It’s Cecilia here.
This might come to you as a surprise… Jason and I have to work at our relationship quite a bit. We’ve gone to classes, read books, done workshops and retreats together, and go to therapy.
When we are together and it’s going well, our relationship is really great. Of course, we work together and have two teens–which brings a lot of joy and challenges to our lives. We are rock climbing partners, surfing, hiking, and fly fishing buddies. And, we have a great sex life.
But when things are tough, we can both get defensive and blame each other pretty fast. We quickly forget that conflict is a normal part of any relationship.
Conflict is not necessarily a sign that something is wrong.
Dr. Harville Hendrix, the author of Getting The Love You Want, says, “Conflict is growth trying to happen.”
So what do we do to keep things on track?
Among other things, Jason and I do a check-in one time a week, called the “State of the Union” (punny, isn’t it?)
Our check-in is from the work of Dr. John Gottman. (Gottman also did the research that says in a stable relationship you need a 5 to 1 ratio of positive interactions to every negative one.)
The State of the Union is ridiculously easy, and it takes us 15 minutes or so.
Here’s the thing though…
Even though a State of the Union doesn’t take very long, it’s really easy to convince yourself that you don’t have time to do it.
The “don’t have time” thing is a trap.
And we fall into that trap sometimes too.
Toni Morrison, in Song of Solomon, said: “If you wanna fly, you got to give up the s*!t that weighs you down.”
So give up that you don’t have time to do this…
And just do it. :)
Gottman’s State of the Union
(each partner does this)
Talk about what is going well in the relationship.
Gottman’s research reveals that how a conversation starts affects how the conversation ends. If you start a conversation by acknowledging the positives of your relationship it helps you both feel closer and more connected. And it contributes to the 5-to-1 ratio.
Appreciate the other person
When family life is busy you might forget to appreciate what your partner does for you. Acknowledge a few things–especially small things–that your partner has done for you in the past week.
Talk about a problem to process
You might not get to a solution, that’s ok. Gottman’s research found that 69% of conflicts in a relationship are unsolvable! Discussing a conflict and feeling understood can be a constructive and positive experience. For satisfaction in the relationship, the discussion is more important than finding a solution.
It’s helpful to use “I” statements, to ask questions, and to be curious. And if things get too heated, take a 15-20 minute break.
More details can be found on the Gottman website here.