One of the most important things to assess in within couples relationship is the state of the emotional bank account. John Gottman's research shows every time you turn towards your partner with warmth, follow through on your agreements, share affection, appreciation, and gratitude, and create positive future plans you are making a small investment in this account. You can also make withdrawals and overdraft the account by doing the opposite.
Having a positive balance in the account can provide sustenance during crisis and help couples through times of repair. It creates the possibility of long-term sustainability.
Couples who are successful make tiny investments in their relationships frequently. Satisfied long-term partners will turn toward one another with affection, gratitude, and appreciation in both verbal and nonverbal ways up to hundreds of times per hour.
This is even true of non-romantic partnerships. Family members, and friends who who attend to relationships regularly in thoughtful ways are better equipped to build long lasting relationships. Even business partners who tune in to the importance of relationships will have greater success in negotiating contracts and meetings. These folks stick together with greater loyalty and trust.
So how can you invest in your relationships? Here are five simple tips:
1. Have daily positive/warm contact.
It's amazing how little time we actually spend with our partner each week. Think about it, you're at work over forty hours, plus commute time, you work out, or watch TV and then its time for bed. Carve out 30 quality minutes to spend with your sweetheart each day (away from electronic devices) and I promise you will notice a difference.
2. Share appreciation and gratitude often.
Over time we forget to say those sweet things to our loved ones. This is a problem because we stop noticing all those wonderful things, and our partner stops hearing about them. Make sure that once a day you are making an investment in your relationship bank account by sharing something you appreciate about your partner. Think about it as a vitamin for your relationship's health.
3. Notice the attempts your partner makes for your attention and clearly state your attempts for theirs.
John Gottman (the most respected relationship researcher out there) talks A LOT about the importance of bids in relationships. Bids are the times we ask for attention from our partner. Successful couples notice bids, and more often than not, they respond warmly to their partner. Missing bids can quickly get you into shaky territory. You don't have to go along with everything your partner says, but it helps to notice all the ways they reach out to you (eye contact, affection, requests for help, invitations etc) and respond with care.
4. Give the benefit of the doubt.
Sometimes when we are together for a while we start building resentments in relationships. These can snowball if you don't stop them quickly. Trust your partner's best intentions. When in question, ask for clarification, “Honey, you're just asking if I am wearing this so we don't accidentally dress as twins- not because you think it looks bad, right?”
5. State your shared mission/meaning/values regularly.
It's important to have a shared goal on the horizon and values guiding your decisions. This doesn't mean you always agree, but that you have a shared sense of meaning to help guide your collaborative process. Set some dates for the future and talk openly about how much you look forward to them (not just a wedding, think about travel or shared celebrations). Talk with your sweetheart about the things that add meaning to your life and shared time.
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