Couples often wait until their problems are quite severe before considering couple’s therapy. The strategies presented here are not only important for relationships in crisis but can be invaluable in repairing smaller conflicts or dissatisfactions. According to research based on repeated interviews and observations of thousands of couples, John Gottman, PhD has defined several strategies and tools to transform your marriage or relationship.
- Develop patterns of interaction that strengthen your relationship. For example, learn how to talk about a problem gently, without criticizing your partner and how to deescalate negative feelings during a difficult interaction with an apology, a smile, or a touch of humor that breaks the tension.
- Recognize and modify damaging patterns of interaction in your relationship. For example, learn how to avoid global attacks on your partner’s character or personality when expressing dissatisfaction and to minimize defensiveness, anger and stonewalling when responding to a partner’s complaint.
- Learn to share responsibility for the problem rather than blame the problem on your partner.
- Notice your partner’s positive actions and tell them you appreciate what they are bringing to the relationship.
- Learn how to identify and respond to the underlying longing in your partner’s complaints rather than getting into a pattern of attacking and counter-attacking.
- Prevent issues of perpetual conflict such as differences in emotional expression, attitudes toward finances, togetherness and independence, or sex and intimacy from becoming gridlocked. Address these issues by making conversation the goal rather than finding the perfect solution, by recognizing there are no right or wrong answers and accepting you can live with the conflict peacefully even if it is never resolved.
- Build connection in your relationship by scheduling weekly two hour “dates” away from your children to talk privately or an overnight getaway a few times a year when possible.
- Consider taking up a regular activity you both enjoy or begin a project you can work on together.
- Regularly update your knowledge of your partner’s life history, daily routines, values, likes and dislikes. Recognize that as our lives progress, we often change how we view ourselves, our priorities or our place in the world. Couples who maintain accurate information about their partner report greater happiness in their relationships and manage stressful
life events better.