Healthy Relationships in Practice
Actionable techniques to continually incorporate in your relationship.
My husband and I had a conflict over the weekend. The details aren’t worth going into, but it was a problem that came up that we couldn’t resolve.
We agreed that we would take the time to talk more about it soon and “do a Gottman trial.” So this morning I took out our old Gottman workbook and turned the page on stuck topics.
Let me stop the story here to frame the scene a little. My husband and I have read the Gottman books and practiced the techniques since we started dating in 2004. In 2019 we decided to continue our Gottman work and participated in a Gottman weekend workshop. On the professional side, I have since deepened my learning and went through stages 1 and 2 of couples therapy using the Gottman method. Now I am teaching Gottman methods to my clients.
OK, back to the story.
After pulling out the workbook, I noticed that I had written notes on the stuck problem pages. Perhaps obvious, although it didn’t seem like it at the moment, the problem my husband and I worked through the last time we went through the deadlocked process (probably a year ago) is the same problem that is cropping up now.
I think that’s why it’s a deadlocked problem for us.
Should I find out all of these things since I’m a relationship trainer? Shouldn’t I have a conflict with my husband? Should our relationship always be harmonious and peaceful?
No, no and no.
There are some things in life that are one and have done things. For example I would like to: take a spin course from Bob Harper, go to Italy and do a sewing retreat. These are things I want to do at least once.
Then there is another category of activities that are practiced continuously. Yoga is a good example. You don’t do yoga a single time and you call it done. It’s a yoga practice. you carry on the same goes for meditation. It is an ongoing practice where we are good (or at least better) at calming our minds and focusing on our breath.
Similarly, the Gottman Techniques are a practice that we use continuously, and we can hopefully apply better. We don’t even use them and then we have a harmonious relationship until the end of time.
Here are some actionable techniques you can bring into your relationship practice. These are the ones my husband and I do something daily to keep our marriage healthy and these are techniques I often teach my coaching clients.
Ask open-ended questions. Think back to the beginning of your relationship. If you’re like the couples I work with, the beginning of your relationship was filled with asking each other questions. At some point the questions disappeared. You may have started to think you knew who your partner is and you have lost curiosity about them. The technique recommended here is to keep your curiosity about one another. We are all constantly changing and it is important to always learn about your partner. So ask your partner open-ended questions and be ready to answer the same questions honestly. (If you’d like more info here, I share an open-ended question with my email subscribers every Friday. This is a great weekend activity for you and your partner. If you’d like to receive this email, sign up for my free guide to the Recharge your relationship; after I send you the guide you will be on my list to receive these open questions every Friday.)
Give specific appreciations. We all like to feel valued by our partner. It feels great and creates an overall positive atmosphere in your relationship that will help you through difficult times as they arise. First, here’s a formula: I value [something specific] about you and that matters to me because [reason]. Here are some examples. “I appreciate how you changed the lightbulb last night. This was important to me because I had to wake up early for work this morning and my early morning video call would have been quite difficult if the lights weren’t working. “” I appreciate how much you love our daughter. I am so glad that we are giving her the opportunity to grow up in a house full of love. “
Do little things often. It’s not about renting a limo that ends with a sunset picnic on a deserted beach. It’s not about buying a dozen roses once a year. Just do little things over and over again. Here are some small things to get you started. Smile when you see your partner. Say something nice to them. Do a tiny special thing for them that you know they would appreciate. And, repeat.