Do you know the gateway to intimacy? Heather & Joshua give us some insight!

Photography, interview and article written and researched by: Diana Coulter - 5 minute read

The gateway to intimacy

If you take a quick survey and ask anyone what the most important aspect of a healthy relationship is, they will most often say communication (I actually did this, and got a 4/5 communication response, with a backtracker saying respectful communication!). And there is an important reason for this… so maybe we should just say my 5/5 poll is super effective… hehe! But, guess what… it’s the truth.

“Partners who can handle conflict more constructively, with more positive communication and less negative interactions, create an environment that allows for deeper levels of self disclosure and acceptance of self-disclosure, which are the central aspects of intimacy” (Markman, Stanley, Whitton, 2002, p.17).

Listen here friends, healthy communication isn’t easy. In fact, it takes a whole boatload of work to become aware of the things that trigger us to stop, pause, and listen, or to fight, defend, and shut down. And that’s okay that’s what makes us human, right? The learning…

John Gottman, a psychological researcher and clinician who has done over 40 years of extensive work on divorce prediction and marital stability, he has a ton of books on marriage and family health. One of my personal faves is, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work because there are some serious gems in there. If you haven’t read it yet, go out and get yourself a copy (seriously— don’t walk— run!).

According to his research, couples who stay together turn towards each other instead of turning away. This is one of my favorite principles of this. He talks about couples turning towards each other create mutual respect and trust. One of the main points he makes is to respond to our partners bids.

Sidenote about “bids”

Gottman explains that bids can be major and minor, but that they are requests in our coupledom that call for each other’s attention, affection, humor, or support. It can be simple as asking them to listen to a page out a book you’re reading when lying in bed together, or more complicated like a foot rub, but it’s the response to our bid that makes the difference. When we ignore, shrug apathetically, or disengage— that is turning away. When we respond, acknowledge, and reaffirm our partners— we’re turning toward. Not surprisingly, couples that turned toward each other 86% of the time stayed together.

Sooooo, how do you communicate effectively then?

Self awareness is key in good communication. If you know how you communicate— both healthy and unhealthy, you are more likely to recognize your behaviors when in the middle of a conflict. THIS IS AWESOME!

One night my husband and I were headed in that direction. I was upset and nagging and he was shutting down. All it took was for me to say, “Hey, I notice when I nag you, you tend to shut down. Here’s how I’m really feeling, and I would love to talk more about it.”

I wish I could say I was always that rational, but I would be lying. My point is, the more we learn what triggers us, the more we have the power to step back and ask for exactly what we’re needing. Unfortunately our partners aren’t mind readers and neither are we. Having positive communication with each other and being able to diffuse conflict more often than not is what really creates closeness and intimacy, and it’s that what we all want anyway? To be seen and loved for exactly who we are— the good, the bad, and the ugly? Yeah, I think so.

So real quick, here are some identifiers for healthy/unhealthy communication:

Healthy ways to communicate

  • Listen

  • Eye contact

  • Redirection

  • Humor

  • I-messages

Unhealthy ways to communicate

  • Stonewalling

  • Criticism

  • Complaining

  • Contempt

  • Defensiveness

The Story of Heather & Joshua

About a month ago I got the privilege to do a photoshoot with Heather and Joshua, the beautiful couple below that inspired this topic today. Beyond their awesome photoshoot and interview, their insanely passionate vibe resonated deeply with me during our time together, and during their interview, I also found out that they are communication connoisseurs, which most positively inspired this blog post. They showed up as themselves— with blueberries to toss into each others mouth, snowball fights that encouraged wild and playful behavior, and waving at people and high-fiving each other, because that’s what they do.

They laughed, karate-kicked, and squawked their way into my hearts. This is a photoshoot I learned soooooo incredibly much from and one I’ll never forget! Okay, now I’m dying! Here are Heather and Joshua— and I know you’ll love ‘em as much as I do!

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How they met

We met in Nicaragua... I (Heather) was in a serious relationship at the time but wasn't happy. I met Josh at the retreat I was working, he was on the retreat...and fell in love the moment he made me almost pee my pants from laughter. I had never experienced that before. We were inseparable for that week, following each other around, laughing non-stop, and eventually sharing a long-sleepless night under the stars talking and holding each other until we both had to fly out the next day. When we returned home from Central America we couldn't stay away from each other. I immediately ended my relationship with my ex, knowing I couldn't give up what I had with Josh. We've been together ever since, more madly in love everyday, and nothing has ever felt more meant to be, like we were really actually made for each other.



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How they describe their relationship

silly, sexy, adventurous

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The fun things they do

River surf, mountain bike, camping, road trips, snowboarding, crafts, concerts...

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Biggest hurdle they’ve gone through

The beginning of our relationship was unique with our situation, it caused a lot of stress that we both had to work through together. Since then it's just been learning how to talk to each other because we both has very different communication styles.

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How the handle the tough stuff

Really taking the time to listen to each other, but really more so than that, taking the time and courage to really speak our minds to each other, good and bad, not hiding or jumping over things to avoid them but dealing with even the smallest disagreements head-on

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How they’ve pushed through the hard times

Doing little things that speak to each other’s love language are important to us. I've never had someone so in-tune with me and willing and ready to work it out immediately.

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Life lessons they’ve learned from each other

Laugh more. Don't be so serious. Take the leap. Follow your heart. More kindness. More patience. You are capable of more than you know.

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Qualities that define them as a couple

silliness! passion! adventure mindset! romantics!

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Best advice they’ve received about love

Share, listen, act as though it is your last day together everyday

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What do you think is the most important aspect in a relationship?! I’d love to know your immediate response so you can also be part of my unofficial survey, hehe. Comment below and share!


WANT S'MORE?

I hoped their interview, story, and photos gave you as much inspiration as it gave me. That long lasting relationships do exists, real love does take work, and people are still in it for the long haul. If you loved it all, don't stop here... sign up for the newsletter to learn about more things like this, or leave a comment below!

If you want to learn more about Heather, or check out her amazing work as a photographer, head on over to hang out with Heather on her virtual space on the internet! 


Footnotes

  1. Stanley, S. M., Markman, H. J., & Whitton, S. W. (2002). Communication, Conflict, and Commitment: Insights on the Foundations of Relationship Success from a National Survey. Family Process, 41(4), 659-675. doi:10.1111/j.1545-5300.2002.00659.

  2. Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work. New York: Three Rivers Press.


 
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