User:Geoffjw1978/Intimate Relationship Skills

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and now for the article...

Intimate relationship skills are techniques which people can use to help in their long-term intimate relationships.

All relationships have difficulties; but the difference between those who succeed and those who don't is how they cope with those difficulties.

Use of these skills helps to restore intimacy in all its forms, strengthen relationships, intensify the emotional bonds of loved ones and enrich people's lives with hope for the future.

Close Relationships

History of intimate relationship skills[edit]


It is safe to say that these relationship skills have a literary history since writing began.

A craftsman was in conflict with his apprentice and chose to write down his frustrations, berating the student's lack of diligence.

The written record shows the advice to the apprentice to stop visiting lots of houses, drinking beer in each house, spending all his time in the pursuit of pleasure and to put more effort into his work.

A fairly normal occurrence - except this was before 1350BC, and the writing was on papyrus in hieroglyphs. [1] (30)


The Greek and Roman philosophers had much to say on intimate relationship skills, the institution of marriage was a bedrock of their society. For example - Socrates, Lucretius, Marcus Aurelius.

Present day[edit]

Research journals and a multitude of long-term studies report their new findings frequently. There is still much to learn and discover. For a good history, see intimate relationships.

Intimate relationship skills list[edit]




Skills relevant to children
   4.1 Resilience, self esteem, self-efficacy,

readiness to learn and a positive social identity.[2]




Constructive skills relevant to adults
A 4.2 Strengthen loving bonds (attachment theory). [3] (32)
B 4.3 Thinking about thinking (mentalization). [4] (33)
C 4.4 Open to change [5](27,28) (8)
D 4.5 Meeting of needs, showing care(22)
E 4.6 Encouragement, appreciation, communication of needs [6](17)
F 4.7 Negotiation
G 4.8 Maintain cheerfulness[7](14)(13)
H 4.9 Follow best practices

  Conversely: destructive dysfunctional behaviours
               * Being pessimistic is bad, but being wildly optimistic is bad too. See the Stockdale paradox. (16)
               * Reacting thoughtlessly. "Pouring petrol on the fire" during an argument is a dysfunctional behaviour. (13)
               * Change is key when difficulties arise because:
"If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got." ~ Tony Robbins

Further information on each skill[edit]

Skills relevant to children[edit]

Main page: Parenting
Breaking the cycle of raising insecure children - Research has proved that insecure parents raise insecure children. However it has also been shown that (with intervention) insecure children are not an inevitable outcome. If a parent is given appropriate training an insecure parent can raise a secure child. [8]
Building these skills is key for children:
Resilience, self esteem, self-efficacy, readiness to learn and a positive social identity are all protective assets, influencing a very wide range of health and social outcomes. It is crucial that children enjoy good mental health as this forms the basis of an emotionally and physically healthy adult life. [2] (9) (8)



Strengthen loving bonds[edit]

Main page: Attachment theory
"We are designed by evolution to be primarily motivated to attach to other people" ~ David Wallin[3]


"Forget about learning how to argue better, analysing your early childhood, making grand romantic gestures, or experimenting with new sexual positions. Instead, recognize and admit that you are emotionally attached to and dependent on your partner in much the same way that a child is on a parent for nurturing, soothing, and protection." ~ Sue Johnson

Template:Attachment theory


Thinking about thinking[edit]

Main page: Mentalization
Thinking about thinking is a skill which some people are more proficient at than others. It is that capacity for reflecting on one's own experience and the experience of others that allows us:
  1. To raise secure children
  2. To free ourselves from repeating our own negative behaviours; to change our own programming.
i.e., To learn from our own and others' mistakes and to learn from others' good examples. [4] (33)
Several terms exist for this thinking skill -
* "mentalization" - Peter Fonagy
* "meta-cognition" - Mary Main
* Six Thinking Hats "blue hat" - Edward De Bono
* "Reflective practice" ~ Donald Schön
* "Psychologically minded"
"The whole idea of thinking about thinking is that we learn about ourselves through being understood by other people. Babies learn about their feelings by having their feelings understood by someone else." ~ David Wallin[3](32)


Open to change[edit]

Main page: Personal development
Being open to change has been shown to be an important skill, Mindfulness can assist with development and improvements. [5]

Meeting needs[edit]

Main page: Marriage counseling
Meeting of needs and showing care are assisted by communication.
Falling in love is such a wonderful experience because it holds the hope that needs for attention, support and company will be satisfied forever. Unfortunately, for many reasons, this may not happen. In order to have a working partnership those in the relationship should feel their needs are being met, most of the time.[9](3)

