One of the most important things to assess in a couple's relationship is the state of its emotional bank account. Relationship researcher John Gottman explains that every time you turn toward your partner with warmth; follow through on your agreements; share affection, appreciation and gratitude; and create positive future plans you are making a small investment in this account. You can also make withdrawals and overdraw the account by doing the opposite.
Having a positive balance in the account can provide sustenance during crisis and help couples through times of repair. It creates the possibility of long-term sustainability.
Couples who are successful make tiny investments in their relationships frequently. Satisfied long-term partners will turn toward one another with affection, gratitude and appreciation in both verbal and nonverbal ways up to hundreds of times per hour.
This is even true of non-romantic partnerships. Family members and friends who attend to relationships regularly in thoughtful ways are better equipped to build long-lasting relationships. Even business partners who tune in to the importance of relationships will have greater success in negotiating contracts and meetings. These folks stick together with greater loyalty and trust.
So how can you invest in your relationships? Here are five simple tips:
It's amazing how little time many people actually spend with their partners each week. Think about it — you're at work over 40 hours plus commute time, you work out or watch TV and then it's time for bed. Carve out 30 quality minutes to spend with your sweetheart each day (away from electronic devices) and I promise you will notice a difference.
Over time we forget to say those sweet things to our loved ones. This is a problem because we stop noticing all those wonderful things and our partner stops hearing them. Make sure that once a day you are making an investment in your relationship's bank account by sharing something you appreciate about your partner. Think of it as a vitamin for your relationship's health.
Gottman talks a lot about the importance of bids in relationships. Bids are the times we ask for attention from our partner. Successful couples notice bids, and more often than not they respond warmly to one another. Missing bids can quickly get you into shaky territory. You don't have to go along with everything your partner says but it helps to notice all the ways they reach out to you (eye contact, affection, requests for help, invitations etc.) and respond with care.
Sometimes when couples are together for a while they start building resentments. These can snowball if you don't stop them quickly. Trust your partner's best intentions. When in question, ask for clarification — "Honey, you're just asking if I am wearing this so we don't accidentally dress as twins, not because you think it looks bad, right?"
It's important to have a shared goal on the horizon and values guiding your decisions. This doesn't mean you always agree, but you have a shared mission to help guide your collaborative process. Set some dates for the future and talk openly about how much you look forward to them (travel plans, shared celebrations, etc.). Talk with your sweetheart about the things that add meaning to your life and shared time.
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