June 28, 2014

exercising the kindness muscle

This past week, two of my favorite people sent me this article from the Atlantic, which is a sure sign it's excellent.  It's a piece about unexpected qualities that sustain relationships.  The researchers they hi-light have been studying marriages since the 1960s and have divided couples into healthy, happy couples and those doomed to fail, calling them "Masters" and "Disasters" respectively.   I know that this year has made me appreciate the manfriend beyond belief (I'm pretty sure I never could have survived intern year without him) but it's been such a challenge to create a new life together while we are both working 80 hours a week, sleeping 5 hours maximum per night (or day!) and planning a wedding from afar.  It has not been easy, but I think we are doing a pretty good job of it.  And I hope with all I have that we become Masters and not Disasters.

1. Appreciate Intent (and sometimes ignore execution)
“Even in relationships where people are frustrated, it’s almost always the case that there are positive things going on and people trying to do the right thing,” psychologist Ty Tashiro told me. “A lot of times, a partner is trying to do the right thing even if it’s executed poorly. So appreciate the intent.”

2. Be there for them when the going gets GOOD
"We’ve all heard that partners should be there for each other when the going gets rough. But research shows that being there for each other when things go right is actually more important for relationship quality. How someone responds to a partner’s good news can have dramatic consequences for the relationship."

3. When your husband says look at the birds, LOOK AT THE BIRDs.
If you're partner is asking for your attention, give it to them (or explain when they can have it)

4. Seek out things to appreciate/be grateful for
“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained in an interview, “which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”

5. Kindness is a muscle.
the best lesson and quote by far is about choosing kindness whenever you can, a lesson I'm learning and loving over and over again this year, despite the challenge it presents:

"There are two ways to think about kindness. You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don’t. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people, that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise. Masters tend to think about kindness as a muscle. They know that they have to exercise it to keep it in shape. They know, in other words, that a good relationship requires sustained hard work."

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