Welcome to Small Things Often,
a new podcast from The Gottman Institute


Successful long-term relationships are created through small words, small gestures, and small acts. Every Monday and Wednesday morning, we’ll talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in five minutes or less.

Small Things Often is an invitation to think small. It could make a big difference.

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Say What You Need
Cut the criticism and say what you need! This episode of Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute shares tips about how to communicate positive needs in your relationship instead of playing the blame game.

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about saying what you need.

Sounds simple, right? But communicating what you need to a loved one, doesn’t always come out the way you intended it to. Let’s say you just got into a heated argument with your partner. They accused you of working too much and not making them enough of a priority. And as they’re talking, all you can think about is everything that they’re doing wrong in this situation. Maybe their approach was horrible and the timing is awful, and their whole way about it made you just feel bad. But this is where you need to shift perspectives. Instead of saying what your partner is doing wrong, talk about what you need — to make things better.

That means avoiding criticism and blame. You can do that by talking about your feelings using “I” statements. Like, “I feel this emotion.” And express a positive need, by saying “I need this from you.”

By using that language, you’re expressing what you need — and not what you don’t need. It’s saying “I need you to support me” instead of “I don’t need you to tell me what to do.” Hear the difference? The latter is much more negative.

Here’s the silver lining! Within every negative feeling, there’s a longing, a wish, or a need. So communicate what that is! It’s your recipe for success so your loved ones can fulfill your needs in the relationship. We’re willing to bet, you’ll want to return the favor.

It’s a small thing that you can do often to make a big difference. Small Things Often isn’t just the name of this series. It’s our mantra! Always make time to do Small Things Often to deepen and enhance your relationships. Not just with your partner, but with anyone you love! Tools like the ones we’ve given you in this series can help navigate a course of action that can encourage healthy, positive communication.

We’re leaving you with today’s small thing: What is one thing that you need right now in one of your relationships? Express it to them in a positive way!

Thanks for listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute — helping you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships. Please let us know what you think of this series in reviews on Spotify and iTunes. Tell us what resonated with you, what topics you’d like for us to cover, and what you want more of!

What Does Compatibility Really Mean?
Do you think in order to be compatible with your partner you have to share certain interests, values or goals? Think again. On this Episode of Small Things Often, we explore what it truly means to be compatible. 

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about compatibility.

Oh, my God. You are over the moon! You think you’ve found the love of your life. You met them through a dating site that asked you a million questions about your likes and dislikes, your interests, values, and goals —and after a bunch of horrible first dates, you’ve finally found your perfect match! They take hot yoga three times a week – just like you do – they love long meandering road trips to nowhere – just like you do – and they’re even into extreme couponing! I mean, come on! How many people are into that? I mean, you’re so compatible?! Right?

Okay, whoa whoa… 

Sure! It’s important to get a sense of common interests, values, and goals in relationships…but it’s not the only thing that determines if you click with someone. Research shows that the true indicators of compatibility are related to emotional intelligence —our ability to control and express our emotions, as well as to handle our relationships with empathy.

So rather than finding someone who is “just like you,” look for someone with “relationship aptitude.” Someone who shows respect for you both in the way they communicate – and in their actions. And at the same time, they’re able to let you know what their own needs are – but they deeply care about yours, too. And, very importantly, they’re able to sustain intimacy and trust.

So enjoy your long rides, your hot yoga classes, and extreme couponing together. But don’t forget to treat each other with respect, validation, and kindness. That’s what leads to true compatibility.

Today’s small thing: Take a look at your own life and find ways you can improve your relationship aptitude — and really appreciate the good things you share in your relationship.

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often for another quick tip from The Gottman Institute — helping you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships.

The Grass is Greener Where You Water it
We’re getting the negativity out of your relationship! In this episode of Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, we’re shifting perspectives to prove the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about perspective.

You know that saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side”? Well, spoiler alert. It’s not true. At. All. At least, when it comes to your relationships.

When your relationship is in a bad place, it can be easy to dream or fantasize about what life would be like… being in another relationship with someone else…and how different your life could be with this new partner. Maybe their parents would like spending time with you… Or maybe you would be able to travel more… It’s easy to get carried away with how things could be better or different or perfect with a new person because we realize real relationships aren’t perfect. 

But instead of wondering what could be better, take a deep breath, and do the opposite! View your relationship with rose-colored glasses. Pour as much positivity into your relationship as you can. It helps to form what we call, the positive perspective. Does your spouse make you laugh until your face hurts? Does your friend give the best advice? Remember these moments! Cherish your loved one and what you both have together. When you have that mindset, it’s much easier to deal with any negativity in your relationship.

With that said, just because you have rose-colored glasses on… it doesn’t mean that everything is going to be roses, rainbows, and butterflies, or whatever. Obviously, there will still be bumps in the road. But if you remind yourself about the good things in your relationship, you won’t be as hung up on the tough stuff.

Remember, the grass isn’t greener somewhere else. The grass is greener where you water it.

Here’s today’s small thing: Make a list of the positive things — all of the things that you love — about your relationship with a loved one. And then share it with them!

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often for another quick tip from The Gottman Institute — helping you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships.

Change the Metric
How do you measure success in your relationship? If your goal is perfection, you’re setting yourself up for heartache. In this episode of Small Things Often, find out how the happiest relationships measure their success.

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about changing your relationship’s success metric. What does that mean? 

Simply this: How do you measure success in your relationship? Are you and your partner the type of people that expect perfection – no arguments, no conflict, no problems, no mistakes, just living a perfectly serene life, stress-free day after stress-free day? Well, then you might as well be a robot. No, I take that back. Even Siri and Alexa make mistakes sometimes. I mean, ever punch in a location on your smartphone for that new French restaurant you’ve been dying to try— and ended up at a weird karaoke bar on the other side of town? It happens. But I digress.

Point is – if you expect perfection of your partner and your relationship, you’re bound to be disappointed. Because nobody – and no relationship — can live up to that ideal. Not to say that you shouldn’t maintain high expectations for how you’re treated — but, otherwise, you may want to change the metric for your relationship’s success. How? Instead of striving for it to be perfect and conflict-free – measure your success by asking yourself these questions:

Was I kind to my partner today?

Did we treat each other with respect?

Can we trust each other?

Are we friends?

Were we able to repair any conflict that arose?

Answering “yes” to these simple, but really, really important questions are the best indicators of your relationship’s success. So every day, be mindful to show your partner kindness, love, affection and respect – and let go of the perfection thing. Leave that goal to the robots.

Today’s small thing: Take a good look at how you measure the success of your relationship—and let go of impossible goals of perfection. Remember that conflict is healthy because it leads to greater understanding.

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often for another quick tip from The Gottman Institute — helping you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships.

