Relationship Minute: The uninvited party guest

Think of a conflict discussion as a dinner party you and your partner are throwing together.

You have certain guests you want to invite (Resolution, Repair Attempts, Humor, Permission to Take a Break). Then, there’s the guest you just know will show up no matter what—Negativity.

Negativity is usually the first to arrive. They smelled something cooking, didn’t bring a beverage or a dessert, and they waste no time making themselves at home.

You and your partner exchange glances. Negativity’s shoes are off and they’re already gnawing on a drumstick (Where did that even come from?).

How can you stop Negativity from taking over the party, alienating your other guests, and telling that same old story too loud like they did last time?

Mitigate.

Set boundaries with Negativity early. Don’t let them dominate the conversation.

For every one thing Negativity says, you agree to outweigh it with five positive contributions from the rest of the group. Friendship is there, and they’re on your side.

You and your partner are in this together.

With careful cooperation, you can keep Negativity from getting out of control and overstaying their welcome—at the party and in your relationship.

Related blog posts

The Relationship Minute from The Gottman Institute, dated 17 September 2019. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

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Relationship Minute: What can I learn?

Stephen Covey writes, “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour.”

Accordingly, it is likely our first impulse to build a defense of our behavior any time our intentions are misinterpreted.

I’m not a bad person! If only I could make you understand.

It’s a difficult impulse to corral.

Next time you find yourself thinking, “How can I make them understand?” try asking, “What can I learn from this?” instead.

What can you learn so that, in the future, your behavior and your intentions will be more closely aligned? How can you make sure your partner is getting the message you intended?

Related blog posts

The Relationship Minute from The Gottman Institute, dated 12 September 2019. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Couching the critic

If a child showed you their artwork, how harshly would you critique it?

That’s not what a whale looks like.
Spiders have eight legs, not five and a half.
That’s ugly and looks nothing like me.

You would probably encourage them. If you kept up the criticism, the child would eventually stop showing you their art, or stop drawing altogether.

Do you show the same encouragement to your partner?

No one can survive in a marriage (at least not happily) if they feel more judged than admired. Your partner won’t make use of your constructive criticism if there’s not a surrounding climate of admiration and respect,” Psychologist Harriet Lerner cautions.

In fact, we believe there is no such thing as constructive criticism in a relationship. All criticism is painful.

Continuing to meet your partner’s bids with criticism may cause them to stop sharing their life with you.

So couch the critic.

 

Related blog posts

The Relationship Minute from The Gottman Institute, dated 5 September 2019. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Change the metric

If you expect perfection of yourself, your relationship, and others, you are bound for disappointment.

A perfect relationship would require each individual to stop being imperfect or, as it is better known, human. Perfection as a metric for success is the foundation of countless sci-fi plotlines.

While you should maintain high expectations for how you are treated in a relationship, you may want to change the metric for “success.”

Instead of trying to be perfect or conflict-free, try measuring your success with questions like these:

  • Was I kind to my partner today?
  • Did we treat each other with respect?
  • Can we trust each other?
  • Are we friends?
  • Were we able to repair any conflict that arose?

The answers to those questions will be better indicators of your relationship’s success. After all, holding yourself to a standard of perfection is exactly what the robots want.

Related blog posts

The Relationship Minute from The Gottman Institute, dated 29 August 2019. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Stay on the track

When your partner is upset, they may not share everything they’re feeling all at once.

They may not have a great sense of what’s going on for them, or they may not want to overwhelm you.

Think of your partner’s emotions like a train, with some feelings getting off at every station.

The next time they’re upset, try creating the space to show them you’re there for the whole ride by asking, “Is there anything else you’re feeling?”

Then hear them out.

Remember, it’s not your objective to get to the “last stop.” Just stay curious and see that every feeling leaves the train safely and acknowledged.

It may be a short trip or a long one, but hearing your partner’s experience completely can make sure nothing stays on board and carries into the next ride.

Related blog posts

The Relationship Minute from The Gottman Institute, dated 15 August 2019. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: The story I’m making up

Your experience is just that—your own, personal experience.

Your past, unconscious biases, and even the literal perspective you see things from can color an event different from the way your partner experiences that exact same thing.

In her Netflix special, “The Call to Courage” and in this Tech Insider interview, Brené Brown suggests that rather than assume the other person’s intentions or thoughts, we share our experiences using the preface, “The story I’m making up” or “The story I’m telling myself is…”

It’s a great way to acknowledge that your reality is subjective, and check in with your partner to share how you’re experiencing something in a way they may not have intended.

“Basically, you’re telling the other person your reading of the situation—and simultaneously admitting that you know it can’t be 100% accurate,” Brown says. “[It conveys] I want you to see me and understand me and hear me, and knowing what you really mean is more important to me than being right or self-protecting.”

What stories might you be making up?

Related blog posts

The Relationship Minute from The Gottman Institute, dated 6 August 2019. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.