Therapy That Works...

The Power of Loving Words - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Power of Loving Words In Relationships

June 25, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

The level of relationship conflict and tension has long been the best predictor of who breaks up. Now a new study suggests that the real secret to staying together may rely on how well you get along during the good times.

This study by Shelly Gable is a direct contradiction of what we’ve been telling millions of people for years. The level of fighting, anger, contempt and frustration have been the best predictors of break ups in almost every study done since the 1980s. Literally, entire careers in psychology have been built on the study of arguments and conflict. However, this new study redefines what is most important in the sustainability of love—the positive powers of loving words and gestures in everyday communication. Showering your partner in support is relationship gold.

You may be asking yourself, “Why are the positives so powerful?”

Although responses to negative words and actions are important, how you relate in the good times is much more indicative of where the relationship will ultimately go. Here are a few new facts:

  • Memorable Moments: Essentially, positive reactions are much more likely to be remembered by each partner. If you are lukewarm when triumph is announced, your partner will be deflated. Such rejection is remembered in startling detail and withdrawal from the relationship is a natural outcome. They will tell someone else their good news next time!
  • Trust and Vulnerability: Trust originates in the daily details of living between partners. Kindness, compassion and consistent interest are powerful elixirs of love. Positive reactions reduce self-protection and fortify a cohesive couple identity that is rock solid.
  • Celebrate Good Times: Feeling close to your partner flourishes in an atmosphere of shared joy. People replay these shared triumphs repeatedly and these memories are on constant replay.

Wondering where you fit in? Dr. Gable has defined the top four response patterns as:

  • Active--Constructive: Being enthusiastic and warm is the best way to go in loving language. Celebrating, endorsing and cheerleading are central tenants of this approach.
  • Passive-Constructive: Very understated, underwhelming support resulting in marginal benefits. Examples include “That’s great!” or “I am sure you’re pleased.”
  • Active—Destructive: This approach introduces doubt, anxiety and distrust by being actively undermining of the partner. Examples include “Why did you make that decision?” or “What were you thinking when you said that?”
  • Passive-Destructive: Relationship neglect is one of the cardinal sins of marriage. Ignoring and turning away from your partner is the most destructive relationship response. Silence and withdrawal are key examples of this pattern.

Finally, here are some tips to keep the fires burning in your romantic relationships:

  • Focus on Loving: Pay strict attention to how you respond to your partner. Watch your words, but most of all what your actions. Make it your mission to provide full and total attention when he or she is talking. Mute the television, turn off the computer and put your cell phone on vibrate. Focus like your love affair depends on it (because it does!).
  • Create Loving Language/ Plan Ahead: Pick one or two enthusiastic comments and “work them.” Do not ever feign affection but do reach out with your words and your gestures. Establish an array of loving, endorsing comments such as “Honey, I am so proud” or “You are amazing.”
  • Belief in One Another: Your belief about your relationship determines how you frame interactions. Watch what you think since it determines both feelings and behavior. When you practice positive and endorsing habits in your thinking, you create loving communications as a result. When you choose to believe in your relationship you inoculate your love affair against future conflict, disagreement and most of all, from the intrusion of third parties. Love one another deeply from the heart!

Sources include:

Dr. Martin Seligman

Dr. Shelly Gable and the World Congress on Positive Psychology

Recent Posts