Goodness is arguably one of the most misunderstood concepts in all of existence. How many of our actions and choices are based on the notion of whether or not we perceive them to be ‘good’? It’s not exactly a concept that presents itself intuitively. There are, however, many tools that can help us to better understand the concept of ‘goodness’ in relationships.
The concept of goodness in relationships is meant to encompass a person’s character. It is more than just their appearance, behavior, or attitude. It is also their character. According to Dr. Karen L. Arnold, author of Relationship Epistemology, ‘goodness’ is a synonym for consistency, trust, communicateance, honesty, transparency, and emotional candor. She explains that ‘good’ is, first and foremost, a cultural construct, referring specifically to whether or not a person is considered ‘good’ by a group.
This is not to say, however, that a person is only considered ‘good’ within their own relationship. They are also considered ‘good’ by family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers. This is exemplified by the fact that Dr. Arnold has received correspondence from both medical students and practicing clinicians who are confused about the concept of ‘goodness’ in relationships.
This is exemplified by the situation where a clinician writes, “I am wondering if ‘goodness’ in a dyad is reflected in the couple’s communication or the husband/wife is seen as just being nice and kind?” The answer to this question is no, that is not necessarily how the concept of goodness in relationships works.
In relationship, ‘goodness’ is defined as the quality of being a matching partner. It is what a couple brings to the table that makes them a matched pair. In the dyad, this is represented by their shared character. As the relationship progresses, a matching quality starts to emerge between each of the partners. This is exemplified by the fact that it is not random. The couple has become a ‘good pair’ as a result of working toward this shared goal of matching.
The concept of goodness, then, is concerned with the process by which the couple comes to identify as a ‘good pair’ and the qualities that contribute to that. According to Dr. Arnold, the process of coming to identify as a ‘good pair’ is a conscious, focused effort to focus on each other and the experience of being a pair. She writes,
“Couples who are consciously engaged in each other’s experience find that the quality of the relationship improves. Their quality of relationship has significantly improved. It is a conscious effort to focus on each other and to work toward a good relationship.”
It is through the process of coming to see one another as a ‘good pair’ that the relationship progresses and the couple realizes that there are other people out there who care about what they have to say. As a couple, your efforts to focus on one another and to work toward a ‘good relationship’ is what brings about the evolution of that experience into a more intimate level of love.
According to the concept of goodness, partners are meant to focus on each other and to work toward a shared goal of matching. When this focus is broken and the relationship moves outside of the relationship’s intended phase, it becomes dissatisfying and sad. While the level of satisfaction within a relationship may improve, the experience itself suffers.
This is because the process of coming to see one another as a ‘good pair’ is dependent upon the relationship progressing. If the relationship never progresses, then the experience may even be painful or even a manifestation of being pushed beyond the point of no return. Yet, if the relationship progresses, then the level of satisfaction within the relationship evolves.
As couples become more focused on matching, things tend to become easier. But this doesn’t mean that the quality of the relationship evolves. It is always dependent upon the progress that the relationship makes.
As a couple, the main focus in a relationship should be on you. The relationship evolves as a result of you. That is the beauty of a good relationship. Rather than you being the star of the show, you are the audience. You are the person who brings the couple together. But the experience remains constant.
As you progress as a couple, the experience evolves as a result of the mutual effort and progress you make. As you become a better couple, the experience evolves. As Karen P. Arnold puts it, “a good couple has a dynamic relationship.”
The experience of a good couple is one of a shared dynamic. In other words, the couple evolves together as a couple. At each new point in a relationship, you become a better couple because you are becoming more involved.