Relationship Minute: Before You Go to Bed Tonight

How you end your day in a relationship can be just as important as how it begins. As tempting as it is to mutter “good night” and roll over to your side, you don’t want to miss this golden opportunity to be intimate with your partner.

Every day you need a stress-reducing conversation with your partner where you both get to talk about stressors outside of your relationship. Making this part of your bedtime routine.

Asking “how was your day” is a good start, but more specific open-ended questions invite your partner to share in detail. For example, say, “Tell me about a moment today when you felt proud of yourself” or “Did you feel anxious or upset at any point today? What was going on?” You can also get even more specific. Ask “You had that big project at work today. How did that go?” or “I heard you on the phone earlier and you sounded tense. What happened?”

Remember, this isn’t a time to problem-solve unless your partner asks you to. Mostly this is when you listen to them with your undivided attention. No phones. No television. No one else around. You have time, space, and privacy to have an intimate conversation.

Try it out tonight. Before you go to bed, turn toward your partner with a listening ear. It’s just one of many ways to build intimacy between you.

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. Visit their website.

Relationship Minute: Morning Greetings

When you wake up in the morning, what are the first words you say to your partner?

How you start your day in a relationship is important. If you begin with criticism (imagine a sarcastic “Oh, look who decided to finally get out of bed?”) or stonewalling (such as, still not speaking to each other after last night’s fight), you set a strong negative tone—not to mention inviting the Four Horsemen to breakfast!

Even addressing responsibilities first thing in the morning (“Hi, you need to walk the dog, make the kids’ lunches, and put gas in the car”) puts a strain on your connection.

Consider beginning your morning with fondness and admiration. When you wake up, greet your lover with a simple “Good morning, sweetheart.” Ask how they slept. If you’re up before them, prepare their favorite morning beverage or bring them a breakfast treat if you have time. Whether it’s a snuggle in bed or a kiss before you go to work, these morning greetings can make all the difference.

It’s understandable if this is difficult because your partner works night shifts or you have dramatically different schedules. It’s not about the timing as it is about being intentional about acknowledging each other and taking a crucial moment to express your love.

What can you do to greet your partner with fondness and admiration in the morning?

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. Visit their website.

Relationship Minute: Repair and Restart

“Did your day start off on the wrong foot? It can seem like everything is going downhill from here. Well, with the concept of “repair and restart,” the whole day doesn’t need to be ruined.

Give yourself permission to ask for a “do-over.”

It can be an immediate repair: “I’m sorry. That came out wrong. Can I start again?”

Or the reset can happen later on: “I feel bad about how crabby I was this morning. Can we have a stress-reducing conversation tonight?”

Repair with self-compassion and do something to reset the energy of the day. Listen to music, get up and dance, go for a walk, take a break to meditate—whatever works for you.

It’s never too late to salvage your day and get things back on track.

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. Visit their website.

Relationship Minute: Me vs. We

“So, how did you two meet?”

In his research, Dr. John Gottman found that how you tell this story and all the stories about your relationship history (more specifically called “the story of us”) says a lot about you as a couple.

In a healthy relationship, your “story of us” includes all the good stuff like humor, fondness, admiration, and a sense of togetherness.

For example, when you recall your first date, do you complain about your partner letting the car run out of gas so you had to walk or do you emphasize that lovely chat you had on that walk? Do you mostly talk about how tough the early years were for you or do you remember how you both learned how to work as a team to solve problems?

How negatively or positively you view your history can tell if you’re in this together or it’s all about an individual. Your story can be full of negativity and everything your partner does wrong or it’s the epic tale of two people joining forces to overcome obstacles as a couple. As Dr. John Gottman asks, “Is it I, me, mine, or is it us, our, we?”

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. Visit their website.

Relationship Minute: Are You Listening?

The concept of “active listening” can be challenging to apply, especially in conflict or a tense conversation. It’s not mindlessly saying “mmhm” or “oh wow,” and it’s not chiming in, interrupting, or talking over.

Active listening is all about engaging with your partner, and it’s a skill built over time. Here are some quick tips for better listening.

DO: 

  • Tune in to what the other person is saying. Stay curious. 
  • Make understanding a goal. Confirm what you heard with the speaker to see if you have it right. 
  • Repair if you interrupt, get distracted, become defensive, or misunderstand. 
  • Ask clarifying questions. 
  • Inhabit the role of a passenger on the speaker’s train of thought. Follow their journey, at their pace. 
  • Be aware of how much time you spend talking in the conversation. 

