I’ve been romantic since a very young age, and have not really been single since the age of 15. I have learned such an awful lot since then, and I hope I will continue to do so – I’m the analytical type so I really like to listen to other people’s opinions and figure out the reason behind things. One of the best seminars I have watched to date, is on how to cultivate skills for healthy romantic relationships, by Joanne Davila, a psychologist from Stony Brook University. The link to the full talk is available here, but here is a quick break-down:
Davila starts off by talking about the three crucial requirements:
- Knowing what you want and need in a partner
- Selecting the right person
- Developing and using the right skills from the very beginning
These key skills are; Insight, mutuality and emotion regulation. These lead to romantic competence, which is the ‘ability to function efficiently across all areas of the relationship’. Let’s look at this in little more detail.
This is about awareness, understanding and learning. It gives you a better idea of:
- Who you are
- What you need
- What you want
- Why you exhibit certain behavioral patterns
Example: You notice that you’re being really snappy with your partner.
Insight: You realise that your anger is nothing to do with them, you’re stressed about work.
Insight also lets you know your partner better.
Example: Your partner is late for a date.
Insight: You partner is always late. It’s nothing personal – nothing to worry about!
Furthermore, insight allows you to predict the positive and negative consequences of your behaviour. You will learn from your mistakes in ways that help you to change your behaviour in the future.
Example: You want to send a snappy/aggressive text because you’re annoyed at them.
Insight: Sending that text may cause an argument. Wait a while, then call them.
This is about understanding that you both have needs, and that they are equally important. You should be able to communicate your thoughts in a clear, direct way. It’s more likely that your needs will be met.
Example: You have a stressful event to go to.
Mutuality: “This is going to be difficult for me, would you come with me?”
Once one partner complies, the other will be n=more willing to meet the other’s needs.
Example: You know that they love going to the gym, but resent the fact that it means there is less time to spend with you.
Mutuality: Offer to go with them.
Mutuality also helps you incorporate both your needs when making decisions.
Example: You get a great job offer, but it will be hard work.
Mutuality: Tell your partner about this opportunity and ask whether they would be ok with you working longer hours. Assure them you will still make time for them, and try to convey that you understand the impact it will have. Don’t treat it as if it’s solely your decision to make.
Use emotion regulation to keep calm, and keep things in perspective. Learn to tolerate uncomfortable feelings and try not to act out on them impulsively. Think through your decisions clearly.
Example: You’re anxiously waiting for a text from your partner.
Emotion regulation: Calm down, it will come. Checking your phone so frequently won’t make it arrive faster.
I have found these skills to be immensely helpful, and I think Davila has hit the nail on the head with a lot of situations. I think it is possible to become a much more thoughtful, responsible and caring partner by following these tips. If you’re currently in a relationship, please give them a go – see what you think!
Cover photograph by eltpics, Flickr.