I have to be honest……winter is truly NOT my favorite season! However, having moved across the country a few years ago to an area that has a pretty harsh winter for approximately 7 months out of the year, I had to rethink this whole winter thing! (It doesn’t help that my husband loves winter and gets excited when it is 44 degrees BELOW zero!) No longer could I make excuses about not doing something because it was cold and snowy. Otherwise, I would rarely do anything! Ha!
So, I now make sure that I have LOTS of brightly-colored cold weather gear, pursue activities that involve snow – such as snowshoeing, walking my dogs in snow, and ice fishing (well, socializing while others actually ice fish!!!). I cannot say, that during a blizzard, I haven’t chosen a pajama day here or there, however, I have had to be more conscientious of my attitude and choices I make in order to keep my internal weather sunny and warm!
Our relationships are much the same way. As a marriage coach, I work with couples who feel they are truly in the “winter” of their relationship and see no sunny, spring days ahead. They can only see their partner’s hurtful behaviors, lack of ability to communicate, or lack of attention. Often, both partners feel they no longer really matter to the other partner, despite love that may still be present. And passion???? Well, what is that?
As I have stated in previous posts, amazing relationships are more about the habits that are created than love. Love is usually not the issue. The patterns of behavior, or habits couples choose, allow the marriage to thrive or hurt the marriage.
Couples, who are smart and successful in other areas of their lives, sometimes unknowingly choose to neglect or poison their most intimate relationships with nasty relationship habits. According to John Gottman, a well-known researcher regarding marriage, he has found four key behaviors that are detrimental to relationships. These behaviors are SO detrimental to relationships that Gottman has been able to predict marriages that thrive vs. fail over time.
These 4 behaviors that truly promote “winter” in relationships, if not the death of the relationship, include:
- Criticism – Focusing on one person being right and the other person as wrong or using phrases such as “you should,” “you never,” you always.
- Contemptuous behavior – rolling eyes, name-calling, cursing, insults, sarcasm, hostile humor, curling upper lip.
- Defensiveness – Viewing self as the victim and partner as the attacker, making excuses for your behavior, cross-complaining and ignoring what your partner has said, or “yes, butting.”
- Stonewalling -Changing the subject, walking away to avoid conflict, silent treatment. Partner perceives it as disconnection, disapproval, and that their thoughts and feelings do not matter.
The good news is that when both partners begin to:
1. Avoid harmful communication habits when expressing wants
2. Focus primarily on meeting their partner’s emotional needs (as
explained in a future post!)…..cherishing their partner,
the marriage begins to shift in lasting ways.
Then the winter weather is lifted…and, as they begin to see light on the horizon, even more momentum with other concepts and skills can take them out of winter….into Spring!