Facts Over Myths
There are some “facts” about relationships, that maybe you’ve always believed, that just aren’t true. On this episode of Small Things Often, we use decades of research to bust 5 of the most common relationship myths.

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about some common relationship myths.

Because, hey, I bet you’ve gotten a bunch of advice about relationships your whole life – words of wisdom or clichés that maybe were passed down to you from your parents —or given to you from well-meaning friends when you were going through a relationship crisis. I mean, they were just trying to be helpful, right? Well, after decades of researching couples, the Gottman Institute put some of these so-called relationship “facts” under the microscope — and here’s what we found: a bunch of them are myths. And here’s five of them – busted!

Let’s start with the first myth: Common interests keep you together. Sorry but nope. Not true. I mean, almost every dating site matches couples based on shared activities. And, okay, it’s a start, for sure. But the important thing is not what you do together – but how you interact while doing it! If you both love horseback riding, but one of you constantly criticizes or belittles the other on how they sit in the saddle, well, that’s a clue that your relationship might be in trouble.

Oh, and I’m sure you’ve heard the advice “Never go to bed angry.” We disagree. This advice pushes couples to solve their problems right away, no matter how they’re feeling. If you’re flooded with emotion during a discussion with your partner — then it’s a good idea to sleep on it – and then talk about it in the morning.

What about this one? Couples Therapy is for fixing a broken relationship. Again, not true. Of course, therapy can help resolve certain serious issues that come up – but couples therapy is more effective as a preventative measure— giving you the tools you need to maintain a close, loving relationship.

Another relationship myth thrown around is Affairs are the main cause of divorce. This is absolutely false. While it’s true that an affair can destroy the trust between two people, the cause of the divorce is not the affair – but what occurred before the affair even happened. And that’s probably because you grew apart. In fact, a study found that 80% of divorced men and women said that growing apart was the main reason their relationship ended in divorce.

And finally, our last myth: “Relationships need to be fair.” Ah, no. Keeping score of what each of you do or don’t do can lead to resentment, criticism, and contempt. Instead, act in kind loving ways, and appreciate each other. Deal making and contracts have no place in strong, loving relationships.

Today’s small thing: Question all the advice you’ve ever received regarding relationships. Be a myth-buster! Learn the facts—and transform your relationships for the better.

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often for another quick tip from The Gottman Institute — helping you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships.

Intimacy through Self-Disclosure
Do you keep a lot about yourself to yourself? Self-disclosure to your partner — revealing your most authentic self about how you think and how you feel — can have an enormously positive impact on your relationship. On today’s Small Things Often, we tell you why.

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about self-disclosure.

It’s really important to open up to your partner and reveal your most authentic self. But there are some things that are just really difficult to talk about, aren’t there? Deep things. Private things. Things you may have kept held tightly inside your whole life — about what you think, how you feel or, maybe even, who you are. Maybe it involves something from your childhood that you have never told anyone but is now impacting your life as an adult and your relationship with your partner. Or perhaps, it’s something you passionately like or dislike that you’ve never thought to share with them — but if you do, that might help your partner have a better understanding about your reactions to certain situations.

The point is that self-disclosure — really opening up about yourself to the person you love — creates intimacy. In fact, self-disclosure of emotions, rather than just facts or information, is a pretty important predictor of the best kind of intimacy in relationships. Because the more you know about how your partner feels emotionally, the more connected you may feel, and the more capable you are of being there for them — no matter what the circumstances.

So open up. Encourage your partner to do the same. Reveal your hopes, your fears, your dreams, your feelings. Show them the wonderful, unique, weird, complicated person you are, and watch trust flourish and your relationship deepen. Sure, you may be a little nervous, but you won’t be sorry.

Today’s small thing: Carve out some quiet time to talk to your partner and intentionally self-disclose. Ask questions that encourage you both to open up – and reveal feelings and thoughts you’ve never talked about.

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often for another quick tip from The Gottman Institute — helping you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships.

Emotional Triggers
We all have things that trigger us emotionally, but what can you do about it? And how do emotional triggers affect your relationships? We’ll share what to be mindful of, in this episode of Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute.

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about triggers. 

Emotional triggers that can instantly make you feel a certain way and sometimes take you to a dark place, mentally. We’ve all had experiences that can make us sensitive to certain places, events, people, sounds, words — you name it. It can be any sort of physical or psychological stimuli that “triggers” us. Some situations are unavoidable, but it’s important to understand and be mindful of what triggers you and what triggers your loved ones.

Triggers can come from your childhood, traumatic experiences, or previous relationships. A common one in relationships is cheating. If you’ve been cheated on before, it usually takes serious work to move past it. And in the aftermath, maybe you’re always on the lookout for shadiness. Are they really texting their mom? If you sense that your partner is being sketchy, it could bring back all of those old feelings. Or how about feeling abandoned by a friend? Did your friend disappear, when you needed them the most? It could take you back to when someone in your family abandoned you as a child. And now if you feel it in your relationships, it instantly takes you back to your childhood and those feelings of abandonment.

When you get triggered, maybe you get angry or upset. You could sometimes even experience anxiety attacks or the fight-or-flight response, depending on how intense the trigger is.

So what can you do about it? Talk about your emotional triggers and really be open about it with your loved ones. By doing that, you’re protecting yourself and them — and it forms a deeper, emotional understanding between you both. Because if you’re aware of each other’s triggers, you have better odds of avoiding them.

Here’s today’s small thing: Ask a loved one about their emotional triggers. What are the deep-rooted experiences that affect them today? Be mindful of their answer. And of course, share your triggers too!

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often for another quick tip from The Gottman Institute — helping you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships.

Self-Soothing
We’re calling a time out! In this episode of Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, we’re practicing self-soothing skills so you can take care of yourself and talk to your loved one with less tension.

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about self-soothing. 

We touched on this a little bit in our last episode because it can be a way to calm down when you need to pause and take a step back from a heated conversation that leads to stonewalling.

But what does it mean to self soothe? It’s all about taking care of yourself. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give your partner! You know how flight attendants say in the event of an emergency, put the oxygen mask on yourself before you help someone else? It’s a metaphor you’ve heard a million times, you know why? Because it’s so true. If you’re not okay, then how can you help someone else? And in this case, how can your relationship be okay if you’re not okay? The first step to being okay might be some “me” time to take care of yourself. When emotions are flooding during a tense conversation, this might be a time to signal to your partner that you need to hit pause so you can walk away and practice some self-soothing skills. A good time to practice these skills is when you’re calm and less distressed — so how about now?

It’s easy! Just take a deep breath and listen. Focus on the air going in and out. 

Do a body scan. Pay attention to where you feel tense in your body and breathe into those places to relax them. Start with your brow, jaw, and shoulders. You’re feeling relaxed already, right? 