DON’T:

  • Spend your time planning what you are going to say next/waiting for your turn to speak. 
  • Try to “fix” things or offer unsolicited advice. 
  • Split your focus between the speaker and your phone or something else. Multitasking is a fallacy. 
  • Try to finish or anticipate what the speaker is saying. 
  • Take what the other person is saying so personally that you become defensive and unable to hear their side. 
  • Completely shut down your own reaction to what the other person is saying. Your feelings and reactions are valid and it’s good to pay attention to what comes up for you. 

Next time you have a conversation with your partner, or even a friend, family member, or colleague, think about how much time you spend talking/sharing and how much time you spend listening? What might you implement to bring more balance to that?

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. Visit their website.

Relationship Minute: Are You Stonewalling?

What does it feel like when you’re flooded? We know the signs of DPA (Diffuse Physiological Arousal) on paper, but feeling them in your own body is something else entirely. Most people don’t know the moment their heart rate exceeds 99 BPM.

But you might be more familiar with what it feels like to stonewall or what it feels like when your partner is stonewalling.

Stonewalling is the last of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and its presence can signal that the relationship is in trouble. It is what happens when one partner’s flooding causes them to withdraw from interaction (verbally, emotionally, and sometimes physically).

As you become increasingly overwhelmed, your body is building that wall, stone by stone. Often, it’s a protective measure but it plays as a power move. It stops dialogue dead in its tracks.

Thankfully, there’s help! The antidote to stonewalling is to practice self-soothing. When you feel your body starting to build the wall, that’s the time to pause. Walk away (with a definite, verbalized plan to return) and give yourself a breather. Perhaps you need a code word or signal to ask your partner for a break.

Pay attention to the whole system. What are your thought patterns like when you’re overwhelmed? What are the physical sensations? What emotions lead to shutting down?

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. Visit their website.

Relationship Minute: “3 Things I Love About You”

Make a list of three things you truly admire about your partner.

The list might include qualities they’ve had for as long as you’ve known them (such as being a great listener or how they make you laugh), something they display in small moments (such as how well they sing or remember special occasions), or something they did in the last 24 hours (such as doing the dishes last night or making you coffee in this morning).

Does your partner do anything that inspires you or makes you go “Whoa! You’re amazing”?

Then, make a list and share it with them.

If you want to go the extra mile, make a new list every day for a week and leave it in notes around the home. See how it influences your relationship.

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. Visit their website.

Relationship Minute: How to Have Difficult Conversations

If you need to have a difficult conversation with a loved one or process conflict in your relationship, preparation is the best way to make sure it goes as well as possible.

Here are questions to ask yourself before you get into difficult conversations: 

  • Am I ready to have this conversation? According to Dr. Julie Gottman, “processing” means talking about the specific conflict or incident without getting mired in the emotionality of it again. 
  • Am I calm enough to have this conversation? Are you able to differentiate between your own emotions and the events that occurred? 
  • Am I willing to seek to understand the experiences of this event outside of my own? 
  • Am I willing to speak from my experience without trying to persuade? 
  • Am I willing to ATTUNE to the feelings of others and what the event meant to them? 
  • Can I be fully present for this conversation (am I in a space with limited distractions)? 

Most of the time, the way a discussion starts determines the way it will end. Taking a pause to prepare yourself before the conversation begins will allow you to go into it with mindful intention. Come ready.

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. Visit their website.

2021 Virtual Military Spouse Symposium – 27-29 April

DoD, Military Community and Family Policy is very excited to announce the Relationship Summit as part of the Virtual Military Spouse Symposium scheduled for April 27-29. The summit will include a relationship testimonial from General Garrett and Mrs. Garrett of U.S. Army Forces Command, a research presentation and relationship skill-building session on boundaries. There will also be an interactive spouse panel discussion that will focus on relationship dynamics, living OCONUS, and developing a community of support.

The Symposium is free to military spouses. Use the following link for more information and to register: https://myseco.militaryonesource.mil/portal/spousesymposium

Relationship Minute: Assume Positive Intent

Do you assume the best in your partner? What assumptions do you make when they do something that happens to ruffle your feathers?

In healthy relationships, partners are not out to “get” each other. However, sometimes, if negative sentiment is starting to creep in, their actions can be interpreted that way.

For example, you said you were going to do the dishes, but time got away from you and your partner ended up doing them instead. Within the context of assuming negativity, they might think you deliberately “forgot” so they would have to do them. You might think that their doing the dishes was a way of communicating, “I’m always cleaning up after you,” and feel defensive.

Or, you could treat each other with care. In that instance, your partner might think, “They’re really busy. I’m sure they just forgot.” Seeing that they did the dishes out of kindness, you might thank them.

Dr. John Gottman says, “Couples often ignore each other’s emotional needs out of mindlessness, not malice.” Accordingly, you and your partner can treat each other with extra generosity by assuming positive intent.

What would happen if you viewed your partner as an ally rather than an adversary?

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. Visit their website.