By Sarah Lebeck-Jobe, MS, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist
Some psychologists believe the key to a happy, resilient relationship is expanding your everyday conversations from transactional exchanges (such as what’s for dinner and who’s picking up the kids from school) to a deeper level of communication: sharing the meaningful aspects of your past, present, and future with your partner. If your relationship needs rejuvenating, you may find the following suggestions helpful. This article is part two of a three part series.
Focus on the Present: Knowing the Details of Life
Remember the early days of your courtship when you spent hours talking to your partner, soaking up as much of each other as you could? Nothing was too big or too small to share. But can you now name your spouse’s best friend, favorite movie, and current project at work? If you find that the details of your knowledge about your partner have gotten stale (and you still think her favorite soda is Crystal Pepsi), consider taking a refresher course on what makes your partner tick.
In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, couples researcher Dr. John Gottman writes, “Couples who have detailed love maps of each other’s world are far better prepared to cope with stressful events and conflicts.” Love maps contain all the details that you know about your partner, such as his likes and dislikes and what he did today and plans to do tomorrow. Gottman recommends “strengthen[ing] the friendship that is at the heart of any marriage” because “from knowledge springs not only love but the fortitude to weather marital storms.” If you want to create a relationship where you can be there for each other on a daily basis, get to know the current joys and sorrows of your partner’s life. There’s no time like the present to start!
How to Deepen Engagement in the Present
1) Spend at least 15 minutes each day sharing the highlights and lowlights of your day with your partner. Ask: “What were you stressed about today? What 3 Good Things happened to you today?”
2) Tell your partner, “Thank you for …” (something she did that you appreciated)
3) Make plans to do something enjoyable together. Try to savor being together by slowing down and noticing all the details present in the experience.
Stay tuned for the next article in this series … Focus on the Future: Creating a Shared Purpose