Okay, great, so let’s keep going. Imagine your favorite place, your happy place, wherever you feel at ease. Yep. Jamaica — floating in the ocean with an ice cold whatever. Float far, far away from your troubles. Or maybe stay local. Maybe your home is your sanctuary. If that’s you, listen to music or watch tv in your favorite spot. Or go for a walk and get some fresh air.

There are two things that we don’t want you to do. Don’t go down the rabbit hole of thinking about what led to you being overwhelmed in the first place while you’re self-soothing and don’t rush the process. Give yourself some time to relax. There’s a scientific reason for this! It’s been proven that, physically, it takes a full 20 minutes for your body to calm down. So if your partner, friend, boss, or whoever is really anxious to continue a super tense conversation right this minute, we give you full permission to tell them that you need 20 minutes. 

And it’ll be worth it because when you can talk to your partner with less tension and stress weighing you down, you can have better and more productive conversations.

For today’s small thing: The next time you feel overwhelmed in a conversation, ask for some time to yourself to self-soothe — and practice your new skills!

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often for another quick tip from The Gottman Institute — helping you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships.

Two Sides of Stonewalling
The walls are coming down in this episode of Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute. We’re sharing the two sides of stonewalling and a solution for either side.

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about breaking down walls in your relationships. A stone wall, to be exact. 

Have you heard of stonewalling? It’s when you get into an argument and get so overwhelmed that you shut down completely and withdraw from the interaction. Sound familiar? There’s a good chance you’ve been in this situation. And when this happens, there are two sides that you need to consider.

Let’s say you and your partner got into a really heated, emotional argument. It started small — your partner complained that you spent way too much money at the grocery store. Did you really have to buy organic? It led to a whole conversation about money and how you can’t agree on how to spend it or save it for the things that matter. And now the argument isn’t so small and your emotions are flooding. You can’t even get the words out. You panic, close up like a hermit, and shut down. Your wall is up. Maybe this is your way of protecting yourself.

On the other hand, your partner may not see it that way. They could take it as you ignoring them. On purpose. These are the two sides to stonewalling. And if you’re in this situation often, it can be easy to get engrossed in these feelings, no matter what side you’re on.

So how do you break down that wall? Ask for a break. It’s easier said than done, we know. It can be hard to come up with the right words to ask for a break when you’re flooded with emotions in the middle of an argument. 

We have a solution. You and your partner should agree — ahead of time, when you’re calm, cool, and collected — on how to take a break when one of you gets overwhelmed in an argument. Like a “timeout” signal, but that could be anything. Some kind of signal, word, or phrase that both of you can use. That way, in a heated moment, you and your partner will be able to respect the need for a break. Once you take a break, take 20-30 minutes alone to calm down and self-soothe. And actually, we’ll be diving deeper into self-soothing in our next episode so stay tuned. It’s helpful because when you feel calm, you’ll be able to resume the discussion from a rational state of mind.

So this is today’s small thing: Talk to your partner about a “timeout” signal that both of you can use to pause the conversation, step away, and regroup.

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often for another quick tip from The Gottman Institute — helping you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships.

Difficult Emotions
How do you deal with emotions like anger, confusion, fear, or sadness? In this episode of Small Things Often, learn how to practice mindfulness to find calm and peace when difficult emotions arise.

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about dealing with difficult emotions.

Okay, say you’ve had a horrible day. This morning, your partner was so distant, so of course, you were silently panicking and trying to figure out if it was because of something you did or said. Then, this afternoon, your boss questioned a work-related decision you made, and you were so angry, you thought you might explode. And then later that night, you found out your dad was very ill, and you’re so scared that you might lose him. 

So how do you deal with these difficult emotions like fear, anger, confusion, and sadness—as they swirl around and around in your mind and your body till they almost consume you? How do you get your peace back?

The answer is mindfulness. Maybe you’ve heard the term before—and you get the idea of it, but don’t really know how to apply it to your life, or know the signs that it’s working. Well, when you practice mindfulness in tough situations, it will not only help you calm down and soothe yourself, but it will also give you the space to reflect—and then calmly respond to the people or events around you—rather than react.

So how do you get there? Try these six steps to deal with your emotions in a mindful way:

First: Become aware of the emotion— and identify where you sense it in your body. Is your neck tense? Is your stomach churning?

The second step is: Name the emotion. Say to yourself “This is anger” or “This is fear.”

Step 3: Accept the emotion. Don’t try to push it away — don’t deny it.

The fourth step: Realize that this emotion won’t last forever. Even if it feels overwhelming, remember that it will pass.

Step 5: Be a detective and figure out what triggered you to feel this way. Was it your boss’s comment? Your partner’s distance? Your dad’s illness?

And finally, step six: Totally let go of the need to control the emotion. Instead, be open to the outcome and what unfolds. If it’s an issue with your partner that triggered you, now that you’ve stepped outside of yourself, you can really talk to them, listen to their feelings, and what they have to say from a place of calmness.

Mindfulness is not easy. It takes time. So, be patient with yourself. You won’t get there overnight. But if you practice these steps, you’ll be on your way to finding peace when difficult emotions arise.

Today’s small thing: Next time you feel overwhelmed, take a breath — and deal with your difficult emotions in a mindful way.

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often for another quick tip from The Gottman Institute — helping you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships.

Magic Ratio
We’ve got some relationship magic for you — it’s called the 5 to 1 ratio. It’s based on extensive research and it can transform the bond between you and your partner. Find out what it is and how it works in today’s episode of Small Things Often.

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about the magic relationship ratio. Okay it’s not like magic magic. It’s what we discovered in a few decades of research with thousands of real couples. There’s a very specific ratio that makes relationships last – and flourish. Like magic. And that ratio is 5 to 1.

So here’s the magic: Lasting relationships have a ratio of 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction during a conflict conversation. So basically, during a fight with your partner there are at least 5 nice things for every 1 not-so-nice. And how you handle this ratio can mean whether you are in what we call a “master” or “disaster” relationship. Disasters fall below 5 to 1 – but masters keep the ratio 5 to 1 or greater. Fascinating, right? This is how it works…

Say you’re having a conversation with your partner about your neighbor who always parks way, way too close to your driveway. It annoys the hell out of your partner– but for whatever reason, it doesn’t bother you at all. And they’re telling you all about it, for the hundredth time, how much this angers them, how inconsiderate it is, and you reply that you don’t know what the big deal is. And they respond that it IS a big deal to them — and you roll your eyes. It’s such a tiny, subtle reaction, but it comes with a huge emotional punch.

So that eye roll is the 1 negative interaction. So now what? What’s the antidote to the eye roll? Do 5 positive things during the conversation that make your partner feel appreciated. It can be as small as making eye contact and saying “uh-huh” to show you’re really listening. Or maybe it’s a nod, a gentle reassuring touch, or perhaps even finding some moments of gentle teasing, or silliness, so you can laugh together and ease the tension. There are a million small ways to show you care, even in conflict. Pick 5. Or better yet – pick more. Go nuts.

