The secret to secure relationships.

18 02 2015

The Huffington Post recently published a special feature on love and relationships, for Valentine’s Day. They contacted me to ask me some questions about the secret to creating secure relationships, and I thought I would share my answers here:

kissingcouples

Huffington Post: “What is the importance of authenticity within a relationship?
Stefan: “When we’re authentic with someone it means we allow ourselves to be seen ‘warts and all’. It means being exposed and raw and vulnerable, which is a horribly scary thing to do as we’re all familiar with the pain of rejection. However, it’s a risk worth taking, because the act of expressing our deepest flaws and fears and then having them acknowledged and accepted by our loved ones creates an incredibly powerful and secure emotional bond, as it suggests an unconditional love. If instead we choose to hide behind the mask of our ‘best self’, then our vulnerabilities stay hidden, which may feel safer in the short term, but in the long term this suggests that any love we receive is conditional or has a caveat; that our partner only loves the version of ourselves which we allow them to see, and than they might not love us if they knew the whole truth. This results in a constant fear that our hidden secret vulnerabilities – our skeletons in the closet – might one day be exposed, and in an emotional connection which feels conditional, or incomplete.”

Huffington Post: “What is the importance of getting to know your partner well / deeply?”
Stefan: “A friend of mine recently joked that premarital therapy should simply consist of the couple eating apples in a silent room, and that if they don’t kill each other after 10 minutes, then marital bliss awaits. The point he was making is that we all have little idiosyncratic foibles and quirks, and it can be these little mundane things – like the way we eat an apple – that can end up driving our partners crazy. That’s why it’s so important that we get to know our partners well; so that we’re not only aware of the obvious personality traits, but also the ones which are buried deep, which may only be exposed during times of stress or vulnerability. We all act differently under great pressure, and frequently resort to ‘adaptive behaviours’; coping mechanisms which we’ve developed earlier in life, to help us deal with painful feelings and events. The longer any relationship goes on, the more inevitable it becomes that the couple will be faced with a situation which might trigger some of these behaviours; so it’s good to know how you and your partner are likely to react when this happens. Many of the strongest couples are the ones who can recognise each other’s adaptive behaviours early on, as warning signs that something isn’t right, and then soothe each other until the danger has passed.”

Huffington Post: “What are suggested techniques to get to know your partner better?”
Stefan: “First and foremost: spending time together. It sounds so obvious, but it takes a long time to really see how someone is going to behave and react in a range of different situations. At the beginning of a relationship couples often experience a huge amount of happiness together, but happiness is only one emotion. It’s important to know how you’ll handle other emotions together as well. So it’s not just the quantity of time you spend with someone, but the quality too. If you’re just staying in your comfort zone all the time, then you’re not really getting a chance to see how you and your partner might respond to each other in a challenging predicament. So, get out of your comfort zone together: go on unusual dates, try a new activity, relinquish control and let your partner surprise you occasionally, travel to somewhere new, and make sure you get to see your partner in a number of different social situations – with family, friends, and colleagues. It’s only by having a variety of different experiences together that you can really see how compatible you are as a team. And, of course, keep talking. Communication is key, so make sure you check in with your partner regularly, to learn what their emotional triggers are, and to stay attuned to their needs.”

scienceoflove

In the end they actually split my answers up across a couple of different articles. Here’s one about how couples can connect with each other. And here’s one about how well couples feel they know their other half.

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