The desire to improve your relationship is important for the mental health of couples. Hardly a human being alive couldn’t benefit from these helpful tips for healthy and happy relationships based on the research of John Gottman Ph,D. Let’s start, shall we?
NUMBER ONE: Start a discussion with a soft start-up. In other words, be calm and not critical. Criticism will usually be met with defensiveness leading to raised voices and physiological arousal.
NUMBER TWO: Make it a point to see the less serious side of life – laughter has great benefits. Schedule some fun – for example, explore your area or places you can go for a day trip. Play at being a tourist.
NUMBER THREE: Try to see the world through your partner’s eyes. Sometimes small efforts at seeing a different perspective can be very successful. Don’t fight to be right. A win/lose mentality leads to more aggravation and distance. Even if you believe you are 100% correct, find something in your partner’s viewpoint that you can agree with.
NUMBER FOUR: Make time for conversation where you have each other’s full attention. This means no screens! Couples are spending less time together because of social media activity. Implement a no phone at dinner policy.
John Gottman collaborated with Diane Sawyer on a documentary that followed a family looking at their use of
screens. Although in the same room they were each in their own world. The dog was roaming around looking for attention!
NUMBER FIVE: Improve your listening skills. When your partner is speaking try to pay close attention to not only the words but the emotion as well. Too often we are thinking about how we want to reply.
NUMBER SIX: Stay engaged. John Gottman describes 4 negative types of communication as the “4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse”. In addition to criticism and defensiveness, they are contempt and stonewalling, Stonewalling or refusing to engage is found to be infuriating by most people. Contempt is corrosive and a symptom of a failing relationship.
NUMBER SEVEN: Always lean to the positive side. About that positive to negative ratio, Gottman’s research found that successful couples had far more positive interactions than negative ones. He also discovered that a tipping point can be reached where the whole relationship is viewed in a negative light. Such couples will not have anything good to say about any of their time together. Even positive actions are given a negative slant. The term for this is negative sentiment override. So make an effort to look for the positive.
NUMBER EIGHT: And lastly never assume. When we try to guess we are often wrong! Besides, you know what they say about A-S-S-U-M-E… Always ask for clarification. Paraphrase what you have heard or describe your interpretation of what you have experienced to make sure you truly understand what was intended.
All of the above will help move you to a safe place characterized by a relationship that is calm, trusting and committed.
If you would like to see John Gottman talk about his research that has led to these findings I recommend a Ted x talk on You Tube, “The Science of Love – Venice”. See below!
The Sound Relationship House is an online tool that I use with my couple clients. If you wish to improve your relationship, you might wish to use it as well. Developed by John Gottman, it provides an excellent analysis of both strengths and weaknesses in a relationship, highlighting important issues quickly.
If you would like to know more about how to improve your relationship, do give me a call at (941) 306-1235.