And this magic ratio doesn’t just apply to your partner – it can be during a conflict with a co-worker, a friend, your mom, your child – anyone who’s important in your life.

So walk through your days — and nights — with the 5 to 1 ratio in your pocket. Use it generously and often—infuse your conflicts with positivity— and watch all your relationships thrive.

Today’s small thing is: Be aware of your interactions today, and note if you’re hitting the 5 to 1 ratio. If not, think of ways to inject moments of appreciation and love into those conversations. 

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often for another quick tip from The Gottman Institute — helping you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships.

Celebrate Your Partner
When was the last time you celebrated one of your partner’s successes? On this episode of Small Things Often, find out why small moments of celebration contribute to the happiness of your relationship.

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based techniques to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about celebrating your partner’s successes.

Picture this. You’re sitting in your favorite comfy chair, cup of tea by your side, reading a fantastic new spy thriller on your Kindle. You’ve just gotten to a huge plot twist in the story where the real killer might be revealed, and your heart is thumping out of your chest, and you can’t scroll through the pages fast enough. Suddenly, the front door opens and your partner bursts in, looking really excited. They just had their 6-month evaluation from their supervisor at work – and got a glowing review!

You’re happy for them – give them a quick smile and say, “That’s really great, hon!” Then turn back to your Kindle.

Sorry to say this, but you just blew a huge opportunity.

I mean, what you said wasn’t unkind or hurtful – but this news was obviously a really big deal for your partner – and your response didn’t come close to what they needed in this moment to validate their feelings on their success. Because the truth is that when one partner succeeds at something that’s important to them – a happy couple will take the time to really celebrate that success together.

So put down your Kindle. Get out of your chair. Give them a big kiss and a warm hug. Be enthusiastic! Get into it! Ask questions! Be a cheerleader! Show them that their big victory is your big victory – and that their happiness is your happiness. That you believe in them and support them. You don’t have to wait for a difficult or challenging time in your partner’s life to be there for them and show that you’re supportive. Be there for the victories, too. Show that you care.

Today’s small thing is: The next time your partner succeeds at anything large or small—they got to work on time, they made a great dinner, they saw a cute dog –celebrate the good news. It will bring you closer and strengthen your bond.

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute for another small way to help you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships every day. 

Complaints vs Criticism
Does your partner sometimes do things that annoy or upset you? Do you tell them? On this episode of Small Things Often, find out the difference between complaining and criticizing and how each could impact your relationship in a big way.

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based techniques to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about the difference between complaints and criticism. Bet you thought they were the same thing. Well, we’re here to tell you, they’re totally not. And knowing the difference can make or break a relationship.

I mean, face it, no matter how much you love and adore someone, they’re going to upset or annoy you sometimes. But how you express those feelings to your partner makes all the difference in the world. And here’s the key: Complain. Don’t criticize. Complaints are about specific issues that can lead to understanding. Criticism attacks your partner’s entire character – and leads to resentments and defensiveness. Hard concept to wrap your head around?

Say that tonight you were so looking forward to having a quiet dinner with your partner, just the two of you. But for the third night this week, they walked through the door with the phone attached to their ear – and kept taking calls during dinner, all the way through to your delicious dessert of lemon meringue pie and freshly brewed pumpkin spice coffee —which you basically ate and drank alone. And you felt the tension in your body building and building and building inside you, until you suddenly jumped out of your chair and blurted out, “You’re always on the phone! You never care about anyone but yourself!” 

That, folks, is criticism. Not only did you blame your partner – but you judged them. And here’s a red flag warning: If you’re using the words “you always” or “you never,” you can bet that you’re criticizing. Criticism usually leads to an argument that you don’t even need to have.

The positive way to handle it? Focus on one specific issue and Complain without blame. Start with what we call a “soft startup” –where you first tell your partner exactly what emotion you were feeling during dinner. Hurt and anger, am I right? Then describe the situation that caused that feeling: that your partner was on the phone through your entire delicious dinner. And then, ask for what you need to help resolve the issue. Hopefully, they’ll understand where you’re coming from, and agree to turn off the phone at dinner time. But whatever happens, you’ve opened a conversation. And that can only be good and healthy for you both.

So today’s small thing is: The next time your partner annoys you – take a breath – step back – and remember the difference between criticism and complaining. It could help save your relationship.

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute for another small way to help you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships every day. 

Intentional Choices to Connect with Your Family
Is the current coronavirus pandemic causing you to feel out-of-control, anxious, and a bit removed from family life? On this episode of Small Things Often, we show you ways to reconnect with your family in times of great stress — by being intentional in your choices and making the best out of the “new normal.”

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about making intentional choices in times of stress.

Face it. We’re living in a time of great anxiety and great uncertainty. The coronavirus pandemic has created changes in the way we live, the way we work — and in the way we connect with each other. But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. We can make the best out of this “new normal” — that feels nothing like normal — by making intentional choices to connect with our  loved ones. Right now, we have to choose to stay indoors to do our part by hunkering down until the crisis is over —both for the protection of ourselves and others. So it’s important to choose to do the things we are able to still do, and want to do, with intention – like spending quality time with our partners, roommates, kids – and those we love.

So where do you start? First, really think about the ways you and your loved ones will move through your days — rather than just trying to barrel through them unconsciously. Actually sit  down and have a conversation about it. Maybe your partner hasn’t usually been home in time to help with dinner, but now they are! Is it their turn to cook? Or maybe, if boiling water is a struggle, their time is best spent helping the kids with their new home-school studies.

But being intentional isn’t just about tasks. Talk to your loved ones about what would bring you both joy today! Or maybe it’s time to make a new tradition. Maybe make breakfast an event! Let the kids help and embrace the mess. Do they want to dance and sing while they whisk the eggs? Bring it on. Plan the coming day together! Take a family walk after dinner every evening. Or schedule a weekly family meeting where everyone can safely voice their thoughts or concerns. Be creative! Find ways to connect, understand, and appreciate each other.

Because, of all times, now is the time to lean on each other. You don’t have to pretend like staying in your house, basically 24/7, with your family is normal. But that doesn’t mean life has to stop. It just means, you may have to modify some things. Okay, so your kid can’t go to the park right now. Bring the park to them! Bust out all of the pillows, blankets, whatever, for the ultimate fort! Use this time to really be in the moment and spend some quality time together that you might not normally get.

We know that focusing on the fun things might be hard right now while you’re concerned about what’s happening in the world, but that’s why it’s also important to take care of yourself and remember that your needs are important, too. I mean, really, how can you be there for your family if your anxiety is making you feel like a hot mess? So maybe take an hour a day to shut yourself into your bedroom, and take that online Zumba or meditation class that you’ve heard so much about. Or perhaps there’s a special podcast that you’ve been dying to listen to. Hopefully it’s this one! Whatever it is — carve out time that is just for you — and bask in the glow of doing something you love. Put it on your calendar. Make it a routine. That quiet, focused time will help you tune into yourself, relax, and gain perspective. 

