I am convinced that the best way to prepare for the holiday season is to invest in the relationship. When I run the Gottman Art and Science of Love Weekend Workshops for Couples there are gender differences in what people want.
- Day 1 focusses on building friendship and intimacy in the relationship and the majority of men love those techniques.
- Day 2 focusses on the skills needed to manage conflict which is what the majority of women have been waiting for impatiently.
I know from experience that we need both parts as the conflict cannot be addressed without strengthening the friendship first.
Next week my blog will look at managing conflict productively. Today, let’s build a solid foundation of goodwill so that you can be in a better place to have those important but more difficult conversations.
John and Julie Gottman draw on over 40 years of research and clinical experience to develop the next exercise. It is called the Stress Reducing Conversation and is designed to help couples have a protective buffer zone around the relationship.
THE STRESS REDUCING CONVERSATION
- First find a time when you will not be interrupted, maybe at the end of the day when the kids are in bed and the cell phones and TV are turned off.
- Take turns being the Listener and the Speaker.
- The Speaker’s job is to talk for about 15 minutes about an upcoming stress or upsetting event in the day or week.
- FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS EXERCISE DO NOT INCLUDE ANYTHING
- ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP,
- THE PARTNER’S PARENT OR CHILDREN.
- KEEP IT AS A NEUTRAL TOPIC SUCH AS WORK, OR TRAFFIC OR OTHER FRIENDS.
- The listener’s job is to show support, communicate interest and understanding. Ask questions for more details and then summarize back the content to show you are really paying attention.
- Then check if they feel understood.
- Do not try to fix the problem for your partner.! It will be enough for them to just vent.! I know we are trained to be fixers, problem solvers and advice-givers but that can make the other person feel like you don’t think they are smart enough to manage the problem alone. Express empathy. Say that sounds really awful, or ugh, that would make anyone upset!
- Afterwards, you can ask if they would like to do some problem-solving. If they say no, respect that choice.
Swap roles and the Listener becomes the Speaker and vice versa.
It feels good to know that you can let off steam with your partner and be understood and not judged. Ideally, this could happen every day so you are both getting the message: I care, you are important to me. I make time for your concerns.
Try it a couple of times this week and feel good about the way you are investing in your relationship.
If you are interested in more strategies for the holiday season click here to receive my weekly blog sent directly to your email.
Robyn Blake Mortimer
This blog is designed as self-help and psycho-education. It cannot substitute for therapy with a properly trained professional. If you feel that your relationship problems are serious or require more attention I recommend that you contact an experienced and qualified therapist.