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Helen Fisher: The most successful relationships come down to 3 basic traits

how to have a successful relationship

Making a relationship last takes a great deal of work.

Sometimes, people find that the result of that work is not worth the effort and relationships fall apart.

Some people don’t take the time to consider what is at the root of the relationship problems and assume that it is the fighting that was to blame.

The truth is that there is much more involved in the demise of a relationship, and we can save relationships if we pay attention to what could harm us.

According to science, there are three basic characteristics to every lasting relationship.

In the brilliant TED talk below, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher explains what those three things are and how you go about implementing them in your relationship.

Check it out here:

If you haven’t got time to watch the TED talk, don’t worry. Here are the 3 factors that can strengthen any relationship, according to Fisher:

1) The couple’s ability to feel empathy for one another

The first trait that Fisher says contributes to a lasting relationship is the couple’s ability to feel empathy for one another in the relationship.

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes to try and feel what they are feeling.

It does not require you to actually feel or to have felt that feeling, but to acknowledge it with kindness and understanding.

Individuals who are empaths are very emotional and can easily connect with other people. They make great partners in life for this reason.

But when one partner is not as empathic as the other, it can lead to problems in the relationship.

Couples can work on developing better empathy for each other in order to strengthen their relationship.

When one partner can understand where the other partner is coming from, arguments and issues can be resolved quickly and easily.

2) The ability to control emotions during highly stressful situations

The second trait that Fisher says is vital to the success of any relationship is the couple’s ability to control their emotions during highly stressful situations.

For example, couples who fight about money problems are more likely to break up than those who don’t.

Why is that do you think?

(Are you interested in finding out how to develop your emotional maturity? Check out our article: 24 key signs of emotional maturity)

One theory is that when you add the stress of money to an already fragile relationship, partners will walk away from the relationship citing they can deal with their money problems on their own.

If they had let cooler heads prevail, they might find that giving each other room to vent and express feelings without assigning blame can make a big difference in the success rates of relationships.

Rather than get bent out of shape about marital or relationship problems and take it out on each other, working through issues together in a respectful manner can help save the relationship and make it stronger over time.

3) The use of positive illusions

Finally, Fisher says that the use of positive illusions in a relationship could be the key to saving it and strengthening it in the long term.

What are positive illusions?

They are like positive self-talk, but for your relationship.

After a while, that cute sound your guy makes when he’s laughing gets real old and starts you weigh on you.

Instead of focusing on that sound, focus on the times he doesn’t make the sound. Positive illusions help you reframe your partner’s habits, personality, and routines in a way that doesn’t make you want to run off into the sunset screaming bloody murder.

Focus on what is good about your partner, instead of the things you can’t change. We got so caught up in what annoys us that we let that overshadow what is good about the people we love.

If we all spent a little more time focusing on the good, our relationships would be in much better shape. After all, nobody is perfect.

When it comes to creating a lasting love and long-term relationship, both partners need to be committed to making it work.

It might seem obvious, but many people float through life not really knowing how to fix their relationship.

People tell themselves that’s just how it is, but the truth is that you can have a lasting impact on the success of your relationship if you keep working at it.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking love is easy. There aren’t 1,867,843 songs writing about love because it’s easy.

So the next time you find yourself wondering if you can stand to be a relationship any longer, ask yourself if you are being empathic toward the other person, are you controlling your emotions or letting your emotions control you, and ask yourself if you are trying your best to see the other person in a positive light.

NOW WATCH: He’s 36, STILL SINGLE, and finally figured out why!


Notable replies

  1. I would not have come up with the same 3 basic traits of successful relationships after watching Helen Fuller’s TED Talk “The brain in love,” but the ones you chose are useful. Surprise, surprise, I do have comments upon each one you listed!

    Re your first trait as ‘Empathy,’ I think that you have really nailed it as vital. Both our own egos and societies false teachings emphasize separateness and competition as opposed to cooperation. The reason humans have become one of the planet’s most successful species is our progressive ability to form cooperative relationships in ever-larger groups. This has recently been badly perverted by some rich and powerful ones, but we humans would not have survived without having been able to deeply connect with another. Empathy is a good word for the most important part of forming relationships that both work and endure! This is very hard on our egos, but they are no longer as important for our personal survival as bodies as they used to be. It is both difficult and vital that we put and keep them in place, not only for our success in relationships with others; but in learning to Love ourselves well enough to truly Love others.

    Your Second trait of learning to control our level of reaction to stress is, again, vital to our even learning to deal with ourselves than it is to learning to keep our relationship with a beloved going. Our minds are set up to over-react to situations that might never come to pass, but our egos tell us they ‘could/might happen’ and must be dealt with if we are to be happy. That is demonstrably wrong and all of us should check out how few of the ‘things’ the egos tell us to worry about ever happen. I found that it is likely less than 1% and others have indicated that they get similar results. All we ever have to deal with is what happens in The Now; actually The Now is the only time that ever is! Even then, if we quiet that damned set of noisy egos, the solution will come to us in The Now; the universe works like that!

    We could gradually build a list of possible responses to supposed problems, as a game, but we never need to stress over what our egos (and most of present society) tells us might happen. There is no stress possible when living in The Now, but we all have trouble believing that until we try it out. A major part of wisdom is choosing to live in The Now!

    Your third trait of choosing positive allusions is more vital to us, our relationships and even the survival of the species, than we humans accept to be possible, let alone likely. In this universe (which is nothing like we think it is, in so many ways). what you focus upon is more likely to happen. It is way more complex than was presented in “The Secret;” but is also more powerful.

    We truly can change the universe both within ourselves and much more widely, by consistently choosing positive viewpoints over negative ones. The main problems here are that both our egos and society want us to be negative so that they can continue to ‘feel’ that they are in control. In the end, once humans choose to turn away from ‘just surviving in Fear’ into growing towards our Destiny to become ‘living Love,’ and act upon that, we become uncontrollable. That scares both our egos and those in society that use Fear to control others (because they never learned to control themselves).

    All that said, I would not ask you to change what you presented. The world and universe would be a much better place if all humans took your comments seriously and started to work at implementing them! LoL

    We do have to put changes into action, however, even if only within our thoughts, emotions and internal actions like contemplative prayer or meditation. Not all ‘actions’ need be ‘out there’ in the physical world.

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Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the editor of Ideapod and founder of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you to want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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