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Zero Negativity

Harville Hendrix, the founder of Imago Relationship therapy, and Helen LaKelly Hunt wrote a piece for Huffington Post that explains the toxicity of criticism in a relationship:

"Hurtful words in a relationship can be like a drop of red dye in a glass of water that turns the whole glass pink. What starts out as a slip of tongue, a small slight from one person to another, sets a process in motion that slowly (or quickly) permeates a relationship and begins to define its tone."

Instead, the two relationship experts recommend that couples make a commitment to "zero negativity." That means absolutely no negative talk, no constructive criticism, no jokes at the other's expense, nothing. "Even if the approach of zero negativity leads to, essentially, a vow of silence, eventually the mantle of fear will dissipate and both parties will find the warmth toward each other that they once had," they write.

The authors are careful to point out that this commitment does not mean couples cannot voice their concerns about the relationship, but rather that they do so in a more conscious, careful, loving way, than through barely-veiled critiques. Hendrix and Hunt suggest that couples make an appointment to have a conversation about any sort of concern - being upfront that there is something that needs to be addressed. "Knowing that you are going to express something critical takes away the element of surprise and defensiveness in the other person, and allows you to state your concern in a thought out, gentle way. It makes it much more likely that they will be willing to compromise and come closer to your side of the fence," they write.

Outside of the official, Couple-Sanctioned Relationship Conversation, couples should continue practicing the no negativity approach - why not try it for a few days, a week? Make it a game? Even the act of having your partner read the article can be a step toward repairing any holes in your connection.

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