Do the math (DW#980)

Yesterday, we talked about how we can build (and rebuild) love one pleasant interaction at  a time.
Now, reality is that despite our best efforts, we will not succeed all the time and that there will be times when we are not at our best, we are snappy or irritable and the interaction with our loved one/s will not be a pleasant one.
Luckily, we don’t have to aim for 100% pleasantness.
According to our favourite marriage expert, Dr. John Gottman, we need to know and work towards the "magic ratio" in stable and happy relationships.
The difference between happy and unhappy couples, Dr. Gottman and his team has found, is the balance between positive and negative interactions during conflict. There is a very specific ratio that makes love last.
That "magic ratio" is 5 to 1. This means that for every negative interaction during conflict, a stable and happy marriage has five (or more) positive interactions.
What this means is that...
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Turning a struggling relationship around (DW#979)

When we are in the midst of a challenging time in our relationships, we can be unsure of how to turn things around. It may appear that poorly handled conflict has taken residence and we are not sure what to do about it because each day things may seem to be getting worse  . . . .
If you are going through such a phase in your life, please do not despair.
How about instead of thinking about the entirety of your relationship and all of its seemingly unsurmountable challenges, you focus only on the next interaction with the challenging person? What if you could manage to make the next moments you have with this person a pleasant experience?
Trivial as this sounds, focusing on the next moment and the next interaction is a powerful way to begin to change the course of your relationship.
Little by little, the pot is filled, as Buddhist wisdom says.  
And as Barbara Fredrickson reminds us in her seminal...
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Strengths Conversations (DW#978)

We have been discussing how the strength based concepts of positive psychology can have a beneficial impact on relationships.
One of the tools used when working with couples and families is strength based conversations. These happen after both people have taken their strength assessments.

Strength conversations allow couples to connect with one another on a deeper level and help understand what makes each partner tick.

Having a language of strengths to express yourself and see the unique qualities of your partner is crucial: it helps you realize, for example, that rather than there being a right or a wrong way to go about things, there are many different ways approaching issues and of living and being in the world.

For example, if your top strength is creativity and zest, you will likely approach an opportunity or challenge very differently than your partner whose top strengths are analytical thinking and self-regulation.

While you may leap at an opportunity, your partner may...

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The Michelangelo phenomenon (DW#977)

The Italian Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo is famous for recognizing and bringing out the potential hidden in a block of marble as the famous statue of David. He described sculpting as a process whereby the artist released a hidden figure from the block of stone in which it slumbered.

Inspired by Michelangelo, psychologists have observed what is known as the Michelangelo phenomenon in relationships.

The Michelangelo effect deals with the ways in which intimate relationships influence and "sculpt" each other. When a partner sees potential in the other and behaves towards them in ways that promote this ideal, it influences the other to live up to their ideal self.

Put very simply, this implies that if we our attitude towards our loved ones is that they already posses some great qualities, they are more likely to live up to these ideals. Importantly, evidence suggests that the Michelangelo phenomenon is conducive to both personal well-being and the well-being of relationships


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To be authentic or aspirational in relationships? (DW#976)

It seems obvious that we need to be comfortable around our loved ones, be vulnerable and show our true selves. When we are accepted and appreciated for who we are, we can thrive and focus on bigger things.
Of course, research confirms that the ability to be yourself and be understood by your loved one makes for a happy relationship. (as if we needed research to tell us that!)
HOWEVER, I have some interesting news for you.
According to a study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology, feeling like your most authentic self isn’t necessarily what makes the relationship feel authentic; instead, relationships are stronger and more satisfying when they encourage you feel and behave like the best, most aspirational version of who you can be.


Being our best selves around our family and at home is not just spiritual wisdom. It turns out that when we are intentional about being our best selves at home, we are happier for...

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Put on those rose-coloured glasses (DW#975)

Have you ever noticed how people who are in newly in love talk about each other?
It seems that they cannot praise the object of their affections enough and see no wrong in them. Potentially problematic behaviours and habits appear charming and unique.
And then they get married. And real life hits.
Sometimes when things get very challenging, they do a 180 and can only see the problematic behaviours and habits. They have taken off those rose-coloured glasses and donned a pair of dark dark glasses which can see no good.
If you are ever in this situation or know someone who is, it might help to share this piece of research with them: it turns out that perceptions held about a romantic partner's strengths matter more to predicting relationship quality and wellbeing than the partner's actual strengths.

In other words, if you focus on, pay attention to [and exaggerate] your partner's good qualities, you will be happier in your relationships. EVEN...
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Who gets to enjoy you at your best? (DW#974)

Hopefully by now you have taken the VIA and are clear on your strengths and who you are at your best.
The next question is a challenging one: who gets to witness your strengths and enjoy you at your best? Is it your friends, your co-workers, the people who work for you or your family?
If asked who are the most important people in our lives, most of us would reply our families, right? But if we are completely honest with ourselves, sometimes our behaviour doesn’t reflect this.

It seems that we give our best selves to the world outside and when we enter the sacred spaces that are our homes, we are weary and too tired to make the effort. Often, we leave our cheery and charismatic selves at the doorstep and walk in as grump-a-lumps.
How about becoming a bit more intentional about sharing our best selves with those who matter most?
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The relationship gym (DW#973)

While we may instinctively understand the importance of good relationships, we sometimes fall for some rather destructive myths about relationships.
Here are two in particular:
  1. Relationships "should" work naturally and that if they don’t, there is something amiss. This misconception is often fueled by social media which would lead us to believe that all we must do is "find our soul mate" and "be with someone who will treat us like kings and queens" and the all the rest will automatically and magically fall into place.
  2. It is obvious what makes relationships healthy or happy. [In other words, I know what I am doing, and no book, course or expert can guide me otherwise]
Please do not fall for this nonsense.
Despite what Instagram, Hollywood/Bollywood [and sometimes your own ego] would have you believe, great relationships take awareness, intentionally, attention and effort.
Here is how highly regarded positive psychologists, Suzann Pileggi Pawelski and...
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R is for relationships (DW#972)

While each pillar of the PERMA model is integral for a well-balanced and flourishing life, the one pillar that appears to be the single most important determinant to happiness, according to research, is that of relationships.
Chances are that we have experienced this already in our lives. We are happiest when we are connected to others and amongst loved ones. When are relationships are going well, we thrive and flourish. And conversely, stress in our closest relationships impacts all other aspects of our lives and negatively impacts our wellbeing.

Social scientists confirm this finding through research and according to Chris Peterson, a colleague of Seligman's and a pioneer in the field of positive psychology, you can sum up positive psychology in three words: "Other people matter." Or more accurately, our relationships with others matter.
Just last year, Harvard University published findings of a long term study which confirms our lived experience. The study found...
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Why focus on strengths? (DW#971)

Many of us grew up believing that in order to be successful in life, we had to become aware of our weaknesses and work to eliminate them.
While this may be true if you have significant personal challenges that stand in the way of your functioning and wellbeing, research suggests that the way to flourish is to change your focus from weaknesses and instead work to get a deeper understanding of your strengths and find ways to use them as much as possible. Survey research has also found that most people - up to two-thirds - do not have a meaningful awareness of their strengths. And many people tend to underuse their strengths.

And here is another thing: unlike many self-development projects, using our signature strengths is usually effortless, and we will see an immediate boost in wellbeing.  
In fact, positive psychology experts have discovered three key features of signature strengths.
They are:
  • Essential: the strength feels...
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