The concept of “happy couple” is significantly controversial . We cannot talk in any way about the existence of couples with a happy or problematic character per se. Instead, we could refer to members of a couple whose personal characteristics could be more similar or different.
With regard to the latter, we often experience two wrong thoughts; either we believe that the opposite poles attract each other, or we are determined to find a soul mate.
In both cases, we would tend to overlook the fact that the key to success would be focused on learning the acceptance and adaptation skills of those characteristics of our partner that we had not considered could occur, but which are still part of everyday life, such as: not squeezing the bottle of toothpaste where we do, or waking up in a bad mood in the morning.
So, what are the ingredients of the happy couple?
The logic of the problematic relationship
When the first conflicts or differences appear , some people believe they are not in front of their better half, or that the love is over. It is at this moment when it is essential to stop and analyze what is happening, avoiding making decisions driven by a high level of emotional activation.
At this critical point for the couple’s relationship, two fundamental factors will determine their fate:
- Coping resources : a deficit could lead to conflicting partner situations.
- Communication and problem solving skills : that will maintain or not in time, the situations of conflict.
Functioning of non-problematic couples
The functioning of “happy” or non-problematic couples is a circular process that is developed as follows:
- You manifest a pleasant behaviour towards your partner .
- Your partner perceives this behaviour and is motivated to behave in a pleasant way towards you .
- As you receive pleasant behaviours from your partner, you see their pleasant behaviours rewarded, and you also feel more motivated to behave pleasantly with your partner again.
How problem couples work
On the other hand, the functioning of conflicting couples constitutes a process in the form of a negative vicious circle:
- You manifest unpleasant behaviour towards your partner.
- Your partner perceives such behavior and is motivated to behave in an unpleasant way as well.
- As you receive unpleasant behavior from your partner, you feel hurt, and more motivated to behave in an unpleasant way with your partner again, and respond to him/her in the same way as he/she has done.
In this case, a vicious circle would develop in which you avoid doing pleasant things that your partner likes, because your partner doesn’t do the things that you like and vice versa.
Both processes of functioning, both that of happy couples and that of conflicting couples, constitute a snake that bites its own tail.
However, once the vicious circle of conflict or negativity has begun, the level of emotional activation prevents couples from stopping to analyse what is happening to identify which factors are maintaining the problem at present and which are prolonging it over time. In this way, the focus would not be on the origin of the problem, but on the continuation of the problem at present.
At this point, we will probably detect a deficit of skills for analysis, coping or problem solving, and/or couple communication problems. In most cases, the origin lies in subtle conflicts, irrelevant problems , anecdotal details, to which we have given great meaning, and on which we have developed a whole series of negative emotions and dysfunctional thoughts. It is these insignificant details that, many times, keep us away from the ideal of a happy couple.
Communicating more to resolve conflict
From what we have seen, we can conclude that empathy and communication are elements that, in small doses, are capable of resolving many conflicts. It is worth taking into account the value of dialogue, mutual understanding and reasoned analysis of the situation.