Relationship Minute: Isn’t “I’m Sorry” Enough?

Have you ever apologized to your partner after a fight, but it didn’t seem to make a difference?

The Gottmans believe the effectiveness of making repairs after a conflict depends on the state of your relationship. If you’re fundamentally unhappy together, the perfect apology will still fall flat. This is related to “Negative Sentiment Override,” when you no longer see each other’s good traits and only see the bad. Once a relationship is in this phase, repair attempts can be doomed from the start.

The good news is you can “buck the system,” as Dr. John Gottman says. “You don’t have to wait for your marriage to improve before you start hearing each other’s repair attempts.”

When the next conflict occurs, be intentional about looking for your partner’s attempts to repair. Whether they say, “I’m sorry” or “Let’s start over,” recognize their effort to bridge the divide and see where you can meet them halfway. It’s the starting point towards breaking the cycle of negativity.

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Did You Just Miss a Bid?

In “What Makes Love Last,” Dr. John Gottman states, “In a committed relationship, partners constantly ask each other in words and deeds for support and understanding.” That gesture is called a bid, and it signals that your partner needs to connect with you.

But what does a bid look like in everyday life?

Your partner can reach out in any number of ways, both verbal and nonverbal. The spoken bids are easier to recognize. They may sound like:

“Look at this funny video.”

“Honey, what’s on your mind?”

Nonverbal bids are trickier, but Dr. Gottman breaks them down to include: 

  • Affection (a kiss, hug, or shoulder rub) 
  • Facial expressions (a smile or glance) 
  • Playful touching (a light tickling or gentle bump) 
  • Affiliating gestures (opening a door or handing something over) 
  • Vocalizing (laughing, sighing, groaning, etc.) 

Be on the lookout for any variation of these examples. Your partner may be trying to get your attention.

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: The #1 Couple

If there was a competition involving all the couples you know, what award would you and your partner win? In what areas are you #1?

Best at sharing fondness and admiration?

Best at romance?

Best repairs after a fight?

Whether you navigate conflict like a pro or have a mastery of active listening skills, there’s something that you as a couple do best—something that you’re better at than anyone else you know. Can you think of what it is?

Talk to your partner today about what aspect of your life together makes you want to brag. Come up with the name of your own award. It’s time to celebrate your relationship with a pat on the back.

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Rituals for a Bad Day

Let’s say your partner is having a bad day. Perhaps they had an argument with a friend or they didn’t get the second job interview; any type of disappointing event from a stressor outside of your relationship. It leaves your partner feeling dejected. How do you respond?

In “The Relationship Cure,” Dr. John Gottman notes, “In moments of deep discouragement, it can be extremely comforting to have a reliable outward sign that your spouse stands by you.” This is an opportunity to establish a ritual of connection.

Rituals for a bad day can look like stopping by the bakery to get those cupcakes they like or offering to rub their shoulders while you listen to them share their feelings. It’s also helpful to build Love Maps together so you know exactly what your partner needs when they feel low.

This isn’t the time for attempting to solve your partner’s problems for them. Understanding precedes advice, so your ritual of connection is first and foremost a source of comfort where your partner feels seen, known, and loved.

Make supporting each other through tough times a habit in your relationship. You’ll find that your love will grow when your partner knows they have you to lean on.

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: What Are Your Perpetual Problems?

In his book “The Relationship Cure,” Dr. John Gottman says, “a full 69 percent of all marital conflicts never go away.” Dr. Gottman calls them perpetual problems, which are any issues where you and your partner don’t see eye-to-eye no matter how often it comes up.

You can have perpetual problems about anything. Maybe you can’t settle on a financial budget that works for both of you or you keep fighting about who does most of the housework. These conflicts come up again and again without lasting resolution.

What are your perpetual problems? Where do you and your partner constantly meet in conflict? Part of living and loving through your issues is acknowledging they exist.

