As we described in a previous blog posting on The Three Boxes this summer, Negative Sentiment Override will cause your relationship to slide slowly but surely into a valley of darkness. You can read more about this movement out of “The Nice Box,” through “The Neutral Box,” and finally into “The Nasty Box” here.

If you feel that you are experiencing Negative Sentiment Override, do not be alarmed! This does not necessarily spell doom for your relationship. Our research has allowed us to devise tools for combating NSO, the findings of which have helped thousands of couples find their way back to a positive view of their partners and stabilize their relationship! You can find a great number of these tools in Dr. Gottman’s books, such as The Seven Principles for Making Marriage WorkThe Relationship Cure, and What Makes Love Last!

We would like to share one of these tools with you today. Below you will find one of the many exercises Dr. Gottman has designed to help you work towards Positive Sentiment Override from The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. When you and your partner have free time, follow these instructions:

Exercise: I Appreciate…

From the list below, choose three items that you think are characteristic of your partner. If there are more than three, still circle just three (you can choose another three if you decide to do this exercise again.) Even if you can recall only one instance when your partner displayed this characteristic, you can circle it.

Loving, Sensitive, Brave, Intelligent, Thoughtful, Generous, Loyal, Truthful, Strong, Energetic, Sexy, Decisive, Creative, Imaginative, Fun, Attractive, Interesting, Supportive, Funny, Considerate, Affectionate, Organized, Resourceful, Athletic, Cheerful, Coordinated, Graceful, Elegant, Gracious, Playful, Caring, A great friend, Exciting, Full of plans, Shy, Vulnerable, Committed, Involved, Expressive, Active, Careful, Reserved, Adventurous, Receptive, Reliable, Responsible, Dependable, Nurturing, Warm, Virile, Kind, Gentle, Practical, Lusty, Witty, Relaxed, Beautiful, Handsome, Rich, Calm, Lively, A great partner, A great parent, Assertive, Protective, Sweet, Tender, Powerful, Flexible, Understanding, Totally silly…

For each item you chose, briefly think of an actual incident that illustrates this characteristic of your partner. Write about it in your notebook or journal as follows:

1. Characteristic ___________________________________________

Incident: ___________________________________________

2. Characteristic ___________________________________________

Incident: ___________________________________________

3. Characteristic ___________________________________________

Incident: ___________________________________________

Now share your list with your partner! Let him or her know what it is about these traits that you value so highly. Build your Emotional Bank Account! Wash behind your ears! Have a great weekend!

More in The Archives
Weekend Homework Assignment: Build a Culture of Appreciation

Ellie Lisitsa is a staff writer at The Gottman Institute and a regular contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog. Ellie is pursuing her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on Cognitive Dissonance at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.