Being the best partner — 06 June 2008
Count your relationship blessings

Notice how quickly we lament about our relationship displeasures and how slowly we acknowledge our relationship joys. Learning to change the negative to positive ratio of our relationship views is an easy way to significantly improve our personal and couple happiness.

The dissatisfaction with one’s interaction with a mate is the result of healthy survival cues that propel us to seek greater need fulfillment to maximize our security and wellbeing. However, this quest for personal satisfaction should be balanced to avoid negatively impacting the mate and inadvertently getting fewer needs met.

Research found that your partner’s level of satisfaction does strongly affect your view of your own level of happiness and reduces the effects of other negative situations. Results from the University of Warwick’s analysis of 9,704 married individuals in the British Household show that there is a positive and significant effect of spouse’s life satisfaction on his/her mate’s level of happiness. ”A 30% increase in the spouse’s life satisfaction score can completely offset the negative impact of unemployment and is significantly greater than the effect of owning one’s home outright, and is equal to not having to spend around two months in the hospital”.

Research by Lucas, Diener and Suh also points out that the assessment of one’s happiness in a relationship is very subjective and consists of two basic aspects: affect and cognition, the way one feels about the partner or the situation and how he/she processes it logically.

Our thoughts are certainly controlled by us and our emotions are the natural bi-products of our thoughts. To change an emotion, you need to identify the thought that preceded the emotion. When you modify your thought, you will soon identify the appearance of a new feeling.

There are various ways to think about the merits of your relationship. Consider four areas from the practical to the sublime: chores, companionship, emotional support and intimacy.

When your partner executes any chore in or out of the house that benefits the family, he /she is freeing you from the responsibility of doing it yourself. Remembering to think positively about the benefits your mate brings to your life will evoke grateful and appreciative feelings for him/her.

If you are not currently partnered, think of other people in your life who facilitate the practical aspects of your day-to-day existence: the carpool driver, the babysitter, the friend who listens, or your family member who consoles the kids when you are unable to do so. Imagine your situation without their help and be in touch with their valued contribution to your life, your children, your health and your capacity to live so much more sanely.

The companionship aspect of a relationship is invaluable. Our culture facilitates pairs sharing events and activities. Individuals’ delight increases greatly as they share their experiences with each other. Remind yourself that acting solo is less enriching than being in the company of your interested and interesting other.

The emotional support and the committed companionship of a partner have been selected as the most important factor for happily married people who have been together for over fifteen years. Knowing that someone is present to care for you and about you on an ongoing basis makes the other annoyances and compromises seem quite minor.

Love and intimacy, as complex as they can be, surely enhance your life in a healthy and rewarding way. Remember to be grateful for the privilege you have in being with your mate.

• Notice with appreciation what is done daily that you did not have to do.
• Replace the complaint, ”My partner is so preoccupied with the kids, work, church, hobbies” with “I am so lucky to be with a committed, active, socially minded and giving mate.” Request more time with your partner, if you need it.
• Ask your friends who are employed single parents what their lives are like. It will highlight your blessings.
• Rephrase your discomforts to include the appreciation of the emotional support you do receive through your partnership with your mate.
• Ask for what you lack, within the context of how much you appreciate what you do receive.
• Notice how sweet it is to share affection, love and intimacy and not have to, as the song says, “sleep single in a double bed”.
• Allow your mate to hear your changing some of your woes to wow’s. Your
happiness will grow and your relationship satisfaction will be greatly enhanced to the benefit of both of you.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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