Take a guess. Money? Sex? Chores? Those are all good guesses, and likely accurate for many couples, but not true for all couples.
In an interview, Anderson Cooper asked John Gottman about the number one thing that couples fight about. His answer?
That’s right. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch!
For example, in the Love Lab, a couple fought over which TV show to watch. John determined that “it just happens” and they’re actually not fighting about the TV.
What they might really be fighting about is control, or sharing, or compromise. But none of that is expressed, so they’re really arguing over nothing!
So, if you find yourself in those kinds of fights with your partner, try to take a step back and ask them what’s really going. What’s the core issue here? What do they need from you? What do you need from them?
Related blog posts
The Marriage Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 7 August 2018. You can sign up here to get The Marriage Minute delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.
In the film Moneyball, Brad Pitt’s character meets with his staff to figure out how to replace some really good players. They have lots of advice, but they’re not listening to his perspective. He cuts them off and says, “Okay, so, what’s the problem?”
To put it simply: how can you come up with a solution without knowing what the real problem is?
This is especially important when your partner explains a problem that they’re facing. It feels natural and even helpful to offer advice right away, but that won’t help your partner feel understood.
The next time your partner comes to you with something they’re upset about—say, dealing with a difficult coworker—don’t try to solve anything. Just listen. Sympathize with them and ask them to tell you more.
It’s more important to show that you understand your partner than to offer advice, and it helps you to learn more about your partner and the problem at hand.
Related blog posts
The Marriage Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 2 August 2018. You can sign up here to get The Marriage Minute delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.
Imagine the gridlocked streets of Manhattan at rush hour. Or the snaking, unmoving line of cars going onto I-5 in Seattle. Who wants to be stuck in that?
The same kind of situation—gridlock—happens in relationships, and usually around perpetual, unsolvable problems. Which all relationships have.
The good news is that there’s a way out of that traffic jam. Unrealized life dreams are at the core of every gridlocked conflict, so you’ll need to find out what those dreams are. If you’re stuck in an argument, ask something like this:
What does this really mean to you? What do you need from me? Tell me more.
The key to breaking free of gridlock is to express fondness and admiration to your partner, to accept their faults, to understand yours, and to find ways to work around them and make both of your life dreams come true.
You’ll still have some bumps in the road, but that traffic will clear up for you and your partner to move forward.
Related blog posts
The Marriage Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 26 July 2018. You can sign up here to get The Marriage Minute delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.
Some think that love is (or is not) meant to be. And when we are in the thrill of new love, it often feels like you’re going along for the ride, like it’s happening to you and not the other way around.
But what about making a choice to love someone?
Every time you turn toward your partner instead of away, that is a choice.
Every time you listen empathetically to understand your partner’s perspective—even if you disagree—that is a choice.
Every time you express a positive need to your partner, and listen and respond to their needs, that is a choice.
Being intentional, attentive, mindful, and appreciative in your relationship are choices.
In which ways do you choose to love your partner?
Related blog posts
The Marriage Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 17 July 2018. You can sign up here to get The Marriage Minute delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.
We all have our preferences for waking up in the morning. Some of us love it. Others hate it. Some of us take one look at the clock and go back to sleep. Others go for a run.
In any case, most of us need caffeine.
If you wake up with your partner every morning, why not start your day with a few positive interactions? Like these:
- Get up at the same time
- Smile at each other and cuddle for a few minutes
- Have coffee or tea together, or breakfast
- Do some morning chores together
- Kiss each other goodbye
We know that with busy jobs and hectic lives, those ideas aren’t possible for everyone. What’s important is that sticking to shared routines can become a reliable way to connect every day. Try something that works for both of you.
Related blog posts
The Marriage Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 12 July 2018. You can sign up here to get The Marriage Minute delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.
Recently, The Washington Post invited the Gottman Institute to debunk five marriage myths. Much conventional marriage advice isn’t always true or helpful, but the facts that they discovered about relationships will serve you well.
1. Common interests keep you together. They won’t if you don’t interact in a positive way when engaging in common interests. (Remember, 5:1!)
2. Never go to bed angry. If you’re flooded and you need a break, sleeping on it isn’t a bad idea at all.
3. Couples therapy is for fixing a broken marriage. Couples therapy can help repair serious issues, but it’s more effective as preventative maintenance.
4. Affairs are the main cause of divorce. False. According to a study, 80 percent of divorced men and women cited growing apart as the reason for divorce.
5. Marriages benefit from a “relationship contract.” Instead of keeping score of who does what for whom, building a culture of appreciation in your marriage is a much better approach.
You can read more about each of these five myths here. We hope you find them helpful!
More articles about debunking relationship myths:
• Debunking 5 Myths About Premarital Conflict
• 4 Marriage Myths That Cause Divorce
• Debunking 12 Myths About Relationships
The Marriage Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 5 June 2018. You can sign up here to get The Marriage Minute delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.
Sometimes, an argument with your partner can get so overwhelming that you shut down and withdraw from interaction. You’re probably feeling flooded, maybe even panicked, and you might even be trying to protect yourself.
But your partner may not see it that way. Instead, they could perceive an act of stonewalling as you purposely ignoring them.
Those are the two sides to stonewalling, and if it happens often, it’s easy to start entrenching yourselves on opposite sides of that wall.
Fortunately, there’s a way to break down that wall, and that’s to ask for a break, but it can be very hard to come up with the right words to ask for a break when you’re flooded.
So, you and your partner should agree, ahead of time, on how to take a break when one of you gets flooded, such as a “timeout” signal or some kind of word or phrase that both of you can use. Then you and your partner will be able to respect the other’s need for a break.
Once you take a break, take a half hour alone to calm down and self-soothe, and when you feel calm, you’ll be ready to resume the discussion from a rational state of mind.
The Marriage Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 15 May 2018. You can sign up here to get The Marriage Minute delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.