Relationship Minute: Learn How to Start Again

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.

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

Relationship Minute: Your Code Word for Repair

It’s always tough to find the right words after fighting with your partner. Oftentimes, you may resort to silence, waiting for the other person to speak up first. This is where repair attempts come in.

Consider coming up with an agreed-upon word or phrase that signals to you both that one of you is attempting to make a repair. This can be silly and random like “cookies” (in fact, levity is a great tension-breaker), or something stronger such as “What can I do?” or “Tell me what you need from me.” Whatever you choose, be sure you both agree that, when one of you says this code word, it means you want to restore your connection.

And during the next neutral opportunity, be sure to ask your partner, “What’s our code word for repair?”

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

Relationship Minute: Is Your Conflict Style Harming Your Relationship?

When you argue with your partner, you may find yourself making critical statements like: “You never listen to me” or “You always get your way.” Or, when you’re really upset, you resort to name-calling and mocking. Maybe as soon as things get heated, you shut down completely and the silent treatment goes into effect.

Every couple fights, but not every couple knows how to fight in a healthy way. In the heat of the moment, you may be prone to rely on old communication habits, no matter how unhelpful they are.

Take time today to think about your conflict style. Ask your partner how you frequently act during an argument. This will help you learn how to navigate conflict without resorting to criticism and contempt.

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

Relationship Minute: Your Relationship Deserves a Fresh Start

Have you gotten into a fight with your partner recently? Maybe your partnership has become stale and boring? Do you feel like you need to get your relationship back on track? 

Sit down with your partner and decide how you want to grow as a couple. Determine what areas of your relationship need a refresh. Where do you see yourselves at this time next year?

This is a chance to put away the old routines and embrace new ways of loving one another. Commit to communicate more effectively and make positive changes in your relationship. This could be the beginning of something beautiful!

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

Relationship Minute: Three Skills and One Rule

When it comes to having intimate conversations, there are three skills and one rule.

The rule is understanding must precede advice. Drs. John and Julie Gottman tell couples that these talks between lovers are not meant to problem-solve. Premature problem solving tends to shut people down. Advice should only begin when both people feel understood.

Skill #1: Putting Your Feelings into Words

In intimate conversations, finding the right words, phrases, images, or metaphors make talking about feelings much deeper.

Skill #2: Asking Open-Ended Questions

Help your partner explore their feelings by asking questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer. Consider: “How did that make you feel?” or “Tell me more about that.”

Skill #3: Expressing Empathy

You can show empathy by validating your partner’s thoughts, feelings, and needs. It means you understand where they’re coming from on a particular topic. Empathy looks like making genuine statements like, “I can see how you felt that way.” 

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

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: 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: “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.