Move over cupid, we’re getting practical- Resources for building relationship skills for relationship satisfaction
Well folks, it’s time again for shelves full of chocolate in heart shaped boxes and candies with flirty messages on them to take over the stores. Although this time of year is most directly dedicated to romantic love, I would argue that it can be a time to demonstrate gratitude for any relationship in your life. Research has shown that nurturing connection has a powerful influence on mental and physical health. Having strong relationships is associated with living longer, healthier and more productive lives. And, frankly, we are social animals. So who among us would not like to have at least one more strong, healthy relationship to lean on and profit from in our daily lives?
But, while I am in full support of celebrating love, this time of year or any, I am always struck by how misleading the Valentine’s Day image of love and romance really is. Many of us who have been through the ups and downs of adult relationships (romantic and otherwise), have likely been made soberingly aware of the hardest relationship truth of all….relationships take work. They take far more work than what can be done on February 14th each year, or even on the celebrated anniversaries or days when we have the time and energy. Relationships take constant, intentional attention and effort to build, nurture and maintain. Ironically, however, even though our relationships are one of the most central parts of our lives, I’m not aware of a single school curriculum that provides education to children or young people on the skills that build or sustain healthy relationships. Most of us are left to find our way based on the examples we see in fairytales (not entirely helpful), our own families (sometimes extraordinarily unhelpful), and popular culture (you know where I’m going with this). So how, then, are we supposed to learn what healthy relationships look and feel like? And even more, where do we look to learn practical skills for creating healthy and fulfilling relationships in our adult lives? This month, I wanted to share some resources that I have found to be helpful for clients, friends and even my own personal growth as a partner, spouse, friend, teammate, or family member. I sincerely hope that you will find them helpful too and that, this valentine’s day or next, you get to celebrate a truly healthy and supportive relationship in your life, whatever form it may take.
The difference between healthy and unhealthy love | Katie Hood
This may seem like an odd place to start in a post timed intentionally for Valentine’s Day, but I assure you that if you stick around, there is an invaluable lesson communicated by this brief video from the CEO of an organization called the One Love Foundation. The One Love Foundation was founded by the family of a young girl who was tragically killed by an ex-boyfriend. As I said, it may seem like an odd place to start a Valentine’s Day lesson, but One Love has taken up the mission of educating young people about the signs of healthy vs unhealthy love relationships. For so many of us, the messages in this video can start to illuminate the behaviors that have left us feeling empty or unfulfilled in a love, friend or family relationship. Ms. Hood uses animated shorts to demonstrate some basic relationship behaviors that differentiate a healthy relationship from an unhealthy one, so that we can start to identify those behaviors in our own relationships and make different choices. Being that we are never really given the rule book on relationships, this video can be a great introduction to learning what healthy love should look and feel like. In my opinion, it’s a must watch, especially for young people or people who aren’t sure they had the best models for healthy relationships growing up.
Gottman Card Decks
Improve your relationship
If there is a single professional name that is most synonymous with relationship skill building, that name would be Gottman. John and Julie Gottman have dedicated much of their professional lives to identifying concrete behaviors that contribute to the success or demise of marriages and love relationships. While their initial notoriety came from their ability to predict, with 90% accuracy, whether a couple would stay married or end up divorcing by watching just a few minutes of video of that couple in an argument, their work has evolved to try to support couples in replacing the unhealthy behaviors they dubbed “the four horsemen of the apocalypse,” with some of the more protective and healthy behaviors that their research linked to longevity and satisfaction in long term relationships. The App above is one of many resources that their team now offers to promote the building of a healthy foundation in relationships, and maintenance through healthy conflict behaviors. Check the app and all of their resources out at their website: https://www.gottman.com/.
Huberman Lab Podcast
Science of Social Bonding in Family, Friendship & Romantic Love
Not all relationships are romantic in nature, but all relationships require similar skills and investment to create a foundation of quality. That’s why I’ve included this next resource, which delves into a ton of useful information to build quality relationships in several areas of life. If you like nerding out on the science or if you just really like to know the why behind the mystery of human behaviors, this next resource is for you. Andrew Huberman, a professor of neuroscience and ophthalmology out of Stanford University hosts a wellness minded podcast designed to bring low cost, health enhancing solutions to the general population. In this particular episode, he brings you the science to understand the biology and sociology of attachment and relationship, not only in romance but in family and friendships as well. He talks about breakups and helps us to understand why saying goodbye can be so hard, even when we know it’s the right choice. And finally, he offers some real science based tools and strategies to build our competence in navigating one of life’s most complex areas, human bonds. And if you like this one, here are two more episodes of the Huberman Lab Podcast with great information on science of bonding and relationships:
The Science of Love, Desire and Attachment
The Science of Emotions & Relationships
ACT with Love
Stop Struggling, Reconcile Differences, and Strengthen Your Relationship with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a therapeutic approach used by mental health professionals around the world. This mindfulness-based approach is designed to help individuals (and couples!) identify and act on their values to build rich and meaningful lives. In Russ Harris’ book, ACT with Love (a personal favorite of one of our fabulous neuropsychologists, Dr. Jenna Renfroe), he takes readers through skills and concepts to help them apply this powerful therapeutic technique, to the skills needed inside relationships. With chapter names like “What’s your problem” and “Look at me! Look at me!,” Harris speaks to the reality of where many of us are starting in our relationship skill IQ and helps us to let go of conflict, live in the present, build connection, resolve long standing differences and live life in accordance with our deeply rooted values. Harris does all this, because, as he puts it “Popular myths about love set us up for a struggle with real life. The inconvenient truth is there's no such thing as a perfect partner, all couples fight, and feelings of love come and go like the weather. But that doesn't mean you can't have a joyful and romantic relationship.” We couldn’t agree more.
We hope that something on this list resonates with your own personal learning style and medium. What we hope you take away this month is that, even though there is no single handbook on how to build a healthy relationship, there are tons of great resources out there to help you get just a little better every day at the things that establish a firm and healthy foundation in your relationships with the important people in your life. Although this time of year is most directly dedicated to romantic love, relationship skills are needed in relationships of every type. We at Tailored Brain Health recognize that there is a startling lack of formal education around this set of skills, in spite of these skills having an overwhelming influence on our mental and physical health. We hope that this Valentine’s Day, in whatever way works, you take some time to invest in yourself as a part of all of your relationships, because in the end, we all need and deserve to have healthy, joy filled and supportive relationships in our lives. And with a little education and work, we believe that your happily ever after is not so far away.
As always, if you want or need some help or partnership in investing in your own health and well-being, we at Tailored Brain Health are here for you. Reach out any time by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or call 336-542-1800.