Many psychological facts play a role in a satisfying relationship, but I believe they can be distilled down into two categories: acceptance and change.
We all enter intimate relationships with family of origin traits, aspects of your inner self that are developed as a result of your upbringing and personality traits, your core approach to living in the world. Some of these traits are solidified, meaning they most likely won’t change and some traits are malleable, meaning they can be modified. These traits manifest into behaviours that play out in the relationship day to day.
Couple satisfaction is based on acceptance of the traits we can’t change and the initiative to modify the traits we need to, for the greater good of the relationship.
Two steps need to be taken to achieve this equation.
Step one–Understand the difference between what can be changed and what cannot. In all relationships, there are Deal Breakers, Annoying Behaviors, and Personal Limits.
• Deal Breakers are unacceptable behaviors that destroy the relationship. They can be as serious as abuse, betrayal, and neglect or they can be more benign, such as poor boundaries or apathy. These behaviors must stop, or the relationship will eventually have only two choices, to grow stagnant or to blow up.
• Annoying Behaviors are actions that cause problems between partners and require discussion. These actions need to be assessed to see if they can be modified or eliminated or if they are permanent parts of how your partner operates.
• Personal Limits are aspects of your partner that are rooted in the essence of how they live in and experience the world. These behaviors won’t change and need to be accepted instead of resisted.
Step two–Once the need for change is identified taking personal responsibility to change is critical. Couples that find relationships satisfying long-term can hear their partner’s concerns and requests, take them to heart and modify their behavior. Sometimes these are small, functional actions involving housekeeping or financial management. Sometimes they are more entrenched behaviors such as how you process and deal with conflict or how you handle stress. However, the key to any internal change is self-regulation, meaning you can work with your inner thoughts, feelings, and beliefs to shift your actions and in turn create a better experience in the relationship.
There is a wealth of research behind the connection between well-balanced and highly developed self-regulation and relationship satisfaction. Working to enhance this skill maybe the key psychological fact to improved relationships across the board.
After over a decade practicing and teaching couples therapy, Jen Elmquist developed the Relationship Reset project to get to couples before they needed to see her.