Character Traits That Promote Intimacy and Avoid Marriage Problems
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Over the past 35 years, I have seen thousands of couples in marriage counseling. I thought it might be interesting to list out the personal traits and values of the most competent partners who do the best at maintaining their relationships. Instead of taking your partner’s inventory I would suggest that you take an honest look at yourself. See where you might like to do you future growth. Here’s the list:
•Heterocentric perspective – The person intuitively weighs the best balance of welfare among competing interests. The person is concerned for the other person but also for his or her own self as well as the overall relationship. The person doesn’t just consider self alone (narcissism) or just consider the partner alone (co-dependent self-sacrifice).
•Future welfare is prioritized over immediate comfort – The person is willing to sacrifice the immediate emotional relief that derives from regressive behavior (e.g. blaming, attacking, raging, lying, hiding etc.) and instead promotes and protects the future relationship. The person uses self-discipline to tolerate temporary discomfort in order to do this
•Truth is prioritized over appearance and pride – The person is willing to tolerate the shameful discomfort that accompanies exposing truth about his or her own limitations. The person practices healthy humility for the sake of truth. When the person makes a mistake, “loses it”, behaves irresponsibly, etc. the person admits it and takes responsibility. Because the person values truth so highly, he or she is welcomes outside information to help the relationship. The relationship is an “open system.”
•Autonomous persistence – The person behaves constructively and works at cultivating the relationship even when the partner misbehaves irresponsibly. The person doesn’t base their self-discipline on whether or not the partner “is trying too.” The person’s behavior is motivated by his/her desire for personal integrity.
•Mindfulness of state – The person is able to notice more than the content of conversations. The person notices the background moods occurring in both self and the partner.. The person gauges when the background mood states are conducive for productive communication (e.g. Is the person or the partner too angry to engage in a constructive conflict?)
•Pro-active creativity – The person comes up with his or her own ideas about how to share positive experiences with the partner. The person makes suggestions and invites the partner to share fun in different ways. The person doesn’t just wait for the partner to arrange the common agenda.
•Willingness to risk exposure – The person is willing to share his or her internal truths with the partner. The person discloses his or her more vulnerable feelings such as fear, shame, desire and wonder in addition to less vulnerable feelings such as anger and frustration.
•Liberated curiosity – The person is able to stop being task-focused or defensive and periodically shares wonder, curiosity and uncertainty in the moment.
•Long-term view – The person considers the long-term effects of their own emotionally driven behavior before acting or reacting. The person’s intuitive wisdom checks impulses to either act out or to hide that would eventually lead to damage or imbalance in the relationship. The person’s intuition creates a model of the probable future world(s) depending on what he or she will do.
•Realistic expectations – The person avoids magical expectations of quick change or fairytale expectations of a perfect partner. The partner’s acceptance of the partner’s imperfection, negative feeling states and slow emotional change actually protects the relationship from toxic shame. The partner accepts that changing emotionally driven behavior involves time and only gradual results. Realistic expectations prevent an overwhelming amount of frustration and anger.
How did you do? Maybe you saw somewhere you could grow a bit.