Encouragement, appreciation[edit]

Main page: Active listening
  • Encouragement, appreciation, praise, security [6]
  • Communication of needs
Active listening is one technique which can be tried by couples who have identified a need for it.
Active listening can be useful but a feature to note is that happy couples rarely use active listening techniques in their day-to-day communication.
Active listening has been found to make the listener defensive and often turn away from the approach. Training is required to listen.
Essentially the technique is for the listener to acknowledge what the criticiser has said by repeating back a summary of the criticism.
This communication therapy is based on the assumption that conflicts occur because individuals have failed to truly understand what their partners say to them.
Active listening can foster improved communication skills by teaching the couple how to hear what they are saying to each other and how to respond to those statements in positive ways. Once a couple has learned to understand each other, they often find that they can resolve their differences and cooperate to find solutions to their marriage issues that meet their needs.


Main page: Negotiation

Two approaches are applicable for intimate relationships:

(a) Constructive conflict
6 stages: preparation, lead in, confrontation, active listening, negotiation, follow up [10][11] (12) (29)
(b) Compromise

Maintain cheerfulness[edit]

Main page: w:Positive psychology

w:Positive psychology

  • Physical activity, task setting, art, music, stories and humour, Love. Strategies to cope under pressure. [7](14)
  • Maintain a realistic optimists view, similar to accurate optimisim.[12] stockdale(16)
  • It is not what happens to us. It is what we do with that which happens to us. (13)
The "everydayness" of marriage
The happiest wives are those who focus on the quiet rewards that come from the everyday give-and-take of a relationship.
Unhappy wives often have not learned the lesson of the "everydayness of marriage".
Unhappy wives recall an emotional story of the relationship over time, whereas happy wives take a more pragmatic stance.
In one study the happiest couples were not those who tried to live a never-ending romance or dwell on wonderful romantic times in their past. The happy couples in the study seemed to understand that meeting romantic myths is one thing, living a smooth-running life is another.
The happy wives in the study did not dwell on the past but were generally content with their day to day life together and spoke with hope and continued optimism toward the future. [13] (26)

Follow best practices[edit]

Following the best practices for happy relationships encompasses keeping in mind the principles below as much as possible.

  • Build trust - one principle which cuts down on lots of rules between those in the relationship. [14](20)
  • Sensitivity to others - The principle of recognising that others could be under pressure from a variety of sources. Help can be found by amongst the cures for stress. [7] (14) For example, is everyone getting some exercise?
  • A happy home is important - while running a programme to help problem children in the 1970's the team discovered all of the problem children came from argumentative parents in conflict. [10] (12)
  • Forgiveness, not sulking - Researchers at the Gottman Love Lab could tell within minutes if a relationship would survive by observing how the couple handled their disagreements, conflicts and arguments.
One of their research conclusions was that after a conflict an essential feature is to quickly return to a normal, civil conversation. Perhaps even happy and playful. [15] (4)
It is key that neither party has stored up resentment and does not sulk about the argument. Clear the air with something fun and positive. Change the subject to something which is not contentious. This is similar to the successful distraction technique used with children to defuse conflict situations. (19) A helpful approach to avoid this trap is to think about thinking, i.e., "tell yourself to avoid sulking." A person who does feel resentful could tell themselves not to sulk by using the thinking about thinking techniques.

Notes on the skills[edit]

This section has background notes which broadly apply to all of the skills above.

Seeking support - one pitfall[edit]

Seeking support is generally considered an important way for people to cope with stress. However there is a pitfall in seeking social support from friends about an intimate relationship.

Seeking social support from friends has generally been found to be associated with negative outcomes [16] (12). It is not recorded in the research whether the couples who ended up in divorce found satisfactory social support or not. The pitfall is that an intimate relationship is very private and a partner who confides in friends breaks the confidentiality boundaries which a couple have a right to expect. This can cause problems for the relationship. It can be interpreted as a lack of respect for the partner's privacy. Seeking professional support from a relationship-focussed counsellor (e.g., Relate (3)) should not normally have the same danger.

In other words - "your friends are likely to side with you."

Seeking support - relationship therapy[edit]

In seeking support via psychological therapy it has been found that the most important factor is the counsellor who performs the counselling. The actual therapy model or "theory" which the counsellor uses is less important. Amongst dozens of techniques are several therapy theories which have been empirically proven to be successful in helping intimate relationships - see "Four therapy models which have proven successful". [17] (24)

However, who delivers the therapy is more important than which particular model the therapist follows.

