John Gottman

Have You Checked In With Your Partner or Spouse Today?

Do you and your partner or spouse find it easy to talk to each other, even about the smallest things in your lives? If so, you’re most likely in a healthy place in your marriage or relationship. If not, this can be a warning sign that you may be disconnected from each other, a danger sign that can lead to separation or divorce, without making a change in your relationship. Especially in today’s world of constant distractions, it is easy for all of us to focus on the inbox of our emails instead of stopping to take the time to connect with our partner or spouse, even in small ways.

A simple example of how you want things to could be that when you ask your partner or spouse if you need more soap for the bathroom, she or he responds by saying, “I’m not sure, but I’ll grab some anyway.” This is a moment when your partner anticipates your needs, reinforcing your belief that he or she is there for you. This may seem like a small, unimportant moment, though the reality is, this can be a sign of a relationship thriving, or of a relationship in serious distress.

Even a Text Can Make a Difference

If you know your spouse or partner has a stressful day coming up at work, do you pause and take a moment during the day to either text him or her, or better yet leave a voicemail to let him or her know that you’re thinking of him or her, and expressing words of support? If you do this, you are choosing to support your marriage or relationship in a way that strengthens your emotional connection.

When you try to engage with your partner every day, even in small ways, you’ll keep your marriage or relationship strong, and be more likely to weather storms between the two of you. When you’re not engaging in these small moments, most likely it is either because you’re simply not thinking about it, getting distracted by something, or because your partner or spouse has hurt you, and you’re distancing yourself from him or her to not get hurt more.

Do You Have a Relationship Injury that Needs to Be Healed?

 

Part of the work we do with marriage and couples counseling and therapy in NYC at the Loving at Your Best Plan is to help couples who have experienced significant loss or betrayal with each other work through these injuries and help them heal the wounds. Engaging in emotionally focused therapy with a schema therapy foundation, we help identify the sensitivities in relationships and give couples a way to feel safe with each other again, rebuilding trust in the marriage or relationship. When these injuries heal, couples find it much easier to engage in these small moments with each other that help you know that you’re not alone in the world—that your partner or spouse has your back.

4 Steps to Help Your Marriage or Relationship

  1. Every day, create moments with your partner or spouse to engage with him or her, even in small ways
  2. Know the signs of a healthy relationship: happy couples notice almost all of the positive things their partner or spouse does for them, while unhappy couples underestimate their partner’s thoughtfulness by 50%, according to John Gottman, PhD of the Gottman Institute, the creator of Gottman Method Couples Therapy.
  3. Tell your partner or spouse at least 5 things you would like to have in your relationship to feel closer to him or her
  4. Help each other to meet each other’s requests

Share Your Experiences

Have you found that it is hard to engage with your partner or spouse in small ways? Do you know what is getting in your way? Have you been able to work through this challenge, and improve your emotional connection? Share your experiences in the comment section. 

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One Key to Succeed at Having a Miserable Relationship

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Who makes the decisions in your marriage or relationship? Do you honor and respect each others’ feelings and opinions? Do you or your partner or spouse feel more like a passenger than a driver? Especially with men, if they allow women to influence them, their relationships are much happier and much less likely to lead to separation or divorce. Probably because of a mix of factors, including socialization and perhaps biological differences, women usually allow their partners to influence them, even when their relationship is in distress. It doesn’t mean that both women and men can't get stuck in negative patterns together, but it is much more likely that women will take their partner’s feelings and opinions into account. In unhealthy marriages or relationships, it’s much more difficult for men to do the same.

Do You Have to Lose Yourself in Your Relationship?

Accepting influence from your partner or spouse doesn’t mean giving up your own opinions or feelings. A key factor is to respect your partner or spouse, and share decision making with each other as equally as possible. Even when you disagree, search for common ground and try to understand the emotions and most importantly the meaning behind what your partner or spouse feels or thinks.

A challenge in male/female relationships is that men can easily escalate negativity in the relationship, instead of matching or decreasing the negativity. Usually this occurs through what John Gottman calls the four horsemen that destroy relationships: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. When even one of the four horsemen occurs, most likely influence is being pushed away. If you use one of the horsemen to increase negativity between you and your partner or spouse, you are significantly increasing the likelihood that your marriage or relationship could end in disaster without an intervention, such as marriage and couples counseling and therapy.

What to Remember

  • If you resist influence from your partner or spouse, you are four times more likely to have an unhappy marriage or relationship
  • If you accept influence from your partner or spouse, he or she is much more likely to not be critical or contemptuous toward you when a conflict occurs
  • When you accept influence, you’re much more likely to feel a deeper emotional connection with each other
  • If you feel you are always right, you’re much more likely to have a contemptuous attitude toward your partner or spouse
  • The more influence you’re willing to accept from your partner or spouse, the more influence he or she will accept from you

You can read more about accepting influence from your partner or spouse in John Gottman’s “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.” Gottman Method Couples Therapy is part of the Loving at Your Best Plan for marriage and couples counseling and therapy in NYC.

Share Your Experience

Do you find it challenging to accept influence from your partner or spouse? Do certain issues in your marriage or relationship occur that are so upsetting that it’s hard to yield and see what the meaning of the issues are for your partner or spouse? Have you worked through some of these challenges in your relationship, and found some resources to help you succeed? Are the roles reversed in your relationship, where the female partner can sometimes find it challenging to accept influence? Share your experiences in the comment section below.

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