You choose your partners for a reason.
“The bottom line for great relationships is you have to know how to deal with differences.” -Harville Hendrix
The Cheat Sheet:
- What is zero negativity and how do you use it in a relationship?
- Imago: what is it and why should you bother to care?
- Only 10% of the married population is in a healthy, happy marriage: true or false?
- Why arranged marriages have historically worked better than love matches.
- What roles do safety and curiosity play in a healthy relationship?
- And so much more…
Have you ever wondered why you choose the partners you choose in relationships? Or why so many people seem to fall in love, only to be miserable with each other down the road? Harville Hendrix joins us today to answer these questions, and the psychology behind why relationships work or don’t work out.
Harville is a relationship expert, therapist, coach, and author of several books including Getting The Love You Want. He joins us to chat about all of this and much more on episode 362 of The Art of Charm.
More About This Show:
For over 35 years Harville Hendrix has worked in the field of relationships. In that time he and his wife Helen have worked with countless couples on how to communicate better and stay connected. In that time they’ve found what works and what doesn’t work to maintain a healthy, happy relationship.
Harville says in order to understand why some connections last and others don’t, we need to first understand why we are drawn to the people we are drawn to. Doing so will help us work within our relationships so we’re actually getting the love we want.
When we’re infants we create an image of our caretakers and we’re left with an imprint that tells what needs were met, and what needs were not. We create what’s called an “imago” when we do this. This becomes our basis for what we seek in a partner. In other words if we had a need that wasn’t met by our caretakers (and most of us had some need or many needs), then we actively look for that fulfillment from someone just like our caretaker.
At first that might sound illogical (why not just seek someone who can give us what we didn’t get and not a replica of the person who didn’t give it to us in the first place?), but Harville says we do this so we can create growth for ourselves with that person. And we attract someone who needs something we can’t fulfill for them, so we can create a growth opportunity for them in return.
But what typically happens is we fall in romantic love, the love blooms and our visions are colored by dopamine and endorphins so we think everything is rosy and perfect. Til one day the dopamine wears off and we see the other person as they truly are. And then we get frustrated that they aren’t meeting our unmet needs and they get defensive when we try to talk about these needs, because we don’t know how to effectively communicate without triggering the other person.
So instead of effectively working on these difficulties, most people either give up and break off the relationship or end the marriage. In most cases we do this because we haven’t learned how to talk to each other in a way that creates a safe space for the other person. We try to ask for what we need, but take a position of authority and a defensive tone that simply leads to our partner becoming defensive in return.
To rectify this and to create a safe relationship to thrive in, Harville has a few suggestions. And these are suggestions he has witnessed work for countless couples, it’s the basis for his practice, his books and his programs.
There are three things we need to do to create a safe relationship where both people can discuss their needs. The first is to learn how to talk. Instead of our usual monologue, which is how most people speak, we need to have a dialogue. And in this dialogue we need to respect our partner’s differences and points of view; they should be mirrored, validated, listened to and empathized with. We can also set aside specific time to discuss relationship topics and instead of asking “are you done?” always ask your partner “is there more?”
The second thing we can do is to have a zero negativity process. In a zero negativity relationship all conversations you have you affirm your partner as different with the right to their opinions. You don’t make them bad because they are different or devalue them because of those differences. This helps create a safe environment where differences can be expressed from both of you.
Third, affirm each other on a daily basis. Harville and his wife Helen say three things about each other that they appreciate every day. And these are things that happened that day. It’s an affirmation process or a gratitude practice for your relationship. This actually helps your brain create new neural pathways and you’ll see your partner in a new light. Your partner becomes a source of gratitude, happiness and joy for you instead of a sore spot.
There’s a plethora of additional relationship and marriage tools and advice in this episode with Harville. He was a terrific guest to have on who shared SO much information, get ready for it when you listen! Thanks for being here Harville, and special thanks to all of you for listening. We’ll see you next time on The Art of Charm.
THANKS, HARVILLE HENDRIX!
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