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Studies have shown that married couples, or at least married men, tend to live longer than their unmarried counterparts. However, that is only true if these couples experience their relationship as happy and feel safe with each other.
What determines whether we can create a safe and happy long-term relationship with our partner? We need to consider two main components: our subconscious beliefs and our learned skills.
The science of epigenetics has shown that our beliefs shape our reality. Supportive as well as limiting beliefs affect us in all areas of our life, including relationships. Our mind reads the environment and sends that information to our cells. Healthy cells allow us to live longer. However, the cells don’t get the information directly but via our nervous system, which responds to our perception of reality.
If our mind perceives another person as safe, we feel relaxed and our body is calm. Our cells get the message that we live in a safe environment. In that case, we tend to live long and happy lives because we are experiencing life as safe and pleasurable. If our mind misinterprets the environment, based on limiting beliefs about relationships, and perceives it as threatening, no matter whether it actually is or not, the cells in our body receive the message that we are in danger, which activates stress hormones, and our natural fight or flight response is activated.
If we look through a negative filter, based on our past experiences and learned beliefs, at our relationships, we can find different reasons not to trust and ultimately we are sabotaging every intimate relationship.
Some of those faulty conclusions about love and relationships we might have drawn as we were growing up are, “I will always be alone and no one will ever be there for me”, or “I will never be good enough”, or “I cannot have my needs met in any romantic partnership”, or “I cannot be honest and myself in relationships”, or “Once, there is a conflict, that’s the beginning of the end, and I had better withdraw already to protect myself”. The latter pattern of course is supposed to minimize the hurt if somebody rejects us. Drs. John and Julie Gottman’s research has shown that long-term partnerships are forged and stabilized through the reconciliation of conflicts and differences. So it is actually the limiting belief about conflicts which ultimately creates what the person fears: the loss of the relationship.
But it’s not just the negative filter of our limiting beliefs that affects us in relationships, but also our missing relationship skills. Imperative skills in every relationship are knowing how
- to get in touch with our needs and to express them successfully
- to take personal responsibility for our part in an interaction
- to make amends and repair break-downs or rifts
- to work through conflicts in a conscious way
- to self-soothe when you get emotionally activated or “triggered”
- to hold the space for each other and co-regulate each others emotions
- to be vulnerable and generate intimacy on a regular basis
- to keep your autonomy while connecting on a daily basis with our partner
When one or both partners are missing one or more of these skills, they can get into a lot of painful or toxic patterns. So we need to ask ourselves which of these abilities we did not develop when we were young. Perhaps conflict resolution or collaboration are missing skills? Perhaps being able to be with our unpleasant emotions and self-regulating these when required is what we need to learn? Perhaps we need to begin to take responsibility rather than choosing to believe that things are happening to us and we are without power and influence?
What beliefs do you need to change and what skills would you like to learn in order to create and continue to lead a healthy and happy long-term relationship?
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I offer packages for couples.
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