Here’s today’s small thing: Ask a loved one, “How are you coping? How are you doing?” Right now, a question that simple might go a long way. Maybe you’ll discover a need that you can meet! Be intentional with your time and watch your family become stronger than ever.

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often for another quick tip from The Gottman Institute — helping you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships.

Redefining Rituals
Are you around your loved ones a lot more than you’re used to right now? As the world deals with a health emergency, Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute is here to make adjusting to all this a little easier! We’ll guide you through the conversation that you can have to redefine your daily rituals.

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about redefining rituals.

Is your world a little upside down? We can relate. It’s safe to say everyone can right now. There’s a good chance that you’re homebound… quarantined… waiting for this worldwide health emergency to pass… all while practicing social distancing.

Before this all started, maybe the idea of being stuck in your house with your partner, family, roommates, or whoever — 24/7 — sounded fun! And maybe it still is — you know, between trying to find toilet paper and holding onto hand sanitizer like it’s a pot of gold. Or maybe if you’re one of the lucky ones who’s able to work from home, that excitement came to an end, when your child threw an overstuffed peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the floor, screamed “No more sandwiches!!!”, and stomped on it, a foot away from you while you were on an important video conference with your boss.

No matter where you stand, and no matter how much you love your loved ones, being around them ALL. THE. TIME. — and being in the same confined area, can be a little rough. But you know what can help? Taking a good hard look at the rituals of your day-to-day life and being intentional about what everyone in your house, including you, needs right now.

Have a conversation with them about it! It can help to establish some boundaries so that you can all happily coexist and get whatever you need, done. Here are some questions that you can ask each other: 

What can we expect from our day? How should we begin and end our workday? How can we let each other know if we’re ready to talk — or need to be alone? How can we rely on each other to connect? What does it look like to get your needs for space and privacy met? What does our time together look like? When do you plan on throwing sandwiches? Do you always stomp on them post throw? You know, questions like that to get the dialogue going around how best to be mindful of each other’s needs.

Having these conversations proactively means you won’t need to have them reactively after an unknown boundary was violated. And remember, just because we’re all practicing social distancing, that doesn’t mean you have to be isolated! Use this time to connect with your loved ones — whether they’re under your roof or not. Just, you know, keep your distance.

Here’s today’s small thing: Ask your loved ones about their needs and express your own while you figure out your new daily rituals in close quarters. What are some things you can do to make each other’s lives easier?

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often for another quick tip from The Gottman Institute — helping you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships.

Staying Connected Through Times of Great Stress
Feeling anxious and overwhelmed by the coronavirus crisis? Tune in to this episode of Small Things Often to learn ways to stay connected to your partner during these times of great stress and uncertainty.

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about staying connected, even in times of great stress.

Feeling a lot of anxiety lately? Yea, [sigh], you are not alone. The fact that life has become complicated and stressful in the last few weeks is a huge understatement. With the coronavirus crisis now in our midst, our lives have changed drastically — and quickly —impacting each of us in different ways. Maybe you’re feeling stir-crazy from self-isolating and working from home. Maybe you’ve taken on the task of home-schooling your kids – a responsibility that you feel is totally out of your wheel-house. Or perhaps you’re beside yourself worried about the health of your family, your elderly relatives — and yourself. We understand. The stress and anxiety caused by this new reality is overwhelming.

So how do you navigate through it all? How do you stay connected to your partner when your mind is so preoccupied with uncertainty? The key is this: Be intentional about meeting each other’s needs —and create space for affection and intimacy. Here are a few tips that will help you get there.

First, schedule “couple time”: A crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic has totally disrupted our lives and daily routines. To counter this, schedule some time together with your partner. Even if you’re spending every minute of the day together in quarantine, it’s important to make space for intentional time together. It can be anything that helps you relax and connect. Make a “date” to watch your favorite movie, cook your favorite dinner together, or find a time to make love. Even mundane chores — like doing the dishes, cleaning the house, or making the bed together every morning —can be opportunities to connect.

Next: Take turns giving and receiving love. Sometimes it feels difficult to stay present for the other person because you’re both going through so much stress at the same time. So it’s really important that you make an effort to really stop and listen when your partner wants to share their thoughts and emotions— and vice versa.

Another thing you can do is create some rituals for your “new normal” to help you feel connected. Maybe give each other a kiss every morning as a quick dose of intimacy. Or leave sweet or funny notes of encouragement for each other during the day. Whatever it is, find a ritual you love that helps you stay connected. 

And finally: Be willing to forgive quickly. In stressful times, many of us are on edge – more irritable than usual, maybe snapping at our partners for no particular reason. If this happens, use the “rewind rule” — allow your partner to apologize and take back something that was said out of anger, frustration or fatigue. Forgive quickly and avoid the small, petty conflicts that might fester over time — and cause distance between you both. You won’t regret it.

Today’s small thing: During this unprecedented time, intentionally find small ways to meet your partner’s needs —and create the space for loving connections. Remember! Small things often can reap huge rewards!

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often for another quick tip from The Gottman Institute — helping you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships.

Attunement
It’s time to get in sync! On this episode of Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, we’re putting attunement into action to help create harmony in your relationships.

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about attunement. 

Okay, what does that even mean? So attunement means becoming receptive, aware, or accustomed to something. But it also means “to make harmonious.” Harmony is the operative word here. That’s exactly what we’re aiming for to improve your relationships — sweet, sweet harmony.

You know there’s been a time in one of your relationships, where you feel totally disconnected. It could feel like something’s off. Maybe you’re in a rut with your partner and you don’t feel at all like a team. Neither of you is trying to engage or talk about what’s going on and how you’re feeling. Or maybe you’re upset with a friend who’s been AWOL, but you’re not reaching out either.

Getting on the same page and finding harmony could be what’s missing. Hello, attunement! It can help build trust in a relationship, but it’s not always intuitive. So that’s where we step in. We’ve created an acronym out of the word “attune” to help guide you through the steps it takes to attune to your loved one’s emotions. Ready? This will help you remember!

The “A” in attune stands for awareness of the situation at hand. How is your partner feeling and how are you feeling?

The “T” stands for tolerance of two different viewpoints. Even if it’s different from your experience, what your partner is going through is very real for them. 

The second “T” is for turning toward. You might ask them “hey, what’s going on for you?”. 

The “U” is for understanding your partner. Don’t assume you get it right away, this may require asking clarifying questions.

The “N” is for non-defensive listening. This is hard to do but is crucial to having a constructive conversation. 

