Relationship Minute: Halloween rituals of connection

Whether you’re dressing up in a costume today or not, Halloween is an opportunity to create rituals of connection in your relationship.

If you haven’t already, have a conversation with your partner about how you would like to celebrate. Here are some questions to get you started.

How did you celebrate Halloween in your family growing up?
What’s your favorite Halloween memory?
How do you want to celebrate Halloween in our relationship/family?

You may decide to celebrate Halloween in a traditional way by carving pumpkins together, or in your own way by watching a movie or cooking a festive meal together.

Regardless of what you do, rituals of connection are important because they build meaning in your relationship.

The Relationship Minute from The Gottman Institute, dated 31 October 2019. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: I’m feeling defensive

Feeling defensive is normal and natural. It’s what you do with that feeling that makes all the difference.

When confronted with something that makes you feel defensive (“the sink is full of dirty dishes!”), you have two options.

You can respond defensively: “Some of those dishes are yours! I haven’t had time!”

Or, you can check in with yourself and acknowledge how you’re feeling in the form of a repair attempt: “I’m feeling defensive.”

That statement works to get the conversation back on track.

You will likely feel defensive again in the future, but being aware of your reaction can turn the tide of a conversation for the better.

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

Relationship Minute: Tell me your feelings

In healthy relationships, partners are curious about each other’s feelings.

They adopt the motto, “When you’re hurt, the world stops and I listen.”

In unhealthy relationships, on the other hand, partners tend to ignore each other’s feelings.

They think to themselves, “I don’t have time for your negativity.”

So the next time your partner is upset, ask them to share their feelings with you⁠—and just listen.

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The Relationship Minute from The Gottman Institute, dated 1 October 2019. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

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.

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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. 

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?

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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.

 

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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.

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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.