Smart Couples Do

Couples who create successful and satisfying relationships often have a formula for success. These dynamic couples have important skills and make thoughtful, conscious choices that lead to more closeness and connection. They do and also avoid doing certain things that contribute to creating a robust relationship. John and Julie Gottman of the Gottman Institute, known for their extensive relationship research, would call these smart couples "masters" of relationships. If you desire a dynamic and loving relationship, you may want to consider some important relationship tips that you may or may not have learned along the way. If you adore your partner and value your partnership then noticing the elements that follow may be just what you need for enhanced communication, a deeper connection and more romance. 

Let's begin with what NOT to do:

  • Stop keeping score! Yes, that's right. Throw that scorecard away. This is a quick route to frustration lane, and it's also an ugly way to live. Acknowledging that you both contribute to the relationship, become aware of your own as well as your partner's contributions and value. If you feel that your significant other is not doing his or her share then that's worthy of an honest conversation. When you do have important discussions, make sure that you use "I" statements and avoid blaming and shaming tactics.
  • Avoid the urge to bully the other in your attempt to drive home that point. Your need to get your way, or be right takes considerable energy and can be damaging for both of you. At the end of the day, maybe it's not worth it. Pick and choose your battles, as they say, and determine how you want to spend your energy. Sometimes it's okay to let your partner win, especially if it's something they feel strongly about. Learning to let it go can be the best thing you can do. If you need to be "seen" by your partner, find a less destructive, more fulfilling way to get that need met. You might want to look at whether you say things in a way that allows your significant other to "hear" you. If you say something in a way that causes your partner to "shut down" then you may need to consider trying something different.
  • Don't try to change the other person. This backfires and creates frustration, pain and suffering for all. Learning to "accept" your partner "as is" or change your reaction to the things that bother you about your partner may work better for you. If you change your behavior, this may have a positive outcome for both of you. That said, if your partner "acts out" in ways that are destructive and damaging to both of you then this needs to be addressed with a mental health professional who can assess the dynamics and provide insight, containment and support. People often need help creating healthier boundaries.
  • Don't judge feelings. Remember that feelings aren't facts. That said, feelings can provide important information and clues about your partner. Be curious about what their feelings say about them. Show your partner that you understand their feelings. After all, you are both entitled to your own unique thoughts and feelings. You can acknowledge, and possibly on some level, understand where the other is coming from, even if you don't agree! Not allowing the "other" separateness and autonomy is a sign of dysfunction.
  • Stop competing in the relationship. Competition can be the death of a relationship. Competition and envy is destructive and can be traced back to an earlier time. If you can't be a supportive partner, then see a psychotherapist or psychologist to work on exploring and modifying this issue. Teamwork is key! Learn to support your partner's goals and dreams. 
  • Avoid criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling in your relationship. Become aware of when you may be making these important relationship mistakes, thanks to the research and work of Julie and John Gottman. Their couples research studies both the "masters" and "disasters" of relationships. Learn about The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, they are: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling, in no particular order, but all super important. For a better understanding of these four mistakes visit The Gottman Institute's Relationship Blog

Things you can do to create a happier partnership:

  • Do share with your partner when you feel something important such as feeling neglected and taken for granted as a result of their actions, and always share this without using blaming and shaming communication tactics. Using "I" statements, you can say something like: "I feel unimportant when you make decisions without asking me" or "I feel alone in this relationship when I have to make all the important decisions and I want to feel more connected." Then you can add what you would like to see happen in the future. "I'd like to feel that we're in a partnership and both doing our part. The burden of so much responsibility feels uncomfortable for me." You can then make a clear request such as: "I'd like us to plan vacations together in the future. Can you help me with that?" Make observations, not judgments. Talk about feelings and needs. Then make clear requests of your partner. Learn more about the practice of Nonviolent Communication or NVC.
  • Validate your partner's point of view even when you don't agree. You don't agree with your partner? That's normal. You are two unique and separate individuals trying to create a life together. It's helpful to acknowledge that you both have a different perspective or point of view -- and that's okay. Ignoring your partner is hurtful and can lead to relationship breakdowns later. 
  • Make a commitment to show your love and respect. (This is very important!) Make regular deposits in the "love bank" as they say, just like you did when you first met. On a daily basis, do something nice for your partner without expecting something in return. Being generous, kind and respectful creates positive feelings and emotions. A receptive partner may even learn from your acts of generosity and give back. If you're interested in enhanced intimacy and more, or sexier sex, you can think of deposits into the emotional bank as "foreplay."
  • Create regular connection time. Catch up on the day or week. Share your thoughts, feelings wishes, concerns disappointment and achievements. This is an opportunity for you to share the different parts of yourself with your partner and be "seen" by the other. This is an opportunity for you to really listen to what your partner has to say. If you're interested in more intimacy give this a try.
  • Bring back "date night." Splurge on a sitter and make time for fun and romance. It's very hard when you're both tired and stressed with your life and responsibilities. However, making time to recharge on a regular basis will help you better manage your life. Your can go out or stay in, but make this a regular commitment to each other.
  • Create shared goals and values. This is the best way to become real partners and create a stronger, connected and more nourishing relationship. Team up with your partner and make the time to create goals, schedule activities, share your dreams and commit to something bigger.