There are many reasons why relationships fall apart. It typically happens when the friendship within the relationship has diminished. You must repair your relationship before you can enhance it. Both you and your partner need to take the time to get to know each other again by learning about each other's world and asking and answering open-ended questions. This is what Dr. John
Gottman calls building Love Maps. We must truly know someone in order to love them fully, so the first step in enhancing your relationship is getting to know your partner all over again!
The next step in enhancement is to increase the levels of fondness and admiration in your relationship. This is a crucial element to enhancing your relationship because remembering your partner’s positive qualities strengthens the bond between you, even as you are struggling with each other’s flaws. In other words, focus on their positive traits and characteristics, not the negative ones. This is sometimes hard to do in a distressed relationship, but it is critical if you want to improve the relationship.
You can increase fondness and admiration by turning towards your partner instead of away. This means we need to be able to recognize not only that “small things” matter, but also what those small things are in your relationship. For example, when your partner goes to hold your hand what do you do? Do you take their hand? This is turning towards. Are you slow or reluctant to take their hand? This is turning away. You must recognize these small things before you can enhance your connection.
Once you have learned how to recognize these small things, the romance in your relationship should start to bloom again. Turning towards your partner and accepting their influence on you are both attitudes and skills which include trying to fulfill your partner’s wants, needs, and desires without sacrificing your own. Rather than being annoyed and resistant to their needs, we need to learn how to honor them and find ways to say YES as much as possible. You have to give a little to get a little.
After that, we have to identify your relationship’s problems, determine which of them are solvable, and get to work solving them together as a team. Problems which seem unsolvable, often times are. Don’t worry though, even happy relationships have these perpetual problems. Dr. Gottman’s research shows that 69% of all relationship problems are perpetual. The key with perpetual problems is not to solve them, but to move them from gridlock to conversation.
Successful couples know how to discuss their problem productively. Discussions should begin with a soft startup. When we bring up a problem with a tone of criticism or contempt, the discussion is doomed from the start. We can complain, but please do not blame. Be clear and positive about what it is that you need, and share what you want, rather than what you don’t want. You want to try to describe what is happening and try not to evaluate or judge.
Try the following statement:
“I feel ____________ about ______________ and I need _________________.”
The final step is to create shared meaning. By doing so, both the individual and the relationship are honored. As a couple moves through life, they have the chance to create and find meaning together while honoring their partner's personal values, hopes, and dreams as they change.
These are all steps to building what Dr. John Gottman refers to as a “Sound Relationship House” in his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. They are just a few of the items taught in the Gottman Seven Principles Program, A Couples Relationship Enhancement Workshop.
Want to learn more? Register for one of the upcoming workshops:
225 Main Street, Suite 6
Destin, FL 32542
1913 Highway 87
Navarre, Florida 32566