Due to this finding there has been a call for a "paradigm shift" in training for therapists and counsellors. Therapists are more successful if they can fit the appropriate advice to the person's worldview. [18] (23)

A mindful approach has been shown to give the best results for long term success. Being mindful is better than running to a therapist or turning to drink or drugs when problems arise. [19] (28)

David Wallin is a proponent of the benefits of re-parenting during therapy. [3] (32)

Relationship therapy organisations - Relate, TCCR, IMAGO, AAMFT.    A link to a Family therapy organisations list

Selective approach to inclusion[edit]

The skills in this article all have three things in common:

  1. Rooted in principles which have stood the test of time, thousands of years - from Socrates, Marcus Aurelius to Winston Churchill.
  2. Backed by current academic research into intimate relationships - checked by researchers objectively with real people.
  3. Habits successfully used to cope and thrive under pressure - proven skills drawn from survivors' stories.

The above principles are a demanding hurdle for inclusion in this list of skills.

This approach has sorted the wheat from the chaff.

This approach has distilled the best practices across different cultures from centuries of discussion, trial and error.

The result is an unbiased list of skills.

The skills listed on this page avoid fly-by-night popular psychology, of the kind of "this book will change your life" genre. The skills listed are also wary of solutions shown on quick-fix TV shows. The nature of TV programmes is to show bite-sized entertainment and the techniques portrayed do not necessarily translate into long term relationship success.

Inspirational role models can provide insights. The techniques developed by others who have succeeded are included - they can impart the lessons they learnt. For instance, Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl who triumphed by forming close friendships with his jailors, even in the midst of the horror of Auschwitz. (13) (7)

Further reading[edit]

Template:Portalpar Template:Portalpar Template:Portalpar Template:Also

Click below to show "what links here" for each article listed

Backlinks: Intimate relationship skills, Intimate relationship, Psychology, Self-help, Parenting, Relationship breakup, Dysfunctional family, Child development


Template:Family law

  1. Donoughue, Carol (2007). The Story of Writing. p. 107. 
  2. a b Dr Friedli, Lynne (2009). Mental health, resilience and inequalities. WHO:World Health Organization. p. 38. Retrieved 11-Apr-2011. 
  3. a b c d [[w:David Wallin |Wallin, David]] (2009). Implications of attachment theory. Retrieved 22-Apr-2011. 
  4. a b [[w:David Wallin |Wallin, David]] (2007). Attachment and Psychotherapy. The Guilford Press. p. 2. 
  5. a b The Mindful Manifesto, by Dr Jonty Heaversedge, 2010. '. P.234
  6. a b Atkins, S. (2007). Raising happy children. p. 311. 
  7. a b c Mossallanejed, Phd, E.. Survival strategies - ways to cope under pressure. p. 1. Retrieved 19-Apr-2011. 
  8. Benson, H. (2005). What interventions strengthen family relationships?. p. 4. Retrieved 19-Apr-2011. 
  9. Staying Together, by Susan Quilliam. Relate publications. From crisis to deeper commitment. P.154
  10. a b Conflict In Intimate Relationships, by Dudley D. Cahn, 1992. Showing a hopeful and positive view of the marriage works. P.111, P.79
  11. Constructive Confrontation, by Remer de Mesquita, 1990. 6 step plan for confrontations P.225-232.
  12. The Optimistic Child, by Martin Seligman. accurate optimism P.295
  13. Thrice-Told Tales, by Diane Holmberg, Terri L. Orbuch, Joseph Veroff; 2004. Married Couples Tell Their Stories. P.150
  14. Eveld Knight, E.M. (2006). Happy families have few rules, lots of .... Ridder Newspapers. Retrieved 24-Apr-2011. 
  15. Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, by John Gottman. Lessons from the Love Labs. P.175
  16. Whiffen, V. E., & Gotlib, I. H. (1989). Stress and coping in maritally distressed and nondistressed couples. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 6, P.327-344.
  17. Four therapy models which have proven successful, by Jay Lebow, 2006. Scoreboard for Couples Therapies.
  18. Is Who Delivers the Treatment More Important Than the Treatment Itself? by Adrian J. Blow, Douglas H. Sprenkle, Sean D. Davis. the Role of the Therapist in Common Factors.
  19. Segal, Z.V.; et al. (2010). Mindful approach to depression - M-CBT. Archives of General Psychiatry. p. 4. Retrieved 19-Apr-2011. 

External Links[edit] of attachment theory

Category:Interpersonal relationships Category:Psychology