How does a relationship actually start? Ever wondered about the people you have now in your life, how they became so close to you? Well, you may find it’s usually unexpected. We never really expect great and long-term bond with somebody when we meet for the first time.
At times we develop a friendship quickly, but it does not last. Then, we may have a relationship going strong for a long time and then it comes to an end – suddenly.
What is that one thing that binds and holds two people together? It’s always the magic, the spark that once lost is difficult to get back. So how do you keep this spark alive forever and how do you make your relationship strong and long lasting?
In a lab study by CNBC, the researcher duo Dr John Gottman and Dr Julie Schwartz, who have studied more than 40,000 couples about to begin couples therapy and have been happily married to each other for 35 years, predicted with 94% accuracy whether a marriage would last — after observing the couples for just 15 minutes. One of the biggest determining factors was how often a couple “turned toward” their partner instead of “turning away.”
This now is the very first and key relationship hack: “turning towards”.
When a couple turn toward each other, they tend to make a better bond as it improves communication between the two. It means paying attention to small talk and responding to every demand the partner makes.
The happiest couples are smart enough to notice when their partner is expecting attention and drop what they’re doing to engage.
Imagine your partner is scrolling their phone and remarks, “Oh, this is an interesting article.”
How do you respond to this?
Either by turning toward and acknowledging them and engaging with their attempt to connect: “Oh yeah? What’s it about?”
Or by turning away and actively ignoring or just not noticing their attempt to connect: You keep on typing the email you’re working on while staring at your screen.
Or by turning away, irritably or angrily shutting down their attempt to connect: “Can’t you see I’m trying to work?” This could turn out to be the most damaging one. People always hate when you don’t engage or show your interest in something they like.
The act of turning towards builds affection and makes the person feel special and wanted. This builds the foundation of any relationship and makes it long lasting.
Of course, it’s next to impossible to always do so, but when it’s not possible do try to explain why and always listen to what the partner has to say.
And again, in the CNBC study, the couples who stayed together for at least six years turned toward each other 86% of the time. Those who got divorced only did it 33% of the time.
How to practice ‘turning toward’
If you feel turning toward has faded from your relationship, don’t worry. We all learn after mistakes and here is how you could start turning towards again.
Keep a regular check on your partner
Pick a time to check in with your partner when you’re able to listen and not rush off anywhere. It can be in the morning, over coffee before work, or in the evening after you’ve put the kids to bed.
Simply try to initiate a conversation in any way or ask if there is something you can do for them.
This allows your partner to reflect on their needs and makes it clear that you want to be there for them. It also gives them hope that if they state what they need, you’ll try to respond affirmatively.
If they ask for a favour, make a true effort to meet that need. Make them realize your importance by being there for them in small ways. And if you start a conversation keep it going until you get a good vibe.
Keep adding on, bit by bit
Every time you have a good conversation, a deep conversation, keep adding to it. Pay attention to the words and look for mistakes you can correct and put in effort to make yourself better.
There are small gestures that the partner makes when seeking attention, like eye contact, a smile, asking for direct help or favour, or even looking frustrated. Try to catch these hints and be there emotionally for them when your partner feels low.
Better to ask than assume
When you try to talk and they don’t respond, miss a couple of your bids, just keep trying. But if it’s a pattern, point it out: “I don’t want to be critical, but I’ve been reaching out to you. What’s happening for you right now that is preventing you from responding?” It is always better to ask than assume.
When they respond negatively, or sound like they’re trying to pick a fight (e.g., “It wouldn’t occur to you to make dinner tonight for once, would it?”). Ignore the negativity and respond to the deeper, hidden meanings: “I get that you’re frustrated and tired. I’d be happy to make dinner and give you a break.”
Giving time is one of the most impressive and important things in any relationship. Give your time to listen or take out time for short walks to learn about the person. Frequently gift some small things like flowers or chocolates whatever the person likes. All these positive strokes make a person feel happy. So, try to make the other person feel special in whatever way possible.
Try to keep building trust, always trust the person in front and be trustful yourself too.
Always remember to communicate
An effective communication would keep building a relationship. Always try to initiate a conversation even if it gets negative. Try to look for positive things and try to understand the behaviour of the other person.
Keep getting to know the other person better, about their likes and dislikes. Give importance to their choices at different occasions and never hesitate to ask what they would prefer. Try to remember small details about the other person. And you get to know those small details only when you are really into that person. Learn to always appreciate small things, start with appreciating whatever new you notice about the person and whatever you like about the person. This develops interest in them to meet you.
All these practices will never fail to help you if you’re dating and wondering what’s next, or even if you’ve been married for 50 years and now almost losing the magic. All you need is a willingness to try and keep trying.