4 “Must-Knows” for a Happy, Healthy and Connected Relationship

After attending the Psychotherapy Networker Symposium in Washington DC, I came away with some very important and research supported “tidbits” from some of the top thinkers in couples and relationship health.  If you are currently in a relationship, consider the following list and how it might improve your understanding of it.  If you are not in a relationship, this list will help you be all the more informed when you are.

Here are 4 “must-knows” for a happy, healthy and connected relationship

  1. Affairs occur not from sexual curiosity but emotional disconnection, according to Sue Johnson, PhD and author of Hold Me Tight.  If you sense distance with your partner, do not ignore it.  The build up resentment and unmet needs can be toxic.  Affairs are usually a symptom of a deeper issue that has never been dealt with in the relationship.  An emotional disconnect has likely occurred.
  2. Your past does matter.  The quality of your attachment to your parents/primary caregivers often directly relates to how you “do” relationships as an adult.  Do you tend to turn towards – or turn away – from your partner when in distress?  Do you do relentlessly pursue your partner when distressed?  Do you withdraw from your partner when you’re distressed?  These are all questions you can ask yourself to get an idea of what your adult attachment style might be.   See the article, Relationship Roadblocks?  Consider Your Attachment Style for more.
  3. It’s not about the dishes, the trash or he/she “always” being late.  The myriad of things that couples argue about aren’t actually what fundamentally drive couples in distress.  According to Sue Johnson, PhD, it’s “a primary fear of rejection and abandonment.”  If you are having a disagreement with your partner, try to get to the underlying emotions that often get covered by the surface complaints.  For example, what story does your spouse believe about what your behavior means about him/her – or the relationship?  There is usually a fear of loss in some way – loss of your partner.
  4. Hugs can be magical.  Really.  Research has shown that if you engage in a 20 second full body contact hug, oxytocin can be released in both partners.  “Oxytocin is the hormone of safety and trust, bonding and attachment, calm and connect,” according to Linda Graham, MFT.  If you find yourself at odds with your partner, a 20 second oxytocin-producing body hug is a great way to calm the body and brain – and increases the relationship connection in the moment.