Set aside time today to note where you and your partner tend to repeatedly butt heads. If you’re comfortable, do this with your partner during a time when you’re both calm. That can look like asking, “Did you ever notice we argue every time someone has to clean the kitchen?” Or mention, “It feels like money has been a touchy subject for a long time. Am I wrong?

Recognizing perpetual problems is the first step in learning to manage the conflict around them.

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Signs of Flooding

You have possibly taken time to note the signs of flooding that you exhibit when you’ve reached your max in an argument. However, can you tell when your partner is overwhelmed?

Is it obvious like raising their voice or shutting down completely? Or is it something more subtly, such as the changing of eye color or a face that looks flushed?

It’s important to know when your partner is physiologically flooded during conflict, especially if their tell-tale sign is a “blink and you’ll miss it” characteristic. With this information, you can help bring a fight back from the brink by noting what’s happening and initiating a time-out.

Hey, honey, it seems like you’re getting upset. Let’s take a breather. 

Okay, time-out. Things are getting heated and I can see it. Can we go cool off? 

Think back to your last argument and jot down physical traits, gestures, or movements that your partner did that could signal flooding. Or better yet, ask them. They can give you insight into the little things they do that you can pick up on. Once you know the signs of flooding in conflict from both yourself and your partner, you’re more likely to change course and head for calmer seas.

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: What a Therapist can do for you

A new year means setting intentions and goals for where you’d like to be. Is your relationship on that list? Even couples with decades together have areas where they need a boost, such as their communication skills and conflict management styles. This is where quality couples counseling comes in.

Committing to therapy in the new year means you don’t have to figure out how to solve your relationship problems on your own. A therapist can give you individualized support for your goals as partners in the life you live now. Whether your issues involve caregiving, parenting, or work-life balance, this highly trained professional can help you figure out how to solidify your partnership in spite of your unique stressors.

Also, counseling is not just for couples in trouble! Therapy specialized to your needs will guide you to keep a good thing going strong and give you customized tools to tackle any obstacle that may arise.

This year, don’t settle for the status quo. Prioritize your union and improve your staying power as a couple by finding a therapist. Your relationship is worth it.

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Give Your Partnership a New Start

The close of 2020 hopefully brings some relief as this year had seemingly endless challenges.

As you contemplate the new year and make plans for a fresh start, consider adding your relationship to your resolution list. How do you want to grow as a couple in 2021? Where do you want to see yourselves at this time next year?

You and your partner deserve a fresh start. It’s a chance to put away the old ways and routines and embrace a new way of loving one another. So, when the clock strikes midnight and the world rolls into a new year, give your relationship a new start as well. Commit to communicate better and learn more about each other. Resolve to be intentional about your partnership every day. This could be the beginning of something beautiful.

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Make Memories on Purpose

The top level of the Sound Relationship House is “Create Shared Meaning.” Couples that engage in rituals of connection further bond with each other by holding the same thoughts and feelings around shared aspects of their life together.

This time of year, that can look like being intentional about making memories. What activities can you do as a couple or a family that will remind you of this moment for years to come? Whether you go for a walk in your neighborhood with a travel mug of hot chocolate or make a special craft, doing it together routinely builds habit and connection.

So, make some memories today. Plan ahead to make it a special time together. The more shared meaning you find on purpose, the deeper and richer your relationship will be. 

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Dream Together

Near the top of the Sound Relationship House is a level called “Make Life Dreams Come True.” On this floor, you build up your partnership by helping each other accomplish long- and short-term goals.

Do you know what your partner’s dreams are? What is that thing they’ve always wanted to do? Even if you think you already know, remember that dreams change over time. You can ask them what they want out of life. Then, ask yourself what you can do to help make that happen.

Today, dream together. In this unpredictable world, set your cynicism aside and let your thoughts go wild with the possibilities. You may find that you have similar hopes for the future, and if you work together, you can see them all come true. 

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.