As you give your partnership a solid foundation with the building blocks of the Sound Relationship House, don’t skip the middle level of “Turning Toward Instead of Away.” Recognizing and responding to your partner’s bids shows them how attuned you are to their needs.
However, some bids seem small and low stakes, and you’re tempted to ignore them. The deep sigh. The distracted stare. That “I’m fine” doesn’t sound fine.
Remember that your world stops when your partner is hurting, and when you respond to those bids that signal your partner is in pain, you can support them when they need it most.
You know your partner. You know when something isn’t right. So, when you notice those smaller bids, take the time to offer your undivided attention and ask them how they really feel.
Does your partner know how much you appreciate them? Do they know how much the little things they do matter?
When building your Sound Relationship House, it’s not enough to think good thoughts about your partner and keep them to yourself. You need to let them know. So, if you love that they always remember your coffee order or how they can still make you laugh when you’ve had a rough day, say so!
You can do it intentionally or whenever the mood strikes you, but make a habit of sharing how much you admire your partner and how fond you are of what they bring to your relationship. This is how you cherish one another and keep the romance alive.
Based on decades of research, the Gottmans developed the Sound Relationship House Theory—seven “levels” or areas of focus couples nurture to create lasting love. With a strong structure, built on the foundations of trust and commitment, you will also find shelter.
Does the house of your relationship feel like a safe haven? Can you rely on each other and look to each other for reassurance, strength, and comfort?
Building a strong relationship is hard work, and it takes dedication, but continually reinforcing the structure by making repairs, turning towards bids, and showing loving kindness creates a shelter from stormier days.
Distress, disconnection, dissatisfaction. Even healthy relationships experience an ebb and flow of these dynamics. But what steps can you take to resolve it? How can you and your partner help each other get to where you want to feel?
If you have a general feeling or “destination” in mind (“I want to feel more connected”) ask yourself, “What does that look like?”
Does feeling more connected to your partner look like spending more time being physically affectionate? Does it look like having a conversation about what each of you is feeling? Maybe it looks like playing a game or watching a show together.
Figuring out how to get what you want, and what that looks like, will help you identify your positive needs. Then you can ask your partner for what you need specifically and help them show up for you.
There’s an old, well-meaning if misguided saying, “happy wife, happy life.” Maybe a better way to update and reimagine that is, “happy spouse, happy house.”
“Happy wife, happy life,” implies a sort of “yes, dear,” “whatever you say, dear,” attitude—resigned, and maybe resentful. But there’s a big difference between that and accepting influence, which is a two-way street.
Foster a culture of reciprocity. Rather than thinking about what your partner isn’t doing for you or what you’re not getting from them, try to notice the ways they are doing their best and dig into ways you can show up for each other better.
You may even want to take out the guesswork and ask them, “what can I do to make you feel loved today?”
Because when the relationship is solid and has reciprocity, it creates a better environment for everyone.
The Headless Horseman is a character from folklore, traditionally depicted as a man on horseback who is seen either carrying his head or having lost it entirely. At times, he is depicted using a jack-o-lantern as a replacement (festive!).
Similarly, when you engage in one of the Four Horsemen (Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt, or Stonewalling), you may feel as though you have lost your head and/or temporarily replaced it with a jack-o-lantern.
But just as spotting the Headless Horseman is a rare occurrence (no one in the folk tales encounters him at the feed store, offering his opinions in the comments section of a Facebook post, or struggling to assemble IKEA furniture), the Four Horsemen are not permanent states of being.
In most healthy relationships, a partner is not always critical, defensive, contemptuous, or stonewalling. Aside from Contempt, they are behaviors that even the happiest couples occasionally slip into.
The difference is that the “Masters” of relationships know how to keep the Four Horsemen at bay and maintain a high positive-to-negative interaction ratio, even in conflict.
So try to keep the Horsemen (Headless and otherwise) reined in to avoid any unnecessary scares.
Changes in the seasons mean a host of new ways to turn towards your partner.
Trusting that you and your partner will turn towards one another in emotional moments, as well as in everyday conversation, is truly what good relationships are all about. Becoming attuned to the ways in which the two of you interact, and making Turning Towards an intentional act is vital to reducing stress and creating an atmosphere of trust. Try these 15 ideas to turn towards one another or come up with your own. Revisit this list when you both feel like you need to bring more opportunities to connect into your relationship.
It’s easy to get hung up on the things you could improve in your relationship. There’s always a little thing here or there that went imperfectly, that results in conflict, or that you wish you’d handled better. And it’s normal to strive to improve.
But you’re together for a reason. Sometimes in the journey toward what’s possible, you might forget to look at the progress you’ve already made.
Every relationship is unique. What are your relationship’s strengths? What do you two do better than anyone else you know? Go ahead, get smug about it!
There’s always something to nitpick—an artist never truly “finishes” their work and relationships are co-created works of art. But it’s important to take some time to pat yourselves on the back for what you already do well.
What are your relationship’s superpowers? What have you gotten a lot better at over time? What have you never had to work on? Celebrate your strengths.