Tools for Couples Happiness — 11 January 2004
How to create greater harmony in your relationship

Harmony is defined as the “forming of a pleasing integration of components”. In relationships it is the soothing flow of connection in feelings, thoughts and actions. Living in harmony feels fulfilling, safe and fully enriching to both partners. Harmonious relationships provide greater emotional health and foster creativity, success and accomplishments. Above all it is blissful.

The mere term “harmony” is rarely used to describe relationships, probably because it is so hard to sustain on a consistent basis. Yet, all people yearn for it.

Some call a harmonious connection a “hassle free” relationship, some describe it as comfortable, easy, “no problem” interactions. It is often the absence of criticism, arguments, misunderstanding, defensiveness and power struggles that earns it the title of a harmonious existence. We are “getting along fine” may not have the glamour associated with harmony but it conveys the essence of it.

It is important to note that a relationship, in which one partner routinely capitulates to the other to avoid conflict, does not constitute a harmonious connection. Both partners must feel at ease, happy and supported to be able to call their interactions as harmonious.

Creating harmony requires developing a pattern of Positive Thoughts. How you explain to yourself any event that occurs determines your feelings, your responses and even your partner’s reactions. For example: if someone steps on your foot it may be painful. If you tell yourself that this person intentionally stepped on your foot, you may feel pain and become angry. But if a blind person steps on your foot, though the pain is the same, it is unlikely to create angry reactions since the internal explanation for the event is different.

The story we tell ourselves becomes the basis for our responses. Positive explanations about your mate’s behavior toward you, your partner’s errors, attitudes and judgements in life, your communication patterns and misunderstandings help harmony be created.
In communicating with your partner it is essential to talk about your experience and feelings and NOT about your guesses of your mate’s
underlying motivations.

An unpleasant interaction with your partner needs to be processed as an unintended slight rather than a deliberate affront. If you are asked to repeat your statement, avoid thinking that you were deliberately ignored and assume instead that you were simply not heard. Repeating your comment lovingly will prevent a further disharmonious exchange.

Thinking that your partner does not respect your opinion may create a fight. “I felt hurt when you failed to acknowledge my suggestion” will be better received than “What I suggest is never important enough for you to discuss”. The latter statement is not descriptive of your issue, but an interpretation of your mate’s attitude.
Ascribing ill intent to your partner sabotages harmony.

When we feel hurt or disappointed, it is easy to create a story in our minds that is critical of our mates prior to having sufficient information. “She had such a good time with her girlfriend that she forgot about coming home to me,” was one man’s assumption. As he confronted his wife with anger, he found out that she had been involved in a car accident. He was quickly able to shift from hurt and anger to compassion, but had already unduly stressed himself with negative thoughts while waiting for her. It is imperative to hear the partner’s explanation before rushing to critical judgements.

When a mate acts in a seemingly unwise way, it is equally essential to get clarity about his or her thinking and understanding, prior to developing unkind thoughts, internal name calling or disdain. Even if these thoughts are never uttered, the energy conveyed is at best unfriendly. Ask first and conclude later. This will spare both of you grief.

It is important to tell yourself that your partner’s behavior is determined by positive intentions. Being supportive of your mate’s conduct honors both of you.

“Your husband lied to me about not knowing the reasons why the boss fired me. I found out that he and the boss had an extensive conversation about it.” This was said about a man who was loyal to his co-worker by withholding the boss’s disparaging statements. He even attempted unsuccessfully to dissuade the boss from firing his colleague. The wife’s wise response was-“I am sure that my husband had your best interest at heart when he withheld this information.”

Attributing miscommunications to individual perception, rather than to a faulty partner or an unworthy self, helps promote harmony in the relationship. Couples are unlikely to be thinking identically about any subject. To relate well, we need to depart from our own individual, mental and emotional space and move to a common ground with our partners.

Actively developing respectful thoughts about your partner’s time and availability will allow you to invite a connection lovingly. “I am not sure I understood what you said, could you please explain it to me.” Will serve harmony better than “I can’t figure out what you are talking about, you are always so confusing.”

To create harmony one needs to feel loving and positive within him/herself and cultivate generous thoughts towards one’s mate. It may help to consider these steps:

  • What you believe will affect how you act. Direct yourself to believe the best about yourself, your partner and the potential of your relationship.
  • Trust that the person whom you love and who loves you operates out of goodwill towards you.
  • Abstain from judgmental, accusatory, defensive, and insecure thoughts in responding to your partner.
  • Ask more and assume less about your partner’s motivations and intentions.
  • Assume that misunderstandings between partners are inevitable and require respectful clarity not accusations.
  • Harmony is not created by absence of negativity, but by willful kind and loving attitudes.
  • Living in harmony is a choice and you can create it with setting the tone for a blissful, calm, and enriching connection with your partner.

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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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