Personality problems don’t ruin a marriage, common interests don’t necessarily keep couples together, and no, men and women aren’t from different planets. Dr. John Gottman’s research gives insight into the ineffectiveness of popular, quick-fix methods for repairing and strengthening your relationship. Let’s take it one step further by providing you with the skills and tools to put debunked myths to the test in your relationship.
Practice the following “Love Map building” activities with your partner, paying particular attention to their answers. Don’t just be a good listener. Remember what your partner tells you. When you work on your Love Maps with your partner, getting to know their inner psychological world, the responses that they give not only help you to stay connected, but they strengthen your emotional connection as well. Here are some fun “Love Map building” exercises for you and your partner to try this weekend:
- Communicating using only active listening skills when attempting to reach conflict resolution will not save your relationship, and regardless of your usual argumentative style, showing your partner the warmth and love that you feel for them naturally will lead you to better resolve your differences. In a caring and affectionate manner, ask your partner how they feel about the way that the two of you approach conflict resolution and discuss your own feelings with them. Having this conversation should help the two of you to better understand each other the next time you disagree.
- Think of an area that you and your mate have had conflict over recently. Ask them why they feel the way that they do, and share the deeper desires, hopes, and dreams underlying your own position. Reaching out to each other with care and fondness will help you to better understand what moves each of you in this area of conflict, and to become closer to each other in general.
- Talk to your partner about the good times you’ve had together, about activities they enjoy sharing with you, and the activities they prefer to engage in on their own. Share your own preferences as well! Coming to a mutual understanding of each other’s needs will allow you to avoid unnecessary tensions and increase the mutual enjoyment of each other’s company.
- Remember that avoiding some small conflicts will not ruin your marriage. If you feel the tension building between the two of you, take a break and do something enjoyable and relaxing for yourself. Go on a run, take the kids down to the park, or start a new book.
- Marriage should not be a chore or an economic exchange. Think about the times your partner has really been there for you, and about the times you’ve enjoyed the most in your relationship. Talk to your partner about the things each of you enjoys giving one another and free your relationship of quid pro quo. If your partner loves massages, show your affection by surprising them with a massage when they come home complaining about a frustrating day at work. Play around and be creative!
These exercises are designed to help you to build a trusting and loving relationship by strengthening your friendship with your partner. Again, these conversations are not meant to lead to conclusive resolution. A marriage is a work in progress! For more exercises like these, check out Loving Out Loud from the Gottman Relationship Coach.