Get back on the same path with your partner today. Here’s how.
If your relationship is pretty good, no big fights or major conflicts, but you just feel disconnected or distant from your partner, here’s five ways relationship experts Drs. John & Julie Gottman say you can bridge the distance and get back on the same path together.
1. Turn Towards Each Other During Everyday Events – It starts with little interactions. The Gottman’s tell us every encounter with someone is an opportunity for emotional intimacy. Couples who do life well together are consistently offering “bids” to each other to connect. How you respond to these bids can change the mood of your relationship. If your partner offers a funny joke, turning toward that bid to connect is to chuckle in response and even offer an alternative punch line. Turning away would be ignoring your partner and turning against would be to respond in a belligerent or argumentative way such as “I don’t know why you keep trying to tell jokes. You’re no good at it” Take every opportunity to “turn toward” your partner, recognize when you have turned “away” or “against”, and repair it by apologizing and making it right. Getting this bid process right increases the chances that you will live happily ever after and enjoy emotional and physical intimacy over a lifetime. Getting it wrong is the #1 way to ensure conflict and tension in your relationship. To find out more about the bidding process, try the book “The Relationship Cure” by Dr. John Gottman and Joan DeClaire.
2. Have “Events of the Day Discussions” – Many couples are working from home and spending more time occupying the same space, but that doesn’t mean they are connecting. Couples may be touching base on things going on in each other’s lives, but are missing an important part of connection - knowing how your partner feels and thinks about the things going on in their world. When you know your partner’s worries, fears, hopes and dreams it opens up their inner landscape to you and yours to your partner. So set aside 30 minutes a day to really get to know your partner’s world.
· Set aside your own agenda – it’s not about you! Don’t hijack the conversation!
· Listen to understand your partner and not to solve their problem
· Ask open ended questions to learn more about how your partner feels or thinks
· Express genuine interest in your partner’s world and express empathy or admiration
· Take turns in sharing and listening so both of you can be heard. Start with 5 minutes each.
3. Set Aside Time for Dates - A weekly date builds on the emotional intimacy created from getting bids right and from daily “Events of the Day Discussions”. As emotional intimacy grows, the desire to spend more physical time together grows too. Who wouldn’t want to be with someone who travels along in their daily world? There’s so much to talk about when you follow the road map of the inner landscape of your partner. Need some help? No problem. The Gottman’s latest book “Eight Dates” guides you through eight important dates that help you travel more intimately with your partner on this journey through life. Or just have some fun together experiencing new experiences along the way.
4. Prevent everyday low-level irritability – So you’re going along fine on this journey of connecting with your partner – with getting on the same path together – of closing the gap that has formed between you. Things seem to be going fine, then you feel tension. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the problem is within you or if it is coming from your partner, but you notice the grumpiness, irritability, disappointment, or annoyance. It’s easy to just not say anything and hope it goes away, not risk upsetting your partner, or start pulling away yourself in small ways. Well that’s how the distance started forming in the past so you’re not going to allow that to happen this time. After all, you’re working on changing your relationship - so you take a deep breath and just ask “Are we okay?” If it’s you that’s pulling away, invite your partner to help you – it’s your need after all. So instead of criticizing or complaining, you can change your relationship by asking for help to meet the need you are having. Perhaps your feelings are hurt because your partner didn’t come to bed with you the night before. So instead of complaining, state a positive need. “I missed having you next to me in bed last night. I like drifting off to sleep with you beside me”. It’s an invitation to connect that let’s your partner know your needs. If your partner is pulling away, be willing to hear why, try to understand, and repair or clarify something if you are asked to do so. Take action when distance forms and you’ll head off conflict down the road.
5. Maintain positive thoughts when you are apart – It’s easy to compartmentalize our world leaving our partner out of our thoughts during the course of our day. It’s like we take a side road to work and then merge back into the main road of life with our partner at the end-of-the-day. You’ve taken the same side road for years so it is a new concept to consider intentional “rest stops” throughout the course of the day to think about your partner in loving, kind ways. It can include having a picture of your partner on your desk that you just look at with a smile, a screen saver on your phone, or a playlist that includes songs that may you smile or laugh over a memory of your partner. These loving thoughts help you cherish your partner and stay intimately connected during the day to bring a loving attitude to the “Events of the Day Discussion” you know you’ll have when you get home (or commute from the office to the kitchen! ) tonight.
Start using these 5 Ways to Change Your Relationship Right Now and see how it works. No use wandering around lost. It’s a great road map to finding your way back to your partner’s heart.
Need help with the process? No problem. Call today or make an appointment here.
Dianne Presley, LCSW, BC-TMH
Believe, Hope, Inspire Wellness Services LLC
Anxiety, Depression, Loss and Relationship Therapy
Gottman Level 1 and Level 2 Trained Couples Method Therapist
Gottman Trained in Traumas and Affairs and in Couples in Addiction
Gottman Educator in 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work and Bringing Baby Home
Certified Brain Based Success Coach