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Strengthening Relationships. A Life Skills Workshop Presented by Student Counseling Services. “To have a friend, be a friend.”. “Friendship is not won by the giving of things, but by the giving of the heart.” --- Roy Lessin. Relationship : the state of being related.

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Strengthening Relationships

A Life Skills Workshop

Presented by

Student Counseling Services


Relationship: the state of being related.

Related: 1. connected by some understood relationship. 2. connected through membership in the same family.

The key is CONNECTION.


Relationship Assumptions

  • Successful relationships are basic to successful living.
  • Keeping relationships healthy deserves a high priority.
  • Your marriage or significant other is your most important relationship.
  • You can learn to understand how to make your relationship work.

Types of Relationships

  • Family relationships
  • Occasional (“anonymous”) relationships – clerks, waiters
  • Casual relationships (acquaintances) – some people at work, professors, classmates
  • Friendships – people with whom you seek interactions, whose company you enjoy
  • Romantic relationships – passionate, emotional connection, usually reciprocal

Aspects of Friendship

  • Keeps confidence
  • Loyalty
  • Warmth/affection
  • Supportiveness
  • Frankness
  • Sense of humor
  • Willingness to make time for me
  • Independence
  • Good conversationalist
  • Intelligence
  • Social conscience

Six Rules for Friends

  • Share news of success with a friend.
  • Show emotional support.
  • Volunteer help in time of need.
  • Strive to make a friend happy when in each other’s company.
  • Trust and confide in each other.
  • Stand up for a friend in his/her absence.

Development of a Close Relationship

  • Zero contact
  • Stage 1: unilateral contact
  • Stage 2: bilateral contact
  • Stage 3: mutuality

Intimacy in Communication

Person 1

Person 2




Intimacy in Communication

Person 1

Person 2

Cliché Facts,

Conversation Other’s



Intimacy in Communication

Person 1

Person 2

Cliché Facts, Your Conversation Other’s Ideas

Ideas & Opinions


Intimacy in Communication

Person 1

Person 2

Cliché Facts, Your Personal

Conversation Other’s Ideas Information

Ideas & Opinions


Intimacy in Communication

Person 1

Person 2

Cliché Facts, Your Personal Feelings

Conversation Other’s Ideas Information About Each

Ideas & Opinions Other Now


Close Relationships

  • Relatively long-lasting
  • Frequent interaction
  • Mutual activities
  • Impact of interactions is strong

“Marriage is not just a ‘happily ever after’ ending, but a lifetime of

‘I choose to love you’ beginnings.”

--- Matt Anderson


“A lasting marriage results from a couple’s ability to resolve the conflicts that are inevitable in any relationship.”

styles of marriages
Styles of Marriages
  • Validating
  • Volatile
  • Avoidant
  • Listen and understand each partner’s point of view
  • Value other while disagreeing
    • more like problem-solving discussions
    • negotiate compromises
  • Value “we-ness” of relationship
  • Risk: passionless arrangement
  • Fight on grand scale--make up on grand scale
  • Highly engaged with each other
  • See selves as equal parties in relationship
  • Easily express feelings, opinions, & thoughts
  • Risk: slide into too much fighting
  • Conflict minimizers
  • Agree to disagree--shove it under the rug
  • Low level of companionship
  • High degree of autonomy
  • Risk: Encountering problem too big to avoid
emotional ecology
Emotional Ecology
  • Need to strike a balance of positive/negative
    • magic ratio: 5 to 1
  • Healthy marriages represent three ways of adapting to achieve the balance
  • Unhealthy marriages which do not adapt can be recognized by warning signs:
    • “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”
four horsemen of the apocalypse
Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse
  • Criticism
  • Contempt
  • Defensiveness
  • Stonewalling
  • Attacking someone’s personality rather than behavior
  • Blaming & accusing
    • “You…” statements
  • Different from Complaining
    • “I…” statements
  • Present to a degree in all relationships
  • Criticism with intention
    • deeper, more personal attack
  • Includes
    • insults & name-calling
    • hostile humor & mockery
    • body language
  • Results in decay of admiration or positive feelings for partner
  • Elicited by criticism & contempt
  • Includes:
    • denying responsibility --making excuses
    • disagreeing with mind reading --yes-butting
    • cross complaining --Rubber man/woman
    • repeating self --whining
  • Result: obstructs communication--conflict escalates
  • Communication shutdown
  • Conveys disapproval, disgust, smugness
  • Found in men more than women
cycle of negativity
Cycle of Negativity
  • Four horsemen are hard to tame
  • If unchecked, downward spiral/cascade occurs
  • Flooding occurs--system overload
  • Chronic flooding leads to distance/isolation cascade
strategy for improvement
Strategy for Improvement
  • Calm down
  • Speak nondefensively
  • Validating Partner
  • Overlearning--try & try again