And finally, “E.” Respond with empathy! Get it? Attune!

So let’s put that into practice with today’s small thing: Make an effort to attune to your loved one! Something as simple as validating different perspectives can help create emotional harmony.

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often for another quick tip from The Gottman Institute — helping you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships.

Destress with your Partner
Do you need to de-stress after a long day? In this episode of Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, we’ll tell you the do’s and don’ts of a stress-reducing conversation that you need to have daily with your loved one!

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about de-stressing.

Say your partner had a horrible day and now that they’re home, all their stress about how they couldn’t fix anything that went wrong today is making them want to talk about your relationship and any problem they noticed in the past 24 hours. But as luck would have it, you also had a horrible day and unlike your partner, diving deep into your relationship is the last thing you feel like doing. Before you run for the hills or your partner reads their very specific, bulleted list of everything they want to fix in your relationship — you both need to de-stress. And you can do it together! It’s an important conversation to have with your loved one. 

Why? Because you know when you’re so stressed that you take your frustrations out on other people — who have nothing to do with the reason why you’re stressed? Talking about your day can help! 

We call it a stress-reducing conversation — a form of dialogue where you listen to each other’s venting with empathy and — this is a big one — without judgment or advice. So when we say listening, we really mean it — so keep your advice or “maybe you could try this!” to yourself because when you actually feel heard, venting can be just what you need! Yeah — your boss can be a jerk. And that arrogant coworker? The WORST. How many times can they talk about their gaudy new house in one day? Sometimes it feels good to just say it aloud to someone who really hears you. Say how ugly that house is! The point is, this conversation helps you and your loved one manage your external stress — not caused by your relationship — so that you’re not taking it out on each other or feeling like you need to fix each other’s problems.

So make this a ritual! When you reunite at the end of the day, open up about what happened! Support each other emotionally about other areas of your lives.

There’s a big asterisk on this conversation though. You ready? This is not the time to tell your partner, friend, family member, or whoever, about the issues you have within the relationship. You know why? If you’re still in stress-mode, that’s probably going to affect how you respond. Even though it’s always good to regularly open up about what you need and how you feel within your relationship, when you are both trying to de-stress and connect, this is NOT the right time to tell your spouse that you think their mom doesn’t like you. It’s time for you to listen about how this person cut them off in traffic and turned back to smile — who does that?

But you know what? If you want to talk about your relationship in this moment because you want to strengthen it — just listening, empathizing, and validating your loved one’s feelings at the end of the day can do wonders. Think of it this way — instead of saying you love them, show it by giving them the time and space to be heard.

So here’s today’s small thing: Practice listening to your loved one when you can tell they need to vent! Help them feel supported and heard — and watch the stress start to melt.

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often for another quick tip from The Gottman Institute — helping you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships.

Disconnect to connect
It’s time to unplug! In this episode of Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, we explain why disconnecting — and putting down your phone — could help form a stronger connection with your partner.

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

We’re willing to bet that right now, you’re listening to this on your phone. And if it’s in your hand, please put it down and just listen — because today’s tip is about disconnecting. Sometimes you need to disconnect to connect with your partner.

It’s easier than ever to stay connected through email, texting, and social media. It’s the world we live in — and it’s a blessing and a curse. It’s great that you can keep up with friends and family. But it also can become a time-suck. You might not even realize how long you’ve been scrolling through selfies of friends you probably haven’t talked to in decades, pictures of plates of food, and Baby Yoda memes. That’s the danger here! Some people are checking their devices so often that they’re missing their partner’s attempts to connect.

For a lot of us, it’s a habit. You plop down on the couch with your phone. Open up Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or whatever and start scrolling. Your partner starts talking. You hear the words, but you’re not really hearing them. It’s going in one ear and out the other. Because did you see Kelly just posted that she’s pregnant? Again! With twins!

While your social media feed could have important information, your relationship is much more important. If your partner is complaining that you seem more focused on your screen than your relationship, that’s something you need to take seriously — even if you disagree! Here’s an idea. You turn off your phone during a movie or at church, right? Extend that same respect and courtesy to your partner.

And even better — establish rules for technology usage in your relationship. At the very least, this could mean a “no phone policy” at the dinner table or in bed. While your fans may be disappointed that you didn’t live stream how you cooked your carrots, they’ll live.

So here’s today’s small thing: Discuss a “no phone policy” with your partner. What time spent together do you want to make “device-free”? What parts of the house are no-phone zones?

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often for another quick tip from The Gottman Institute — helping you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships.

Listen to understand
Before you interrupt your partner’s story, listen up! In this episode of Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, we’ll explain how fully listening before responding can strengthen your relationship.

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based techniques to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about listening.

And yes, we know our last episode was about listening, but guess what? There are different ways to listen so it’s really all quite nuanced. Last episode, we talked about listening to understand your partner and how they are feeling before immediately giving advice. So today we are focusing on how hard it can be to REALLY just listen to them.

Let’s start with what happens in conversations all the time. Your partner is telling you a story. They’re still talking, but you totally check out because you already formed a response in your mind. They’re telling you all about the new restaurant down the street. They won’t stop talking about the queso. BUT, they have no idea that you’ve already been there. And guess what? That “great” queso? There was a hair in yours. Not so great. They need to know… they need to know NOW, but they won’t. Stop. Talking. They are on to the texture and consistency of the queso. You’re nodding your head. Smiling when appropriate. But you can’t wait for them to take a 1 second breath so you can unleash queso-gate because you’ve been holding onto this information for what feels like an eternity. Oh sorry! Did you just interrupt their story?

Conversations like this — where you so badly want to jump in — can happen in any situation with co-workers, friends, and family. We’re all guilty of it so why is it problematic? Because you aren’t fully attentive and mindful of what they’re saying if you’re forming your response mid-conversation. You might have missed an important detail about your loved one’s thoughts or feelings.

So don’t listen to reply. Listen to understand.

That brings us to today’s small thing: Slow down and really listen. Wait to think about your response until your partner has finished talking. Not only will you have better conversations, but you’ll also understand your partner, or anyone else, a lot more.

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often for another quick tip from The Gottman Institute — helping you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships.

Understanding must precede advice
There’s a battle that you don’t necessarily have to fight. Why understanding your partner before you even think about spewing advice could be just what your loved one needs!

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about listening.

When we say listening you probably think, “I know how to listen. It’s not that hard.” But we’re talking about listening and really understanding your partner before you even think about giving advice. And we mean, really listening. Not that “I’m only half listening because I’m dying to respond” kind of listening.

Let’s say your partner just came home from work, filled with RAGE. They are making that weird face that they make when — They. Are. Ticked. Off. Furrowed brow? Check! Pacing the hallway? Oh yeah. Talking under their breath? Absolutely. Not good. Their boss was a total jerk today and they are so upset. Your first reaction? To fix it! It almost feels like you’re running out of time because there is a completely made up deadline to fix everything that’s making them upset. It hurts to see your partner hurting. But take a deep breath and — zip it. 

