Marriage Minute: We are pack animals

We are wired to connect.

After all, biologically, we are pack animals. Our need for connection is as fundamental as our need for food and water.

Aristotle asserted long ago in Politics: Man is by nature a social animal… Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.

New research has shown that preventing loneliness is a critical component to staying healthy, much like eating right and exercising.

Making time to connect with your partner isn’t just important for the health of your relationship—it’s an essential investment in your overall health.

Related blog posts

The Marriage Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 8 November 2018. You can sign up here to get The Marriage Minute delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Marriage Minute: Halloween Rituals

Some couples get really into Halloween. If you’re one of those couples, that’s great. If you’re not, that’s okay, too.

Even if you don’t dress up as Sandy and Danny from Grease, you can still celebrate tomorrow. Holidays are an opportunity to create rituals of connection in your relationship.

In his book The Intentional Family, Bill Dougherty discusses “rituals of connection” as an important tool for successful relationships. A ritual of connection is a way of regularly turning towards your partner that can be counted on.

Instead of going to a Halloween party, you could stay in and watch the same scary movie together every year. Or you could carve pumpkins. Whatever you do, make it your “thing.”

Related blog posts

The Marriage Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 30 October 2018. You can sign up here to get The Marriage Minute delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Marriage Minute: Emotional Triggers

We all have emotional triggers. When those buttons are pushed, we’re reminded of a memory or situation from our past.

Working on understanding each other’s triggers is one of the most important things you can do in your relationship.

Learn the stories behind your partner’s triggers to understand where they’re coming from.

With this knowledge, you can identify which behaviors to avoid, so that the two of you don’t accidentally set each other off.

Related blog posts

The Marriage Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 23 October 2018. You can sign up here to get The Marriage Minute delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Marriage Minute: The magic relationship ratio

After researching thousands of couples for decades, The Gottman Institute discovered a number of facts about successful relationships. But one important fact stands out among the rest:

The magic relationship ratio is 5:1.

Five to one of what? Simply put, successful and lasting relationships must have a ratio of five positive interactions for every single negative interaction, and it is the difference between the “masters” and “disasters” of relationships.

In other words, disasters fall below 5:1, but masters keep their positive to negative ratio of interactions at 5:1 or above, and sometimes even as high as 20:1!

Fortunately, most positive interactions in relationships are small, everyday gestures of kindness, affection, and appreciation. If you’re worried that you’re not hitting 5:1, try creating some positive, daily rituals of connection in your relationship.

To learn more, click here to watch Dr. John Gottman explain the 5:1 ratio.

Additional reading:


The Marriage Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 10 May 2018. You can sign up here to get The Marriage Minute delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Things You Can Control in Your Relationship

012413-Unmarried-Couple-600You can’t control your partner’s actions, but you can control your own.

Focus on the things that are within your power.

Here is short list of some of the things that are withing your power when it comes to your relationship:

  • Your Attitude
  • Your Thoughts
  • How kind you are
  • How well you listen
  • How honest you are
  • How often you say “thank you”
  • Who you spend your time with
  • How you express your feelings
  • The amount of effort you put forth
  • How much time you spend worrying
  • Whether or not you try again after a setback

Empathy vs Sympathy

Empathy is listening, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of “You’re not alone.”

Ever wondered what the difference is between empathy and sympathy? Brené Brown explains it best.

Reunion and Reintegration: 3 Guidelines to help your relationship

welcome home 400During reunion and reintegration, couples will experience change and adjustment, just like they did when the deployment began. Sometimes this can be more stressful than any other part of the deployment process because of the conflicting expectations and changes that have occurred during the separation.

The reunion itself is often full of emotion and expectations. It can be an awkward mixture of excitement, joy, strife, apprehension, among other emotions. Both partners may need to renegotiate routines or responsibilities that were in place due to the deployment in order to find a good balance.

Be Realistic: Throughout the deployment both partners may be daydreaming about what it will be like to be home together. You may expect homecoming to be a passionate rendezvous, but when you are together you feel a little awkward and need some time to get comfortable together first. It is common that during the reunion, the deployer expects their partner to shower them with appreciation for the hardships they endured during the deployment. However, their partner may be looking for the same grand gesture. Instead of understanding that both experiences were challenging, couples may find ourselves in the “who had it worse” game in which neither person gets the validation they need and deserve.

Be Patient: Keep in mind that the deployer is coming home to a family in progress that has developed different routines. What about the partner who had to make the family budget? They may like doing it now, but the deployer expects to pick up that duty again. While one Airman was deployed, his wife started visiting her family twice a month. When he got back, she still wanted to go to her parent’s house often, but he expected that now he was back they would spend more of their time at home.

There can be many expectations on how to handle change. Sometimes the deployer expects things to go right back to the way they were before the deployment. There was one Airman who would read her 4 year-old daughter a bedtime story every night. It was something they both greatly enjoyed. When she got back from the deployment she assumed they would pick-up right where they left off. She was surprised and sad to find that her daughter was uninterested in story time. What do you think happened when she tried to enforce this routine? Sometimes this can cause tension among family members who are accustomed to the way things are. A realistic plan may be for the Airman to observe the new routines for a while and slowly join in when everyone is ready.

Communicate: Good communication can be defined differently by each couple based upon their experiences. However it is defined, good communication usually brings emotional safety for each partner. When one feels heard and able to understand the other person’s point of view, both are communicating well and experiencing emotional safety. Good, emotionally safe communication makes it okay to open up your heart to your partner. When you do your best to listen carefully to your partner, you make it safe for them to open up to you.

floorMany may have experienced times when their communication doesn’t look “good.” Sometimes your normal way of talking just isn’t working, but there’s something that needs to be talked through. Often couples keep trying over and over, or maybe they keep doing the same thing only louder. If this is the case for you and your partner, being able to use a method of talking that structures the conversation and allows both to listen will help good communication. One way of communicating that does this is the Speaker Listener Technique. You can learn about it from our Speaker/Listener Technique page that describes the steps.

There are choices to be made in communicating with your partner. When an Airman returned home, he found that his 15-year-old daughter was acting out at school. His wife was never strict with discipline, because that was a role he normally fulfilled with her support. But during his absence, his wife had allowed her to get away with many things that together they would not have. He had a choice to make. He could assert his power by enforcing new rules or he and his wife could brainstorm together and come up with other options that were reasonable and fair to everyone. They talked about it and agreed to let the daughter have input on the new rules. With consistent structure and guidance and by allowing her to have a say in important matter, her behavior improved and she was no longer getting into trouble at school.

Plan and prepare for the reunion with your partner just as you needed to prepare for the deployment separation. Some plans that you make may need to be readjusted as new events unfold. Be open to new ideas. Most importantly, stay connected and work as a team.