Let's be honest, sometimes a relationship is surviving more than it is thriving. And while rough patches are common in any long-term partnership, often, what separates a serious fight from irreconcilable differences is how a couple argues. Research shows that: Criticising, disrespecting, stonewalling, and being defensive are key indicators that signal whether a relationship will survive. And now, thanks to relationship psychotherapist and author, Esther Perel (who's found a mega-fan in Zoë Foster Blake), we have the two key qualities that a long-term relationship needs—she believes the survival of a rocky relationship comes down to empathy and responsibility.
Visiting the US Business Insider offices, Perel explains, "There are not many things that are as important in a strained relationship as the ability to show empathy for the experience of the other; to acknowledge what the other person is going through; to validate that the other person is going through this, that it makes sense that they would be feeling this way."
Using phrases like "I understand" or "I see how you feel" (while legitimately trying to understand your spouse's point of view, of course) is an easy to tool to help defuse the situation, while also trying to resolve the problem in a calmer way.
Perel also says that taking responsibility is a key facet of keeping a relationship afloat, telling Business Insider: "It's so easy to focus on what's missing in the other person. It's so easy to go critical. It's so easy to think that if you were different, my life would be better, rather than sometimes to switch it around and think if I was different, my life would be better. And maybe if I was different with you, you would be different with me."
If that means tapping out of the argument in that moment and assessing your part in any given situation, it may be easier to come to a conclusion, faster—minus the blame game.
Perel concludes with encouraging us to see arguments differently, "[In] every one of these situations, the degree of which we see it as complementary or the degree to which we actually focus on the polarization…that will make a huge difference in the quality of the relationship."