Updated: Jun 3
This is a pretty crazy time, right? Everything’s closed. We’re working from home or not working at all. Staying 6 feet apart everywhere. Can’t go to the gym, out to dinner, to the ballpark. Let’s face it. Our lives have been upended in a major way. So how do we keep ourselves sane, not to mention live with others who are grieving this major loss of identity, of friendships, of access to the world? Well, here’s four things that Drs. John & Julie Gottman say helps couples co-exist with less conflict and even deepen our emotional intimacy through tough times.
Listen to Understand – We’re really terrible listeners. You all know how it is. We listen to get just enough of a topic idea to hijack the conversation and steer it in a direction that’s totally about us. Let’s stop, take a breath, and really listen to understand what our partner is saying.
Be Gentle – When we talk to our partners and family, way too often we don’t filter our words well. Maybe because we feel like home is the one place, or our partner is the one person, that we can just relax and be ourselves around. The problem is our words wound. We say things to family that we would never say to others. Remember to be gentle with your words. It avoids having to repair what went wrong later.
Remember you are best friends - One way to stay gentle is to remember that your partner is your best friend. Drs. John & Julie Gottman’s teach us that knowing each other well and treating each other like friends keeps conflict to a minimum. That same phrase you heard when you were kids “just be nice” still applies. Be friendly, do things for each other just because you are asked, say thank you. It is harder to argue when friendship is strong.
Repair When You Are Wrong - Friends talk about things and make wrongs right. Gottman’s tell us that repairing a wrong we have committed is a big part of living in harmony with others. Instead of giving a hundred excuses or trying to defend yourself, just agree that you had a part to play and apologize. It’s hard to argue with someone agrees that they messed up. Repairs can be simple. Phrases like “Can I take that back”, “Let me say that differently”, and “You’re right. I’m sorry” and can change the whole course of a disagreement. The key is to avoid wasted time on meaningless banter that often began over something very insignificant. Conserving our energy in this stressful time will help us have the reserve we need to handle tougher things down the line. And it keeps the friendship strong.
So remember this - This season will pass. What remains is our families and the memories of how we weathered the crisis together. Remember COVID-19 in a way that builds emotional intimacy and deepens friendship with the most important person in your life. It’s like this:
C – Consider the needs of your partner
O - Offer understanding
V - Validate feelings
I – Intentionally listen
D – Deepen your friendship daily
We’ll get through this. If you need more information on how you can build emotional closeness and reduce conflict, just give me a call today at 850.450.7223.
Dianne Presley, LCSW, Board Certified Telemental Health Provider
Believe, Hope, Inspire Wellness Services LLC
Anxiety, Depression, Grief & Loss, and Relationship Therapy
Gottman Level 1 and Level 2 Trained Couples Method Therapist
Gottman Trained in Affairs & Traumas and in Couples & Addiction Recovery
Gottman Educator in 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work and Bringing Baby Home
Certified Brain Based Success Coach