Four Angels of a Health Relationship: Part III of the Relationship Trilogy

We continue our metaphor on four make-or-break qualities and conditions in relationships. Like the four horsemen that serve to make poor relationships, factors that contribute to a health one also come in quadruplets. In contrast to our harbingers of destruction, below are the four angels to the throne of a strong relationship.

Self-control

Self-control is highly correlated with accommodation, which is an important facet in maintaining a healthy relationship. What we mean by “accommodation” is not equivalent to the habit of compromising oneself to suit the other party, but simply the tendency to selectively respond to the behaviors of others and to not react destructively to the negatives. There is empirical evidence that suggests individuals with high self-control are likely to respond constructively to negative behavior. They would try to communicate actively rather than engage in withdrawn behavior or resort to ending the relationship, both are what individuals with low self-control are wont to do.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness can be defined as having an open or receptive stance to, and awareness of, the present happening, both internally and externally. Mindfulness is not deliberative in nature, but simply observes without giving evaluation or judgement. Mindfulness has considerable value for enhancing relationship quality by promoting connection, intimacy, and attunement. Individuals with high mindfulness have more self-awareness and can identify more easily with others, thereby indirectly enhancing their ability to approach stressful events as challenges instead of as threats. In relationships, this allows the person to observe thoughts, behaviors, and emotions without reacting impulsively or destructively. More importantly, the receptive part that qualifies mindfulness may promote a greater ability or willingness to take interest in the partner’s emotions, thoughts, and welfare.

Empathy

Emotions have evolved to guide adaptive behavior and are a means of interpersonal communication that evokes responses from others. Empathy is generally conceptualized as a high-level communication competence in which one is able to identify and vicariously/transiently experience another’s emotions states by noting various sensory cues. Research supports that accurate perception and understanding of the partner’s behavior does have positive impact on relationship satisfaction. Having the ability to perceive another’s emotional states and to take the other person’s perspective facilitate communication by reducing conflicts that arose via misunderstanding, mistrust, and misplaced emotional responses. It also promotes the sense of “us”, which allow the individuals to view the relationship as a partnership. This quality is highly valued as one of the strongest contributors of a healthy, long-term relationship.

Communication

Good communication skills not only encompass the ability to convey your emotions and thoughts, but also the ability to do so in a way that allows the partner to understand and accept you. Communication is essentially the cornerstone of every strong relationship. Characteristics of good communication skills include not only the ability to initiate when required, but also the capacity to receive communication requests. Negative communicative patterns include becoming withdrawn upon perceiving attempts to communicate or avoidance of the other party. In any communication, honesty, receptivity, sincerity, and openness are fundamental qualities for both parties to have to reach mutual understanding and agreement.

Every relationship is unique, but the underlying, unifying truth is that each relationship is only as strong as the individuals who form them. Relationships should be seen as a teamwork, a partnership. The four conditions and qualities we identified above all resonate to our emphasis that relationships cannot/should not be reduced to individual contributions. Relationships that can stand true to the test of time and tribulations are those comprised of two individuals with the intention and abilities to contribute collaboratively and equally to growing it.

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