A longitudinal study of marital interaction patterns showed that there were three out of five types of couple relationships that were stable provided that their communication was five times more positive than negative (Gottman, 1993). The three successful couple relationship were:
The volatile couple who can be extremely negative with each other but would outbalance this by their passionate romance, a lot of laughter and positive interpretation of the conflict. The risk of course would be that their bickering takes over and ruins the relationship. This is an independent couple who value each other's differences.
The validating couple who are discerning when to confront and disagree make sure to be supportive when their partner expresses negative emotions. This couple is calm and values shared experiences, it is a companionate marriage which could lose its romance over time if the positive communication does not far outweigh the conflicts.
The avoiding couple would tend to downplay and avoid conflicts which results in a lot of calm interaction that could possibly create an emotional distance and loneliness unless their positive interactions far outweigh this negative aspect of the relationship.
Perhaps some of these positive interactions would come about through the Minding Model for Relationship Connections which emphasises the importance of partners continually getting to know each other and what goes on in each other's lives. Also, attributing good events to the will of the partner and bad events to exterior forces and to cross-check the validity of these attributions contribute to minding the connection.
Acceptance Therapy is another crucial minding skill that allows partners to value each other's differences to the point of being charmed by them. Acceptance therapy seemingly is very successful with couples who have not received previous therapy. Growing into equality of commitment and responsibility for the relationship is important to ensure one person is not left continually picking up the pieces or taking the initiatives. Finally, continuity of availability and ongoing interest is what helps to build trust and stability in a relationship. Easier said than done.
Positive relatedness and autonomy seem to be basic psychological needs of human beings in general (Deci & Ryan, 2000).
Spirituality and/or religion can potentially help a positive relationship with oneself, the universe and its creator. Positive relationship with a perceived benevolent creator who will co-create and support in every day living (Pargament, 2007) is an additional way of becoming autonomous but with recognised dependence needs. These needs are fulfilled by the love and support experience of a loving creator, higher being or God- not to the exclusion of human intimate relationships but in addition.
Spirituality and religiosity are recognised by Positive Psychology founders as character strengths (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). This area has huge potential for continued serious research within positive psychology even though many psychologists have been sweeping aside religion and spirituality as irrelevant or man-made illusions. Granted religious or spiritual relating can be as dysfunctional as any other relating but so much more reason to investigate what creates a positive and nurturing relationship within the spheres of religion and spirituality.
Deci, E.L & Ryan, R.M. (2000). The “what”and “why”of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 227-268.
Gottman, J.M. (1993). The roles of conflict engagement, escalation, and avoidance in marital interaction: A longitudinal view of five types of couples. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 61, 6-15.
Pargament, K.I. (2007). Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy. Understanding and Addressing the Sacred. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Peterson, C. & Seligman, M.E.P. (Eds.) (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.