When someone you love is upset, it’s natural to want to fix it. But usually, your partner isn’t asking for you to come up with a solution — especially not immediately. So don’t just tell them to storm into their boss’ office — or at least not right away because there’s a good chance that they just want you to be there and listen!

Unsolicited advice is common among couples and honestly, all relationships. But unless your partner or friend has specifically asked for help — resist! Don’t try to fix the problem, change how they feel, or rescue them. Offering unsolicited advice gives your partner the impression that you think they haven’t thought of that solution yet, which they almost certainly have. The mindset to remember is understanding must precede advice.

We’re not saying that it’s never appropriate to problem-solve when your partner is upset. You just have to first let them know that you fully understand and empathize with them. That way they will be receptive to suggestions and you can problem-solve together. To communicate that you understand, try saying things like “I can see why you feel that way.” “No wonder you’re upset.” “That sounds frustrating.” Or, “I would have been disappointed, too.”

Here’s today’s small thing: Think about what your partner and friends need from you when they’re upset? Do you need the same things? If you don’t know, ask.

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often for another quick tip from The Gottman Institute — helping you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships.

You don’t have to solve your problems
There are some issues between you and your partner that are unsolvable. But that doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed. Find out how to deal with “perpetual problems” on this episode of Small Things Often.

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based techniques to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about problems.

Everyone’s got them. And there are some you just won’t be able to solve. Some issues between you and your partner are just going to stick around, no matter how many years you’re together.

For example, maybe you’re an extrovert who’s the center of attention at every social gathering, and loves meeting new people—as opposed to your partner who hates parties, avoids them at all costs—and is drained of every ounce of energy in their body when they finally walk out the door? Or maybe you would just absolutely love to have sex twice a week—and your partner would just absolutely love to have sex twice a month. Or, perhaps, you’re neat as a pin, very orderly, and, just for fun, you love to arrange your books in alphabetical order by author while your partner throws their clothes on the floor every night, forgets to open the mail for weeks at a time, and never puts away the milk. And so maybe you start to think, can this relationship even survive?

Well, in a word. Yes—it can. Because the fact is: research shows that almost two-thirds of marital issues are unsolvable! Two-thirds, can you believe it?! We call these “perpetual problems.” But it’s okay, because the great news is—despite what many therapists—or friends who like to play therapist—might tell you, you don’t have to solve these “perpetual problems” in order for your relationship to thrive.

But you can’t just let the problems do their thing, and just be “whatever” about them being in your relationship. Here’s the key: You’ve got to talk about these issues, a lot—and use these conversations to better understand each other. You’ll never change your partner, nor should you try to. But a good healthy dialogue, sprinkled with a little affection, some acceptance, and a bit of humor, will allow for the space that each of you needs to come to an understanding of who you are as individuals—while being together. Because without this understanding, your conflict will become gridlocked. And gridlock leads to resentment. And resentment leads to emotional disconnect. And that’s bad news for any relationship.

So give it a try. Talk about your differences, as well as your similarities—and maybe even grow old together—even if one of you still loathes going to parties.

So today’s small thing is: Take a moment, and think of one perpetual problem in your relationship. How have you handled it? How might you change that going forward? How can you accept that this is just a way you’re basically different, without it reflecting negatively on the relationship overall?

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute for another small way to help you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships every day.

Trust is built in very small moments
Trust doesn’t happen overnight. It’s built over time. Learn how paying attention to small everyday moments can add up to a deeply trusting relationship.

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based techniques to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about trust.

Are you under the impression that since you’ve fallen madly in love, that trust will automatically follow? Ah, wouldn’t that be so incredibly easy and perfect and wonderful… yeah it would be — if it were true. But the fact is, trust just doesn’t happen.

Trust doesn’t just appear all at once in one big swoop, as in “I love you so much, so, of course, I trust you so much.” Nope. Trust builds over time. And it happens in small moments. Everyday moments. Some so tiny and “blah” or “whatever”, you might just miss them if you’re not paying attention. We call them “sliding door” moments. And every day, you have a chance to seize the moment to connect – or not.

So okay, I know this whole “sliding door” idea might be hard to understand at first, so basically, picture this:

It’s Friday night. And you’ve made it to the end of an incredibly long, frustrating, and exhausting week at work. And all day long, you’ve been waiting to get home and go on a run. And, ahhhh, you’re finally there. You’re lacing up your shoes, picking your playlist, doing a little bit of stretching to hype yourself up before you go and you’re about to leave and you see your partner sitting lost in thought, looking a bit sad.

“Oh,noo nooo noo,” you think. “I don’t really want to deal with this now! I just want to run and not think about anything!” Ding, ding, ding, ding!! You’ve just arrived at a “sliding door” moment! You now have a choice. Put your plans aside, and ask your partner what’s wrong? Or pretend you didn’t see it, and sneak out the door and run…After a moment, you take out your earbuds, sit down next to your partner and say, “You seem sad. What’s going on? Can I help?”

Congratulations. With that one small choice, in that one tiny moment, you’ve begun to build trust. You paid attention, noticed there was something up, and made the choice to connect instead of focusing on yourself. Keep it up. Those small moments add up. And soon, a deep trusting relationship will follow.

So today’s small thing is: Pay attention to all your interactions today, and watch for “sliding door” moments. This can be with your partner, your child, a friend — or anyone you love.

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute for another small way to help you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships every day.

Move from me to we
Are you and your partner on a unified front? If you feel like you have been out of sync maybe you need to start adding in more “We” and less “Me.”

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about unity.

When you ask a happy couple about their relationship, they usually tell you about it with a sense of WE-ness… you know, we, you and me…ness…We-ness. Even the words they use to talk about their relationship often show similar beliefs, values, and goals — like they’re in this together! So, what does that say? That it’s important to move from “me” to “we” in your relationships.

One of the many reasons we-ness is important is because it can play a big role in the conflicts that pop up in any relationship. We’ve all been there. All relationships have conflicts that are tough to navigate. A common source of friction is money. Or how you label the relationship. Or maybe your conflicts aren’t that deep. Thermostat wars are real. Basically, we can get stuck when the focus is always on me, not we — so maybe bring your A/C up from below freezing and warm up to the idea of compromising.

Here’s something that can help. Start throwing “we” into the mix when you find yourself focusing on your own desires: Think, “What do we need? What do we want? What do we like?” It helps you get into the headspace to consider both you and your partner’s wants and needs.

That brings us to today’s small thing: It’s time to ask yourself, “How are you building we-ness in your relationships?”

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often for another quick tip from The Gottman Institute — helping you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships.

