Understanding and Rekindling Your Relationship

Dr. Kate Marshall

According to marriage expert, John Gottman, deep friendship is the best defense against an adversarial relationship with the spouse.  There are different conflict styles in marriages but the important point is that the style works for both parties.

Many couples who start out with a close, loving bond often wonder what happened when destructive patterns begin to take hold.  Effective communication feels difficult and negotiations can dead end.  Conflicts erupt over child rearing practices, money concerns, shared activities, health worries, sex, household responsibilities and a variety of other issues.  It can seem as if the “storm of living” has eroded some of the basic fabric of your connection.

The blame wars begin, as partners struggle to diagnose issues and regain previous balance and connection.  Psychologist Sue Johnson maintains that we become ultrasensitive to the other’s “dissatisfaction” and “disappointment” cues, as what used to feel like a “safe harbor” may now be experienced as unreliable territory.  This can lead to eruptive fights and /or reactive distancing or patterns of stonewalling and ineffective communication.  “Sometimes we even begin to rewite our romantic history and wonder if we’ve been fooled into choosing the wrong mate or partner” (Johnson, 2008).

There are numerous ways to help distressed couples reconnect with the love basics and create safer and more fulfilling relationship that don’t require years of struggle and counseling to accomplish.   What did your past relationships teach you about intimacy, communication, connection and resolution?  It can help to understand what you learned about shared enjoyment and mutual appreciation and /or methods of relationship repair. 

Recognizing Relational Patterns

Although each relationship, marriage or partnership is unique, most of us blame our mate when we are scared or threatened.  We mirror and trigger our partners.  Our mate’s negative words and behaviors can provoke defensive reactions in us which trigger negative reactions from them.  Breaking this cycle can be imporant in healing.  In addition to recognition,  the partners can learn to investigate the reactive dance that has developed.  In this way we can learn to deescalate and appreciate the feelings and needs of the partner that are propelling this pattern.  Behind anger is often hurt and a worry or belief that the partner isn’t available, doesn’t care, or isn’t reliable. 

Reconnecting With Love Basic and Reestablishing Effective Connections

Defensive postures that reflect survival mode can be replaced with team building approaches.  This allows couples to jointly develop new relationship patterns that can rebuild flexibility and trust, the grounds for effective communication within the higher conflict content areas.   According to couples expert Sue Johnson, the couple “can create a weatherproof relationship story that appreciates how the team is continuing to build upon their love foundation.”  Hence, current relationships can be repaired and enhanced as the couple develops effective and more workable patterns and enrichment strategies.

If you would like  further information about my couples practice or how I help couples and families to reconnect and build upon love basics, please contact me at this website or call at 303-443-5811.  You can also download and take the Marriage Inventory located in the Forms section of this site as one way of assessing certain aspects of your relationship as it now stands.

References:  The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John M. Gottman, Ph.D., and Nan Silver, Random House, 1999.  ISBN:  978-609-80570-4.

Hold Me Tight:  Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, Sue Johnson, Ph.D., Little Brown and Co, 2008, ISBN:  978-0-316-11300-7.

2 Responses to “Understanding and Rekindling Your Relationship”

  1. Dipu Says:

    Thank you for these, Cheryl. My former husabnd will be home for a visit next week. I have been wanting to ask questions that start a conversation and help us to get to know each other again, in a different and more intimate way. I will write these down and ponder my responses over the next few days. I am continously reminded of the statemen you make in your testimony: We dated as a family for a year : ) God is so good! I am excited for everything He is accomplishing in my life and family. Thank you for being such a godly example and an inspiration for those of us going through the same battle of divorce unto reconciliation with God and each other! I appreciate you posting the links to the sermons from your church. I have subscribed to the PodCast and LOVE Matt Chandler’s preaching! The sermon’s on Habbakuk are powerful!! God bless you, Cheryl. Have a beautiful weekend!

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