Valentine’s Day?
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Valentine’s Day?

A Dutch poster publisher called Loesje created a poster that read: Real love, my father said, knows no time and can be extinguished in one night, while it’s memory will remain with you forever.

Confusing huh? And maybe it is something that will flash through your mind as well, when at this Valentine’s Day you look into the eyes of your sweetheart. Being in a relationship can be like a roller coaster ride. The ups and downs in a relationship can both strengthen the bond and also break them. Really loving each other may be much harder than just speaking the words. And this is certainly so when you are going through a rough patch in your relationship. “A relationship is something you need to work on”, is something we may say while we brace ourselves and hold on a little longer. But if the whole situation after years has tied itself into a knot, where do you pick up the thread to find a solution? You start very carefully I would say. Little by little and by opening up and becoming vulnerable again. Haven’t you noticed how we slowly tend to shut down when we no longer see a way out?  We stop talking about what we cannot solve. Professor John Gottman did more than 30 years of research on the topic of intimate relationships and studied this process of human interaction. He writes:

“A relationship is a contract of mutual nurturance. Relationships have to be a rich climate of positivity. For relationships to be strong, the ideal climate is one teeming with positive interactions.” – John Gottman, May 2009

In the video to the left of this text (click on it to play) Gottman speaks about the 4 behaviors that not only cause a constricting knot in a relationship, but also will draw it tighter and tighter.

These 4 behaviors are:

1. Criticism; attacking the character of a person.

2. Contempt: disapproval tinged with disgust, which will widen the gap.

3. Defensiveness; will increase strive and keep the conflict stuck.

4. Stonewalling; ignoring each other or active hostility.

How to undo such a knot and more is something you will learn in my training on Empathic and Effective Communication. It takes practice. Gottman names four antidotes to the described destructive behaviors:

1. Expressing your feelings and needs using “I-statements”.
2. Offering respect and appreciation. 

3. Accepting responsibility for the decisions you made and the consequences this had.
Creating a time-out when necessary and returning to the conversation when calm has been restored.

I wish you all a happy Valentine’s Day!

Govert van Ginkel

This article is written by Govert van Ginkel. Govert specializes in Nonviolent and Effective Communication and is active in this field as a trainer, speaker, coach, and mediator. More information about Govert can be found here. The current training offer can be found here


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