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What’s your relationship response style? Toward, Away, or Against?

April 2, 2013
Posted By: Counseling Center of Cherry Creek

Do you turn:Relationship Therapy Denver CO


your partner, friend, or co-worker during an interaction?

This is a significant factor in determining your relationship satisfaction and sense of acceptance and value with yourself and in your relationships.

Dr. John Gottman and his team have pioneered the scientific research of couples, marriage, and relationship in the last twenty years. Most of us know that healthy communication is a fundamental part of healthy relationships. Dr. Gottman’s research has taught us HOW we connect with our partners, coworkers, friends, and family is primary to WHAT we are connecting about.

What this means is that it is less important what we are talking about in our relationships (deep dark feelings, intense long conversations, profound topics of great importance, etc.) and more importantly how we communicate in what might seem the most mundane places of our lives.

In their research of couples, the Gottman Institute discovered that when a person more often TURNED TOWARD their partner in response to an offer to connect the couples experienced a greater sense of satisfaction, happiness, and security. The more that partners turned away from or against their partner, the higher levels of dissatisfaction or higher degrees of negative feelings in the relationship.

Seems logical enough.

Now apply it to your relationships at home, work, school, and just life in general.

Situation #1:

You are watching t.v. with your husband, you get up to use the bathroom, your husband says, “While you're up, hon, would you bring me a glass of water?”

Response A: “Sure, I can. I’ll bring it on my way back in.” (TURNING TOWARD)

Response B: Ignore the comment completely…he always asks you to do it and never gets up himself. (TURNING AWAY)

Response C: “Seriously! You always wait until I have to get up and ask me to do it! Do it yourself!” (TURNING AGAINST)

Situation #2

During your lunch break, a co-worker asks if you would like to walk to the nearby deli to pick up a sandwich.

Response A: “It is such a gorgeous day! I would love to go but I have this report that is due by 5. Raincheck for tomorrow?” (TURNING TOWARD)

Response B: “No. I’m busy.” (TURNING AWAY)

Response C: “Do you really think I have time to have lunch today?! Did you see the pile of work the boss gave me to get done by 5 tonight? I guess I am the only one committed enough to get this project done!” (TURNING AGAINST)

Situation #3

You have been wanting to spend time with your teenage daughter…just the two of you. You found tickets to an ice skating show that you know she would just love. When you told her about the idea of spending Saturday together, she declined stating that she wanted to go to Heather’s birthday sleepover party. You feel disappointed and a bit hurt.

Response A: “I was really looking forward to spending some time with you, honey. And, I totally understand that you want to hang out with the girls at Heather’s house on Saturday. Would you be open to doing something together next weekend?” (TURNING TOWARD)

Response B: “Fine. Go to Heather’s. We’ll just miss the ice skating show.” (TURNING AWAY)

Response C: “I went out of my way to find something that you would enjoy that we could do together…because you always say how I never have time for you. And now, now, you don’t even want to go! See if I will ever do that again!” (TURNING AGAINST)

Hopefully, you will notice how turning toward, away, or against is not about AGREEING with the person but about CONNECTING to them.

Now…notice how you respond in your relationships and if you are getting what you want out of them.

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