“Sorry, I couldn’t help it,” says the average partner.
So you’re passed the first dates — or the honeymoon stage — where you flirt, look your best, practice your best manners and maybe even sacrifice what you prefer to do … in every interaction. In hopes or urgency to develop the relationship further.
Because you feel attracted to someone — who you don’t even know yet. Both of you are putting up your best personas.
For all that, eventually you’ll feel more comfortable, or dare I say lazy, to flirt, look your best, practice your manners and now feel in your right to act a bit more greedy in your desires.
Beyond the obvious act of making an effort in your relationship to keep it healthy, what should that effort look like?
Which specific efforts separate you from being an Average Couple to being a Resilient Couple?
Research has found several ways to be a Resilient Couple — basically, the part fairy tales don’t even bother showing.
It’s raw, difficult, and takes work.
I’m sure you remember all the adrenaline and butterflies you felt at the beginning gave you enough energy to put in that effort, but now that it’s subsided, it’s not as easy. Still, this doesn’t mean your relationship can no longer be rewarding.
Here are 7 actions that make you a Resilient Couple, as found by research:
1. A Daily Dosage
You need your vegetables, your fruits, your exercise, your water, your kiss, and your positive interactions. That is 5 servings of fruit and vegetables, at least 10,000 steps of exercise, 8 glasses of water, a 6-second kiss before saying goodbye, and interacting positively with your partner 5 times for every negative interaction (5:1 ratio). Dr. Gottman found the 6-second kiss to be a perfect time to release all those endorphins in your brain and have potential for something later. He also found the balance to every negative interaction is 5 positive interactions. Because as it’s known widely in research, our brain remembers the bad so much more readily than the good. We need more positive interactions to be able to remember them. It’s not that your partner doesn’t care what you do for them, it’s that they honestly didn’t notice.
2. Lay All The Cards On The Table
Being honest and upfront will shrink so many misunderstandings. It’s not the easiest thing to do in the world, but it comes with many benefits. To name one, Dr. Sloan found that those who have deep conversations and make themselves known, enjoy better health. It’s like lifting a weight off your shoulders. Avoiding to share how you feel about an issue is only prolonging the issue — as you’ll see why in the next action.
3. 5-Second Rule
Is it true that you can still eat your kit-kat after it falls on the ground if you manage to pick it up within 5 seconds? Friends from middle-school swore by it. And research swears by a similar tune when an issue occurs: Don’t wait too long after to talk about it! Another golden nugget from Dr. Gottman. He describes it as if taken over by large waves and being capsized. We saw it play out perfectly in the film The Break Up with Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston. They let the initial issue get out of hand, and just wanted to hurt each other, capsizing the relationship.
4. Brake & Break
Emily Blunt described in an interview her mild car crash (with Tom Cruise in the car) while filming Edge of Tomorrow. She imitated him saying, “brake… brake… brake, brake, brake!” As she laughed afterward thinking how she thought how annoying he was, as if he didn’t know anything about stunts. So if you’re not feeling resilient as a couple, you need to step on the brakes. By taking a break … from negativity. As in, if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. This sounds childish, I know. Yet, well-known marriage therapists did this early on in their own marriage and it took them almost 3 months to finally talk to each other, because they had nothing nice to say. It’s easy to get swept away with negativity, but put the brakes on it, even if you’re in silence. You’ll appreciate later the respect you’ll feel.
5. Embrace Conflict
Don’t pay attention to those that say they “never fight.” If it’s true, the relationship is most likely superficial, or it’s just not true. Research has found conflict to be inevitable because two people won’t always match in moods or preferences, and we each face a balancing act of autonomy (thinking in “I” terms) and interdependency (thinking in “us” terms). Although unpleasant,when dealt with skillfully, conflict is an important tool to promote intimacy, ironically. Having conflict and disagreements doesn’t mean you’re flawed and that you need to be without them to be a perfect couple. Conflict is an opportunity for growth, intimacy and trust.
6. Build, Break & Fix
When you let someone down, you have a choice to rebuild trust or let it damage your relationship. We all make mistakes and maybe even like to see how far we can go, there’s no shame in being a human that likes to put themselves first. So if you’ve breached the trust your partner had for you, it’s best to prove yourself once again with consistency and time. We can damage the trust someone had for us in an instant, but it takes a million more to repair that one moment.
7. Tone Down The Selfishness
Of course we must look out for ourselves and set necessary boundaries for our own sanity! It’s understandable that there are times when we feel deprived of consideration that we need to be a bit more selfish to feel any kind of balance. But truthfully, a relationship or feelings of love won’t last long when there is someone only looking out for themselves, even if there’s good reason for it. We may need to break the cycle by offering what we need first (e.g. a massage, a compliment, a small gift, a surprise email). You’re most likely to get the same treatment in return, especially if you show that you’re lovable.
Without these actions, you’ll miss out on the true catharsis of pain, the rewards of growth, and the feeling of being rightly understood and validated.
Trust me, you won’t have any more fears running through your bones. You’ll have the certainty of proven commitment, respect and acceptance—you’ll feel more empowered as a couple.
Now that you’ve read all 7 actions reward yourself with our free mini guide on the 5 Secrets To Build True Intimacy (20 colorful pages of secrets found in relationship science).