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Summon Positive Thoughts

Image from Unsplash by Kelly Moon

One the critical skills needed to achieve long-term success in relationships is the ability to summon positive thoughts about the other person or your life together.

In rocky relationship times our minds seize on the negatives; we are less inclined to balance that view with the positive. We are less able to recognize the positive in the person or the situation—because we are, after all, human.

Meanwhile, those we call “Masters of Marriage” develop a skill to diffuse the pessimism and summon positive thoughts about their partner.

Jack and Diane are a perfect example.

On a recent evening, coming downstairs after getting the kids bathed and in their pajamas, Diane noticed that the roasting pan in which the meal was cooked was sitting in the sink, full of grease and stuck-on scraps. Jack had neglected to clean it, and was now sitting in his favorite spot on the couch playing on his phone. It barely registered for her that he had washed the plates and utensils from dinner, and wiped down the counters.

In the past, Diane’s thought would have been, Do I have to do everything? And on this night, she could have given into those feelings and popped off on Jack, saying something critical about expecting her to always manage the household.

Instead, she took a few calming breaths, and reminded herself that he had washed most of the dishes and cleaned the countertops. She paused and connected with a feeling of gratitude for the positives that were actually present.

Diane and Jack have been working on creating what we call a “Culture of Appreciation,” which is important for the longevity of any relationship. This is the flip side of “toxic positivity”—turning a blind eye to the issues—which is not productive and leads couples to avoiding their conflicts instead of addressing them together.

On this night, Diane goes to Jack, and says, “I really appreciate that you washed the plates and wiped the counters! That makes my night so much better. Thanks for being a teammate here. Before you turn on the TV, would you please get the big pan soaking? I can finish up after I get the kids in bed.”

Conflict avoided.

The bottom line is this: In challenging situations, we need to calm ourselves down, and—from a centered place—ask for what we need, clearly and directly. We speak of the negatives, but in a way that expresses appreciation for the positives. Starting from appreciation rather than criticism opened a dialogue that helped Jack and Diane function better as a team.

And yes, this is easier said than done! Which is why we acknowledge it as a skill we can learn and improve upon. With practice, it becomes more intuitive and natural. Over time, you and your partner will be more likely to bring up and resolve problems early on, creating a stronger relationship.

Have questions or want to learn more about Couples Therapy? CLICK HERE to contact Dr. Parker

Defining the Gottman Method, Part 3

Image from Unsplash by Nick Sewings

I am frequently asked to explain The Gottman Method used in my practice. This counseling method is based on research studying thousands of REAL couples over many years together, and isolating and identifying the important skills, habits, and mindset that either make or break a relationship.

The three cornerstones of this method are: 1) Friendship and Intimacy, 2) Conflict Management, and 3) Shared Meetings.

We began our exploration of Friendship and Intimacy in the October 26 post on Building Love Maps, and built upon it in the November 9 post on Sharing Fondness and Admiration.

Today we’ll focus on the final dimension of Friendship and Intimacy, called Turning Toward Bids.

How many big or small interactions do you and your partner have over the course of an hour? Asking How Are You? is what we call a bid. It looks like the weather is fine is a bid. You hurt my feelings last night is a bid. I’m worried that we aren’t saving enough for our retirement is a bid.

All bids are calls for connection and interaction.

Couples who thrive are good at consistently responding to each other’s bids in a warm and receptive way. When your partner puts out their hand for a connection, that is a moment of vulnerability.

When our bids are consistently received with kindness, warmth, and affirmation, we feel secure that the other is there for us, for the big needs and the small needs.

Similarly, if we are missing or rejecting each other’s bids, we become disconnected over time, and that disconnection grows and grows.

Let’s say you spend an hour together on a Saturday morning and have 100 moments of interaction. How do you feel at the end of the hour if most are received with love and affection?

How do you feel if they are not?

Multiply that by seven days a week, 52 weeks in a year, and your relationship is either strong or corroded.

The next time your partner asks How Was Your Day?, think of it as a bid for connection, and don’t just respond with fine. Turn to them, say something meaningful about your day, then ask them how they are doing.

is the third and final aspect of Friendship and Intimacy, the first cornerstone of the Gottman Method. Next, we will turn our attention to the second cornerstone: Conflict Management.

Have questions or want to learn more about Couples Therapy? CLICK HERE to contact Dr. Parker

Defining the Gottman Method, Part 2

Image from Unsplash by Eduardo Barrios

This series is focused on explaining The Gottman Method used in my practice. This counseling method is based on research studying thousands of REAL couples over many years together. The intent is to isolate and identify the important skills, habits, and mindset that either make or break a relationship.

The three cornerstones of this method are: 1) Friendship and Intimacy, 2) Conflict Management, and 3) Shared Meetings.

We began our exploration of Friendship and Intimacy in the October 26 post on Building Love Maps.

Today we’ll focus on the second dimension of Friendship and Intimacy, called Sharing Fondness and Admiration.

One characteristic of a healthy marriage or relationship is that you each feel genuinely liked and appreciated by the other. There is no magic to this, but we work on making it a habit to express respect and affection, verbally and non-verbally.

This is a struggle sometimes because giving compliments and praise may not be part of your partner’s personality. It may not be their “love language.” Meanwhile, no one likes feeling unappreciated, unrecognized, or not being seen for all that they do and their positive qualities.

Think of this as a relationship account. We strive to make consistent positive deposits of admiration and respect for each other so when we have a rough patch or difficult fight or we do something hurtful to our partner, our relationship account is large enough that a big withdrawal will not overdraw the bond.

It is not Partner A or B’s account—it is a collective account and aspect of your relationship. Both partners make deposits into the relationship by expressing appreciation, and offering compliments.

Both partners also make withdrawals from that same account when they speak harshly, act selfishly or inconsiderately, either intentionally and unintentionally.

Breaking even is not enough! Make it a shared goal to be overwhelmingly wealthy in affection and admiration for each other.

Sharing Fondness and Admiration sets the stage for the third dimension important in fostering friendship and intimacy: Turning Toward Bids. We’ll discuss that one in our November 23 post.