Three Evidence-Based Skills for
a Healthy Relationship


The skills are designed to help you make good decisions and engage in adaptive behaviors so you can create the things that lead to healthy relationships and reduce the things that lead to unhealthy ones.

When you’re using the skills you’ll be better able to do many of the most common things we’re faced with in relationships, like picking a partner (or a type of relationship) that is right for you, assessing whether you’re getting your needs met (and whether you’re meeting your partner’s needs), dealing with conflict and reducing destructive fighting, deciding whether to stay in a relationship or leave it, and dealing with the pain of breakups.

The Three Evidence-Based Skills are:



Definition: The ability to understand yourself and your partner (or potential partner), understand the causes and consequences of your behavior, and learn from your mistakes.

In practice, you’ll be able to:

  • Know yourself better – who you are, what you need, and why you act the way you do
    e.g., “Oh, this is a situation that makes me feel uncomfortable. That’s why I’m pushing my partner away…”
  • Know the same things about your partner or potential partner
    e.g., “My partner is late for plans with everyone. It’s not a sign of disrespect of me…”
  • Anticipate what the positive and negative consequences of particular relationship choices might be
    e.g., “If I send this angry text it will probably make things worse between us rather than better. If I call and we talk we might be able to work it out…”
  • Learn from your mistakes in ways that allow you to make better choices in the future
    e.g., “Last time I gave up my own needs just to make my partner happy. That made me feel really bad. Next time if I see that happening, I’m going to get out of that relationship…”
  • Have a greater understanding about what kind of person and relationship is right for you
    e.g., “I know I really need to be with someone who wants a monogamous relationship. I’ll always feel insecure if the person has other partners…”


Definition: The ability to recognize that both you and your (potential) partner have needs and that both sets of needs matter, and the desire to maximize the likelihood that both sets of needs will get met.

In practice, you’ll be able to:

  • Know how to communicate your needs in a clear, direct way that optimizes your chances of getting them met e.g., “It’s important to me that you be there with me at my family’s party because I could use your support in dealing with my parents. Is it at all possible for you to clear your schedule for that day…?”
  • Be willing and able to meet your partner’s needs
    e.g., “I know you’ve got a lot of work deadlines right now and that taking care of the chores isn’t a priority. I’ll take over for the time being until things ease up for you…”
  • Factor both sets of needs into decisions that you make about your relationship
    e.g., “I know we’re different when it comes to planning things. I like to plan ahead and you like to be spontaneous. Let’s find a way to plan some things and also leave open some weekends to just do whatever we feel like in the moment, okay…?”

Emotion Regulation

Definition: The ability to regulate emotions in response to relationship-relevant experiences and to make choices and decisions that can be successfully dealt with emotionally.

In practice, you’ll be able to:

  • Keep your emotions calm when you’re upset about things
    e.g., “This stinks, but it’s going to be okay. We’ll figure out how to deal with this…”
  • Tolerate uncomfortable feelings rather than acting impulsively on them
    e.g., “Why isn’t my partner texting me? I’m getting really anxious! Maybe I should text again… Wait, I can just wait and see what happens. Nothing has to be done right now. I need to stop checking my phone…”
  • Keep things that happen in your relationship in perspective (low drama!)
    e.g., “This is the worst possible thing ever! No, wait, I might be overreacting. Let me calm down about this…”
  • Think more clearly about your decisions and actions
    e.g., “I’m so angry right now! Let me wait to make a decision about this until I can do it with a clear head…”
  • Maintain self-respect and commitment to your needs even when difficult things happen in your relationship
    e.g., “I can’t believe my partner would leave me. I’m so depressed! What can I do to get back together? Wait, if I beg and plead I’m going to hate myself for it. I don’t want to come out of this feeling bad about myself and giving up what’s important to me…”

Keep reading to learn how to use the Skills to reduce conflict…