Relationship Minute: What do you need when you’re stressed?

When you’re really stressed at work, does it help to talk about it when you get home?

Or do you just need space to decompress?

Does your partner handle stress the same way?

If you’re not sure, ask.

We do know that a daily stress-reducing conversation keeps external stress from spilling over into your relationship, but it doesn’t have to happen right when you walk in the door.

The last thing you want to do when your partner is stressed is to stress them out even more.

Related blog posts:

The Relationship Minute from The Gottman Institute, dated 11 July 2019. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

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Relationship Minute: On independence

It’s Independence Day in the United States, which has us thinking: How important is independence in a relationship?

Well, it depends.

Relationships are like a dance. There are times when you feel drawn to your loved one and times when you feel the need to pull back and replenish your sense of autonomy.

The potential for conflict arises when partners’ needs fall on different ends of the spectrum. Some people desire more frequent connection, while others crave more independence.

Viewing your relationship as a dance rather than a tug of war will remind you to collaborate to meet each other’s needs rather than fight to preserve your own.

Related blog posts:

The Relationship Minute from The Gottman Institute, dated 4 July 2019. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Get curious

When your partner is upset with you, your first reaction may be to defend yourself.

But here’s the thing: even if you think they’re being unreasonable, they’re still upset. And that’s worth digging into.

It’s almost always about something deeper. Explore that. Breathe, listen, and ask questions. Seek to understand their position.

They’ll feel heard, de-escalate, and you’ll both have a better understanding of what caused them to get upset. They may even apologize if they said something unkind.

And besides, nobody has ever calmed down after being told to calm down.

Related blog posts:

The Relationship Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 25 June 2019. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Four Horsemen Bingo

Identifying the Four Horsemen (Contempt, Criticism, Defensiveness, Stonewalling) takes time and, while there’s no shame in having a reference, it can be tricky to spot them in yourself or someone you interact with regularly.

Instead, you can practice looking for them in people (or characters) you only see semi-regularly from a distance. Watch for the Four Horsemen on TV or in movies. Reality TV is great for this, but scripted scenes work, too.

The famous “we were on a break” scene from Friends hits three out of Four Horsemen—can you spot them?

For a nice example of stonewalling, look no further than this scene from Fargo (contains strong language).

What can you identify? Learning to recognize these warning signs externally will make it easier to keep tabs on them when they come up in your own relationship.

Related blog posts:

The Relationship Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 11 June 2019. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: A beautiful friendship

Happy marriages are based on a deep friendship. In fact, as Certified Gottman Therapist Cheryl Fraser puts it, a romantic relationship is really just “friendship plus nudity.”

And even though many people will say “I married my best friend,” it’s hard to think about what that looks like in practice.

What does friendship look like to you? How do you choose the people you stay friends with and how do you treat them?

Do the rules you apply to your friends also apply to your partner? For example, you might have a friend who is consistently 15 minutes late any time you get together and that’s “just the way they are.” Do you treat or regard their tardiness differently than your partner’s?

Friendships are a vital supplement to any romantic relationship, but it’s important not to forget to be a friend to your partner.

How can you be a better friend? How can you be the best friend?

Related blog posts

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

Relationship Minute: Are you stewing on your break?

We can’t emphasize enough the importance of taking a break when you’re upset.

When one or both partners are flooded, it takes at least 20 minutes to calm down and be able to re-engage rationally.

But what if, after 20 minutes or so, you just feel more upset? What if you’re less overwhelmed, but filled with righteous anger? What if you’ve spent 20 minutes thinking of the perfect thing to say to nail your partner to the wall when you get back into it?

Once you’ve done the good work of suggesting a break, make sure you actually take it.

It’s okay—helpful even—to completely disengage from the argument to self-soothe.

Here are some things you can do on your break instead of stewing or ruminating.

    • Play a game on your phone (yes, this is fine!)
    • Go for a walk around the block
    • Watch TV (probably nothing too heavy or intense)
    • Spend time with a pet
    • Listen to music
    • Read a book
    • Focus on your breathing with a visual breathing exercise

Related blog posts

The Relationship Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 14 May 2019. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Allow room for change

Does your relationship have space to accommodate change?

Who were you five years ago? How were you different six months ago?

In what ways has your partner changed that you’re grateful for, beyond maybe a questionable hairstyle or two?

How have you changed together, as a couple?

Evolution is not to be feared.

In relationships, the only constant is change. Embrace it.

Related blog posts

The Relationship Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 9 May 2019. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.