You may find yourself feeling like you need to make new friends. You may already have friends that you have lost touch with or you feel like your friendship could be more meaningful. You may want to foster more trust and intimacy into your romantic relationship. Derived from research on relationships, there are tips you can use.
According to the Sound Relationship House model from the Gottman Institute, these are three elements fundamental for a good, healthy, thriving relationship, whether it is a friendship or a romantic relationship.
This is the first level of the Sound Relationship House model. This describes the amount of cognitive effort you put to know your partners or friend’s inner world: their current stresses, hopes and dreams, strengths, and challenges, or even what’s on their mind about their workday tomorrow. In everyday life, this may look like frequent check-ins and catching up. You can update the “love map” by asking, showing genuine curiosity, caring, and most importantly, remembering the answers. Open-ended questions and circling back to talk about specific topics in depth can encourage sharing thoughts and feelings.
Fondness and admiration
The second level of the Sound Relationship House model is all about creating an environment of admiration and appreciation. To do that, you need to train yourself to be more receptive to noticing all the good things that your partner or friend does, the positive aspects that make you fond of them. As the human brain has evolved to be predisposed to scanning for potential danger and mistakes, it makes sense that we are predisposed to scanning for imperfection and mistakes.
Most of us, we find easier to forgive and ignore mistakes for our friends. If you want to try this with your partner, it will look like giving specific compliments and encouragement. You can also express your appreciation about little random things and acknowledge your partner’s positive contribution to your daily life.
Turn towards instead of away/bids for connection
On the third level, the focus moved to all the little daily interactions, where the friend or partner reaches out to seek a moment of connection. This can be as obvious as a partner asking to talk about a bad day at work, or much less subtle. Our option there is to accept or reject this bid for connection. Rejection may be straightforward or accidental if we miss or ignore the bid.
Often, the quality of a relationship is directly affected by how skillful each person is at recognizing and responding to bids for connection. According to the Gottman Institute, research shows that “the quality of relationship is directly affected by how skillful a person is at recognizing and responding to bids for connection”.
This does not mean that you need to say yes to every single invite or conversation. Specifically for couples, research suggests healthiest relationships are where people respond to each other’s bids about 80% of the time.
The techniques described can be used to foster meaningful connection in any kind of relationship, either a new or an existing one.
If you or someone in your family is struggling with interpersonal relationships, it may be a good idea to seek professional help. You can book an appointment here.
Elena Marinopoulou is a Behaviour Analyst with Willingness Team. She works with children and adults and has training in Applied Behaviour Analysis and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
J. Lindgren, E. Matlack, and D. Winston (Hosts). (2022, July 5). Relationship Science for your Friendships (and Vice Versa) (No. 379) [Audio podcast episode]. In Multiamory. https://www.multiamory.com/podcast/379-relationship-science-for-your-friendships-and-vice-versa