One of the most common things I hear my couples express is not having a enough time together just the two of them. With our incredibly busy schedules with work, kids, time spent in traffic, time with family/friends, etc…prioritizing time with your partner can easily fall by the wayside.
More importantly, couples I see often don’t realize the importance of setting aside time each week to connect and communicate. By the time couples come into my office, they are filled with resentment and frustration towards their partner without realizing they need to put in the time in order to keep their partnership happier and more fulfilling.
Dr. John Gottman, the quintessential leader in research on couples and making love last, has a prescription for a better marriage: devote 6 hours a week for you and your partner.
According to his research, this leads to more positive interactions, a feeling of more connectedness and a significant decrease in toxic feelings of resentment towards our partner.
Here are what successful couples do on a regular basis that greatly improve the quality of their marriage/partnership:
I know. It sounds cliché. However, this one is important. It is easy for couples to fall into talking about the day-to-day issues and shared responsibilities (house, chores, expenses, kids, you name it). Take time to go out to dinner just the two of you and ask open-ended questions such as “If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?” “What do you want to accomplish over the next year in your career?” “What was your favorite thing you did today?”
Most importantly, relax and enjoy one another’s company. And, if you can, keep stressful topics off limits.
There cannot be a simpler yet more impactful phrase than “Thank you.” Even small interactions throughout the week can add up to a lot and cultivates a culture of appreciation and respect.
Think of how we are with friends and co-workers, we often don’t think twice about thanking them when they offer help or pitch in. Provide the same courtesy to your partner in a genuine and thoughtful way. Doing this creates a significant impact to your relationship with minimal time and effort.
STATE OF THE UNION CONVERSATIONS:
This one is vital and can prevent toxic resentment in your relationship. Create a dedicated space to discuss conflict where you can express worries, concerns, times when you felt upset or triggered or times when you felt your needs were not met.
By doing this once/week, you create a built-in mechanism for airing out any issues that have come up in your relationship. I go with the adage: communicate early, communicate often!
Of course, there are a few groundrules. As the speaker, use gentle start-ups that avoid triggering your partner. Use “I” statements and try to avoid "you" statements, as this can come across as blaming. As the listener, try to truly understand what your partner is saying without judgment. If you get defensive or flooded, take a 20-minute break and return to the conversation.
Start by talking about what has gone well in your relationship since the last meeting. Next, give each other five appreciations you haven’t yet expressed. Try to be specific and include examples. Now, discuss any issues that may have arisen in the relationship. To make the conversation effective, take turns being the speaker and the listener. I would recommend repeating back what you heard your partner express to ensure understanding.
After both partners feel understood and heard by each other, identify what the problem is and, if you can, work on a mutually-agreed upon solution.
At the end of the conversation, each partner needs to ask and answer, “What can I do to make you feel loved this coming week?”
By incorporating these items into your weekly routine, you provide your relationship the time and attention it needs to thrive!