Self-care isn’t selfish
Think self-care is selfish? Think again. It could save your relationship. Listen to this important science-based tip on Small Things Often from the Gottman Institute—and discover why you need to carve out some me-time.

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in five minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about taking care of someone you know pretty well. Someone who’s very important in your life and your relationships. YOU. That’s right we said it, YOU, yourself!

There are times in your life where you may feel like you lose yourself a little. Maybe you’ve just been promoted—but your job is so demanding, you feel like you’ve lost all concept of time and space. Or maybe your dad is really sick, and you’re on call 24/7. Or perhaps you just became a parent to a beautiful baby girl, and although you are over the moon with her arrival, she has colic and you haven’t slept in what feels like a hundred years. 

It happens. There are always going to be moments that require us to make sacrifices of our time and energy. It’s admirable—and in many cases essential. But if you’re feeling any kind of resentment creeping into your psyche, or any emotional distance, or a loss of intimacy in your relationship because of it, then whoa, listen up, because this tip is for you. And it all revolves around self-care.

First off, what do you feel when you hear that word?  Does it make you feel incredibly selfish? Guilty? Self-indulgent? Cringey? You’re not alone. So many people feel the same way. 

But the simple fact is: Self-care isn’t selfish at all. Taking the time for yourself—to do something just for you—is actually one of the best things you can do for your health and your relationships. Maybe belt out your favorite Adele song at the top of your lungs. Or go plant some flowers, and feel the fresh dirt between your fingers. Or maybe take a couple of hours to play a round of golf with your friends, an activity you love so much, but haven’t done since your life turned upside down. The point is that anything that brings you joy—not only benefits YOU–but all of your relationships.

So here’s today’s small thing: Go nurture yourself. Pick one activity today that you love—and carve out a time to do it. Because bottom line—the best thing you can do for your relationships is take care of yourself!

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often for another quick tip from The Gottman Institute — helping you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships.

Catch your partner doing something right
Can small moments of appreciation transform your relationship in a big way? You bet they can. In today’s episode of Small Things Often by The Gottman Institute, find out why it’s important to catch your partner doing something “right!”

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about appreciation.

Okay. So before we do anything else… you have to admit it. Admit that recently your partner might have done something that drove you absolutely up a wall. It could have been something super small, like maybe they were having the loudest conversation in the world with their mom about the guestlist for your 2-year-old daughter’s birthday party, as you were finally sitting down to watch The Great British Bake Off and just relax for once. Or maybe they forgot to walk the dog (AGAIN), even though they promised they would (TWICE), and of course, almost like he planned it, the dog saved his biggest accident in the history of his tiny, furry life for your bathroom floor.

The fact is that many people will catch themselves focusing on their partner’s shortcomings, which makes it much easier to take all the good parts for granted. But here’s the thing: The happiest couples — and, yes, real people with real flaws are in happy couples, too — are aware of things their partners do that they are not so fond of — but they realize that this person they chose to be with is still worthy of honor and respect. And they show it. How?

By catching them doing something right – and saying thank you.

So take a moment to close your eyes and think about your partner. Did they make the coffee early this morning so it would be ready when you got out of bed? Did they remember your dad’s birthday? Maybe they offered to pick up the kids without being asked. Or maybe they cleaned up that mess on the bathroom floor… Whatever it was that they did “right”, notice it. Appreciate it. And say thank you.

The truth is that fondness and admiration are two of the most crucial elements in creating a rewarding and long-lasting romance. So always be on the lookout for things you can appreciate about each other. We promise it won’t be that hard. You’ll even find that the tough moments that come up in your relationship will be less difficult – because you’ve built a partnership based on respect and appreciation.

So here’s today’s small thing: Search for small, everyday moments, and catch your partner doing something right. Say thank you. Rinse. Repeat.

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often for another quick tip from The Gottman Institute — helping you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships.

What can you do in five minutes?
Got five minutes? That could be all you need to make a meaningful connection with your partner. Find out how in Episode 2 of Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute – and watch your relationship flourish.

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about time. 

So time is relative. For example, you’re being rushed out the door, and you yell to your partner “5 more minutes!” — but it’s not really going to be just five minutes…and you both know that it’s never going to be just five minutes because five minutes is nothing, what can you even do in five minutes? Well, actually… five minutes is plenty of time in relationships.

In fact, five minutes is the perfect amount of time for you and your partner to connect on a daily basis, and in a number of ways: You can express physical affection, like kissing, hugging, holding hands, or cuddling — or you can share specific things you appreciate about each other! Or tell your partner one thing you admire about them, and why! You can even just take the time to say thanks for the little things you’ve done that day to support each other….also just so you know listening to this tip absolutely qualifies as taking time for your relationship!! The point is, whatever you end up doing, we know you have busy lives with hectic schedules, but those tiny bits of free time, five minutes here or there, are huge opportunities to connect with your partner, even if it’s in small ways. 

We’ll leave you with today’s small thing: Tell your partner one thing you admire about them (maybe even a few more if you have more than 5 minutes!)

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often for another quick tip from The Gottman Institute — helping you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships.

Who are we? What are we going to do?
Sometimes it feels like we should just know how to be a good partner even when things get tough and overwhelming. But we’re here to tell you a good relationship comes from the small things—the day-to-day moments that can make a big difference over time.

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Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, a new podcast where we talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in five minutes or less.

So, there’s a common misconception about relationships that often makes us feel bad. It’s this whole idea that relationships should be….easy. Because we are told it’s so easy to fall in love. But no one opens up about what it takes to stay there. Because there’s this idea that since we’re wired for connection, it should be easy for us to just naturally know how to love each other in the best ways. And it can feel really overwhelming and big to “figure out” your relationship. 

But what really makes a relationship great is the small things. The everyday moments we sometimes don’t even notice. When your partner asked about your day and really listened. Or when they sent you a funny meme. It’s these small, meaningful things that make a big difference. They make you feel connected. And understood. Whether it’s your partner, co-worker, relative, or friend—they all benefit from small things often.

It can be hard to wrap your mind around how relationships really work. Since everyone seems to have their own advice on how it should be. So we want to give you a place where you know you can find trusted and proven ways to improve your relationships. We’ll talk you through how to express your needs assertively, but in a way where it doesn’t come out sounding like criticism or blame. And how to manage conflict in a productive, healthy, and non-hurtful way. And how those things lead to greater understanding. And how to really listen to your partner. 

So twice a week we are going to share tips that are based on the methods and approaches from extensive scientific research. Small Things Often is only 5 minutes of your day to learn a little more about how to make your relationships positive, healthy, and long-lasting. And we mean all of your relationships. Honestly, that’s not bad at all for five minutes. Trust us, everyone should have simple ways to invest in their relationships. Because taking time to work on yourself and how you connect will benefit you and the people you love. 

So tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often for a quick tip from The Gottman Institute—helping you have better relationships.