Relationship Bill of Rights, Dr. Jo Ann Atkins

The December 2018 edition of Psychology Today published an interesting article entitled “Your Relationship Bill of Rights.”  Written by New York journalist Rebecca Matthes echoes research on a theory that married couples who adhere to a list of expectations foster well-being and long-term relationships.  Matthes’s list of “Relationship Bill of Rights” include the following:

You have the right to your partner’s attention; studies show that couples who spend quality time together, engaging activities and travel tend to be happier (Finkel, 2018).

You have the right to a partner who will try to work out your differences.  When couples stop trying to resolve conflict and revert to passivity to keep the peace, they are creating layers of negative emotions that build up inside and leaks out in criticisms, contempt, defensiveness, sarcasm and unexpected unexplained verbal attacks. Psychologists Leon Seltzer suggests “empathetic understanding, resolution doesn’t always take the form of one person changing their views or behavior.” Shifting marital priorities away from problem solving and conflict focus moving toward maintaining the marriage by maximizing emotional rewards and accentuating the positive (Seltzer, 2017).

You have the right to a partner who’ll share the load.  A 2018 study found that sharing housework is associated with greater feelings of fairness, teamwork, and overall relationship quality.  Sharing responsibilities also fosters a partnership built on reciprocity and mutual gratification, better communications, cooperation, and shared vision (Carlson, 2018).

You have the right to honesty about sex.  The important factor in this right is that both partner’s expectations, whatever they are, are met! Both should be open about their expectations and help their partner understand them. Unspoken sexual concerns can be damaging to a marriage.

You have the right to affection. Sexual passion may have highs and lows but affection should never die. Relationship experts state that giving and receiving affection is associated with feelings of pleasure, acceptance, trust, happiness, security, contentment and a sense of being loved and cared for.  Affection is good for brain health as well.  Oxytocin the cuddle hormone is released and cortisol the stress hormone are regulated.

You have the right to the benefit of the doubt.  Relationships flourish when couples attribute the best of intentions to each other all the time, idealizing in normal circumstances and forgiving relatively easily when one falls short.  Being able to own up to hurtful things done and express regret, even if they don’t fully believe they are entirely wrong.

You have the right to gratitude.  Studies indicate that partners who are grateful for each other are more satisfied with their relationships. Gratitude increases motivation improve and stay in a relationship; also encourages more considerate behaviors, better listening and sacrificing for each other (Gordon, 2015).

Matthes, R. (2018). Psychology Today 2018, pg. 73-79.

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