Six Components of Resilience. How Marriage Counselors and Therapists Apply Resiliency Concepts to Strengthen Relationship.

We believe that careful observation of communication patterns reveals a lot about the dynamics of a marriage. Underlying emotions and attitudes can often be detected in marital discourse—the patterns of talk that define a marriage. Relational messages about trust, power, respect, and intimacy are often communicated nonverbally, sometimes without awareness. Indeed, habitual patterns of everyday communication sustain both functional and dysfunctional marriages. In our view, counselors and therapists play the crucial role of helping partners identify dysfunctional patterns while increasing the capacity to engage certain kinds of constructive communication such as expressing emotion, negotiating conflict, or forgiving transgressions. The development of improved communication practices helps a marriage adapt to changing conditions.

Partners Develop and Change
Change is (ironically enough) a constant in human relationships. Although acknowledging that personality, cohort characteristics, and social structure remain relatively stable, life span researchers assume that people and their social arrangements are constantly developing. Change in intimate relationships is driven by the development of individual partners as they mature, adapt to changes, and pursue new goals. One implication is that spouses need to adjust the expectations they have for themselves, their partners, and the marriage.

Marriages Have “Turning Points”
Life span perspectives acknowledge that critical events punctuate relational development. Parenthood, childrearing, death of a parent, leaving or entering the workforce, children leaving the home—all of these bring stress as well as opportunities for relational growth. We often think of relationship development as a gradual and steady process. But when couples tell their stories, they sometimes describe these events as important turning poins when relationship quality rapidly improved or declined. A key lesson is that surviving these turning points requires adaptability and the willingness to retool the marriage.

A Resilience Framework
Resilience is the idea that people possess a great capacity to withstand life challenges. Rather than focus on losses and deficits, resilience perspectives focus on the relational resources and communication tools that help couples bounce back from challenges and thrive in the face of change. Resilience is also fostered by certain kinds of community resources.

What are the components of resilience?
Researchers find that resilience includes these six components:

1 Optimism: Resilient people focus on positive results. When faced with a crisis, they are hopeful rather than despairing. They imagine positive rather than negative outcomes.

2 Flexibility: Adaptation to changing circumstances is essential. Even as they embrace lessons of the past, resilient people make adjustments in light of new requirements and conditions.

3 Determination: A strong commitment to future success is another characteristic, which is accompanied by perseverance, patience, effort, and resolve.

4 Sustainability: Good stewardship of one’s personal and relational resources is another feature of resilience. This involves a longterm commitment to healthy behavior and the cultivation of a broad-based sense of well-being.

5 Diversity: Resilience is fostered when people perceive a range of alternatives and options. Resilient people draw on a variety of skills and past experiences. They imagine a variety of potential outcomes to problematic situations.

6 Balance: Stability, centeredness, and harmony contribute to a sense of composure in resilient people. Living a balanced life leads to psychological and physical balance.

The components of resilience provide concrete ways to help couples thrive despite the challenges of centerstage marriage. In using it, counselors help clients inventory their own strengths, imagine more hopeful futures, and connect to helpful resources.


  • Focus on client resources, strengths, opportunities, and hopeful outcomes, not just their losses and limitations.
  • Prompt reflection on unnecessarily limiting or pessimistic assumptions.
  • Encourage clients to identify positive role models in their relationship network.
  • Help clients locate past experiences that could prove helpful now.
  • Connect clients with information and resources in the community.
  • Encourage clients to practice new behaviors that promote flexibility, sustainability, and balance in their relationships.

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