John M. Gottman is a professor of psychology at the University of Washington. He has spent his life doing comprehensive studies on what makes a healthy marriage. He offers relationship advice to save your marriage.
Enhance Your Love Maps
Happy couples are familiar with each other’s world. They have a love map of one another. They know all the details about their partner’s life. They know each other’s favorite TV show. What their current goals are and what stresses them out. Without a love map you can’t really know your spouse and if you don’t really know someone how can you truly love them. To enhance your love Maps find out what you don’t know about your partner by asking questions. Here are some examples who we are partners’ best friends and who are the relatives whom your partner likes the least. What is your partner’s basic life philosophy. Are you familiar with your partners hopes and aspirations. It can be easy to lose sight of your love maps. Amongst the events in life that require your attention such as work family issues and other things but for a healthy relationship it is essential that you know each other’s love Maps.
Nurture Your Fondness & Admiration
This is perhaps the most important principle of all so pay attention. To nurture your fondness and admiration, for each other is to have a positive view of each other. A couple can find out their current level of fondness and admiration by seeing how they view their past. If they view it in a positive light then they are likely to have a bright future. If they view it in a negative light then they are in trouble. To nurture your fondness and admiration Gottman stresses that appreciation is essential. Write down three or more of your partner’s positive characteristics along with an incident that illustrates each quality, then read your list to each other for example if your partner did something as simple as doing the dishes instead of you show your appreciation by thanking them for their kindness.
Turn Toward Each Other Instead Of Away
It’s a little things that count to be a happy couple. Turn towards each other by showing you care you can do this. Through small acts of giving your partner your full attention. Play a board game together, shop for groceries or call each other during the day. These small acts are the basis of connection and passion. When stress and conflict comes in the way of happy couples, they will have more positivity in what Gottman calls their emotional bank accounts which will help alleviate their conflicts.
Let Your Partner Influence You
Happy couples work as a team and consider each other’s feelings and perspectives. They listen to each other and make decisions together by searching out common grounds in them. Gottman identified that men are more likely than women to ignore their partner’s perspective. When tackling problems together they exert too much power and must be open to being influenced by their partner’s perspective. If they are to improve their relationship then it’s not always the men. Though the same message applies to women as well for example if you want to spend $10,000 on a new car and your partner wants to spend it on a holiday then take a deep breath and listen to each other. Show empathy don’t criticize and really think about your partner’s viewpoint.
Solve Your Solvable Problems
Gottman identifies two types of problems in relationships: solvable problems and perpetual problems. It can be hard to tell the difference but one way to tell is that solvable problems seem less intense and gut-wrenching than perpetual ones. Solvable problems are situational and there’s no underlying conflict. An example of a solvable problem is: Bill and Sally agree that it’s Bills job to take out the trash every evening after dinner but lately he’s been distracted from work obligations and so he forgets. Either Sally ends up taking out herself or the trash just sits there. In the morning the apartment smells horrible and so Sally is angry. This is a solvable problem. He is simply under a lot of stress at work and it has nothing to do with the underlying relationship issues. One possible solution is to put a sign on the fridge door as a reminder to take out the trash. Here are five steps to solve a solvable problem: 1. Soften your start up when bringing up an issue. Be calm kind and don’t criticize. 2. Make and receive repair attempts when the argument is getting out of hand. Let your partner know and suggest taking a break. 3. Soothe yourself and each other on your break. Go for a walk, listen to some music, read or meditate. 4. For compromising consider each other’s viewpoints to come up with a solution that works for both of you. 5. Be tolerant of each other’s faults, if there are incidents in the past that come up in arguments identify them and discuss them and apologize when necessary.
So what about perpetual problems. Well here’s an example of one, Susan wants to spend less time with Jim and more time with her friends. Jim says it makes him feel lonely Susan says she needs time away from him. Jim seems needy to her and she’s feeling suffocated by him. This is a perpetual problem there is a core difference in their personalities and what they need from each other is to feel connected. The difference is unlikely to change so they will have to be willing to accept and adapt to if they want their relationship to thrive.
Gridlock is a result of perpetual disagreements where both partners have entirely different beliefs dreams or personalities. Josie wants to have children but Harry doesn’t. Ben wants Sally to go to church with him but Sally is an atheist. Gottman claims these issues are unlikely to be solved, but you can learn to accept and adapt to your differences. Identify and respect each other’s dreams and beliefs. You don’t have to agree with them but acknowledge lesson and show respect to what your partner has to say. Come up with a temporary compromise and thank each other .
Create Shared Meaning
Shared meaning will enhance your marriage by bringing you together. Here are two ways you can create shared meaning: 1. Create rituals of connection. This could be anything that brings you together. That you do on a regular basis such as sharing a morning routine or celebrating Easter each year or by going out as a family or eating out together once a week. 2. Work towards a common goal such as helping the community through volunteer work or building a houseboat and now you don’t have to go building a houseboat but it can be any goal that you both agree on that involves both of you.
“We move in response to our conversation partner’s face, and our brain also fires as we move those muscles and stirs the passions. Paralyzing the face is idiotic.”
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Also published on Medium.