John Gottman talks about three ingredients to a healthy, happy relationship. These are:
We build trust primarily through turning towards our partner’s and building consistent and safe connection through authenticity, empathy, kindness and validation. Trust seems to be something that we feel, it is about attunement. Commitment on the other hand is something we do, it is fundamentally about choices.
The third ingredient that Gottman talks about is the necessity of Emotional Calm.
Basically, a good chunk of our relationship time needs to be conflict free, stress free and emotionally calm, if we are to build intimacy and healthy- happy connection. Whilst conflict can be used for good in a relationship (it can bring the truth out), we need a ratio of 5 positive interactions for very 1 negative interaction. Equally, whilst some stress is necessary for optimal living (see below diagram), we need to keep an eye on it.
Here are some tips to regulate stress and nurture Emotional Calm in your relationship
- Practice Gratitude– Research conducted at the UCLA has found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood, energy, and physical well-being.
- Express appreciation towards your partner.
- Practice physiological self- soothing– Deep, abdominal breathing and taking time out from a conflict is essential to enable emotional calm. Stress hormones such as Cortisol and Adrenalin are released during stressful conflict. Calming chemicals such as Dopamine and Serotonin are released when we practice physiological calming techniques.
- Practice forms of communication that don’t create anxiety– See Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and their antidotes.
- Understand the Law of Power and learn to stop trying to control things you cant control (i.e. other people, the economy etc) and become more ‘boundaried’.
If you can practice cultivating emotional calm in your own life and in your relationships, you’ll be healthier and happier.