationship. But before you start blaming yourself here, consider that this negativity bias is genetically influenced. As a survival mechanism, we are programmed, just like other animals, to notice what is wrong or not working. Unfortunately, this negativity bias can be a real drag in a relationship if you are on the receiving end of continuous complaints.
I suggest consciously making a shift from being in a relationship that is based on survival, to a relationship that is about thriving. Try focusing on what is working instead of what is not working. This is a strengths-based approach to perceiving your partner. When you consciously choose to see what is already strong and positive, you can break through your negativity bias and prime yourself for even more optimism. Choosing optimism is a much stronger foundation for the relationship to continue to grow and evolve.
A practical way to put this shift into action is to write a list of at least 20 things you appreciate about your partner. What are his/her strengths? Positive characteristics? What traits made you fall in love? Share your lists with each other, and post them in a place where you will see them often. Another way to integrate greater positivity into your relationship is to end each day with sharing two or three appreciations with your partner. What did he/she do that day that you appreciated? Did your partner nurture you? Spend quality time? Make you laugh? Take turns going first each night. If you find yourself continuing to struggle with negativity, every time you file a complaint, take on the challenge of also finding two ways to compliment your partner.
Making these activities a regular part of your interactions will infuse your relationship with a conscious positivity. Not only will this assist you both in recognizing each other’s strengths, it also makes you feel appreciated, and opens your hearts and brains to greater resiliency and creativity in the relationship. These are all key components to growing and thriving!
~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sex Therapist, Marriage Counselor, Sexologist, & College Sexual Health Speaker