3 Tools You Can Use to Strengthen Your Relationship – TODAY!
hi! yes we still alive and kicking over here! hope my american friends had a fabulous thanksgiving! we ventured to dallas and atlas was a rockstar on her second trip (thank goodness since that’s where her name came from and all). i have lots of thoughts on motherhood and more that i’m working on processing and getting out so thanks for patience.
i am super excited to share today’s post with you from my friend caroline! i first met caroline 9 years ago when i flew to texas to meet my husband’s parents for the first time. i met a ton of his close friends he met through HOBY when he was 15 – caroline and i instantly hit it off. she’s hilarious and super smart – my favorite combination. she is now a professional counselor and has a passion for helping couples so high five! i asked her to write about some helpful tips so please enjoy and utilize!
Our culture loves a good fairy tale.
We love to hear stories about couples who overcome obstacles using nothing but the power of their love to make it through. We cheer for the romantic kiss that comes as two people very much in love ride off into the sunset together. As the credits roll, we feel satisfied that this truly is the end of their love story—and of course, they really all do live happily ever after.
The trouble comes, though, when we start to believe that fairy tales are reality. We’ve bought into the idea that if you love your partner enough—or if you found your true soul mate—then your relationship should be easy and effortless. However, there comes a point in every long-term, committed relationship when you realize that “happily ever after” is really just the beginning.
Relationships, like most things of value, require a serious investment of time, energy, and effort. As much as we may wish that healthy relationships happen naturally or on their own, research shows that happy couples do not happen by accident! Strong relationships are forged through intentional, daily effort.
Relationship researchers Drs. John & Julie Gottman have spent most of their careers studying what makes relationships work. Through their research, they have discovered the best partners excel in faithfully attending to daily acts of care and relationship maintenance. This is good news for us: Healthy relationships don’t require huge romantic gestures or constant long walks on the beach at sunset. They require small, consistent, and daily acts of love. As John Gottman has said, “It’s the small things done often that make the difference.”
Through their research, the Gottmans have pinpointed several strategies for couples looking to do the daily work of investing in their relationship. Here are three tools you can use today to help you deepen your connection with your partner and strengthen your bond:
1) Make daily deposits into your relationship’s emotional bank account
The Gottman’s describe what they call an emotional bank account to illustrate how much time, energy, and effort you put into your relationship. For every positive experience you have with your partner, you make a deposit into your account. When you are experiencing major stressors in your lives or having relationship difficulties, you make withdrawals from your account. Here is the magic of the emotional bank account: The more you proactively invest in your relationship when you aren’t in a crisis, the better you will be able to manage one when it comes. Even though that two-minute back rub or intentional word of affirmation may not feel like much in the moment, it creates a strong foundation that will help you and your partner weather the storms of life together.
2) Intentionally practice fondness and admiration of your partner
Do you remember why you chose your partner in the first place? When you first fell in love with them, you likely could have written chapters extoling all their amazing qualities. As your relationship develops and matures, don’t lose touch of all the reasons why you decided to be with them in the first place. Research shows that purposefully practicing gratitude can help you deepen your connection with your partner and ward off negative communication strategies during conflict. It’s hard to be cruel to someone you admire and respect! Be intentional about practicing fondness and admiration: Try to think of five things you appreciate about your partner each day. When you feel frustrated with them, take a moment to reflect on several of their positive qualities. You’ll be surprised at how much this practice can strengthen your relationship and soften your experiences of conflict.
3) Turn toward your partner instead of away
You come home from a long day at the office and immediately collapse on the couch. You pull out your phone to start perusing all the Facebook posts and blog articles you missed during the day. Your partner comes home and starts telling you about their day. What do you do? You turn toward your partner instead of away! This means pausing what you are doing for the moment to give your partner your full attention. People who consistently pay attention to their partner’s bids for emotional connection and respond appropriately are making investments in their relationships that will pay dividends in the future. By turning toward your partner, you communicate to them that they matter to you and are your priority. This increases feelings of safety and intimacy within your relationship.
Healthy relationships take intentional effort! You can invest in the health and strength of your relationship by making daily deposits into your emotional bank account, practicing fondness toward and admiration of your partner, and turning toward your partner instead of away by giving them your full attention. By doing these small things with great love often, you can truly move your relationship toward an authentic and real happily ever after.
Caroline Sweatt-Eldredge, MA, LPC, is a married millenial and licensed professional counselor in Houston, Texas. She helps individuals, couples, and families strengthen their relationships and heal wounds from the past. Caroline is passionate about helping couples, especially fellow millenials, learn the skills and deepen the bonds they need for their relationships to thrive.
For more information about Caroline or to get in touch, please visit her website at www.