Take a moment to reflect. Was it your partner who was making you mad, or is being mad actually your feeling that you need to take responsibility for?
According to Dr. Julie Gottman, “being passionate, being intense, expressing anger, and so on is fine depending on how you voice it. So if you’re expressing anger with an ‘I’ statement that describes how you feel, as opposed to pointing a finger at your partner and describing them as flawed or to blame, that’s very different.”
Even if it’s not your proudest moment, owning your anger by saying, “I’m mad!” is ok, rather than saying, “you’re making me mad!”
You may be mad, and that’s fine, but your partner isn’t making you feel that way. It’s okay to feel angry, as long as you acknowledge and own that it’s your feeling.
A foundationally secure partnership is like a house. It has weight-bearing walls and levels that each person builds upon to create a sturdy bond. 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.
Trust can be an intimidating thing. You may have experienced betrayal or trauma in the past that has interfered with your willingness to trust, or perhaps you feel like trusting means you will lose your sense of self. However, when you honor your identity, preferences, and goals, you form a solid foundation for trust to grow within your relationship.
Trusting your partner does not mean giving up control. You still have control over your emotions, dreams, choices, and how you communicate them with your partner. And when there is trust, you both feel empowered to express these things.
Think about why you’re afraid to trust. How can you be more open to developing a trusting environment with your partner?
I wish we spent more time together. I wish we were more emotionally connected.
Do any of these resonate with you? Do you have the desire to love and be loved more deeply?
You and your partner can learn how to love each other better. Think about what you need to feel more loved, and ask your partner to consider it as well. Sit down and have an open conversation. How can you meet your partner’s needs? How can they meet yours?
Do you feel disconnected from your partner? Does your partner ignore your needs? Do they brush off the things you care about? If so, your partner may be turning away from your bids for connection, depleting your Emotional Bank Account.
When you turn toward your partner’s bids for connection, you are making a deposit in your partner’s Emotional Bank Account, and when you turn away from your partner, you make a withdrawal. Like a real bank account, you want to avoid a zero or negative balance.
For example, if John was watching TV and Taylor said, “I’d love to go to the park and have a picnic,” John could do one of two things: he could continue watching TV, which would indicate a withdrawal from the Emotional Bank Account by turning away from Taylor, or he could turn off the TV and respond with something like, “What’s the weather like today? Let’s do it,” which would indicate a deposit into the Emotional Bank Account by turning towards Taylor.
When the Emotional Bank Account is negative, partners tend to question each other’s intentions and feel disconnected and lonely. When the Emotional Bank Account is positive, partners tend to give each other the benefit of the doubt during conflict and maintain a positive perspective.
What can you do to make a deposit in your Emotional Bank Account today?
Dr. John Gottman says that long-term romantic committed relationships are rooted in deep friendship. Being friends with your partner is the foundation that supports your ability to make good repairs, have great sex, and stay in a positive perspective.
Building a strong friendship requires taking steps towards connecting with each other. Try new activities together, ask open-ended questions, and listen to each other’s stories.
You and your partner are like your own team. You’ve got each other’s backs, and your friendship has the power to make your love last a lifetime. Make time to invest in your friendship today.
I can’t believe you did that! You’re such a bad driver. Why can’t you drive more like I do? You need help.
Have you said something similar to your partner lately?
Contempt is a tricky thing. It may seem like the expression of genuine feeling, but it’s actually an expression of negative judgment that places you in opposition to your partner.
Next time you find yourself taking a contemptuous approach, stop and take a breath. Remember the fondness and admiration you hold for your partner. Try to express yourself with feelings and needs that can unite you, rather than judgments that can divide.
Reflecting on arguments they’ve had, many couples will say, “I don’t even remember why it started,” or, “It was over nothing.” Arguments and conflict may begin to feel frustrating or unresolved for you.
There is a reason you’re arguing with your partner. Dreams, deeply held values, and beliefs lie at the root of every conflict you and your partner have, even if it seems silly at first.
For example, you might dismiss a squabble over who gets to pick the movie for date night as “fighting about nothing.” But, if you investigate why it turned into a tiff at all, you might remember that your opinion or taste was often dismissed by your family growing up. Or maybe your partner is feeling like they aren’t being heard in the relationship or don’t have an equal say.
Next time you find you and your partner arguing about “nothing,” consider that it might actually be “something” and take the opportunity to learn, to connect, and to be a better partner.
Imagine you and your partner are hanging around the house on the weekend. You’re busy working on your computer, and your partner comments on how they would love to go to the park with you. You ignore your partner, immersed in your work. You’ve just turned against your partner’s bid for connection.
A relationship killer is turning against each other’s bids for emotional connection.
“Turning against” happens when your partner reaches out to you and you reject them. Whether intentional or not, it damages the very fabric of your partnership. And it doesn’t just happen when you ignore your partner. Hurtful comments, provocative comebacks, and criticism are other possibilities.
The build-up of such responses creates a deep divide between you two. The more of these you and your partner experience, the more likely they are to destroy your partnership entirely.
So, how has that New Year’s resolution to improve your relationship turned out? After six months, do you see any change in how you and your partner interact with each other?
By summer, most resolutions are long forgotten because good intentions must be backed up with daily focused habits. If your goal was to have a better relationship in 2021, there’s still time to turn things around. It starts with the seemingly ordinary actions towards your partner that you do every day.
Think simple. Make a habit of sending each other love notes via text when you’re apart. Tell your partner a joke that makes them laugh. Make sure your grocery list includes that one tiny indulgence that they love. Propose trying a fun new activity together.
Dr. John Gottman says, “Successful long-term relationships are created through small words, small gestures, and small acts.” Every day you can do a little and make a big difference in your partnership.