Written By: Leah Liu, MCP, Registered Clinical Counsellor
As February approaches, Valentine’s Day is on the horizon. Have you thought about what gifts you want to give and receive from your partner? Or are you planning a romantic dinner?
But how long can a romantic day keep the spark alive?
According to Dr. John Gottman, to maintain a long-lasting romance, the secret is to turn toward each other in small ways every day. Don’t take daily interactions for granted and make an effort to bond with each other.
Here are two exercises to make turning toward each other an easy, natural part of your lives together:
Exercise 1: Keep Emotional Bank Accounts
- Deposit points when you or your partner do something nice to make you feel emotionally connected
- Withdraw points if either of you do something that makes the other person feel uncomfortable or disconnected
- Check your balance weekly or monthly to track the process
For example, if you pick up your partner when it’s raining, you can deposit points in your emotional bank account. On the other hand, if your partner buys your favorite cake, they can deposit points in their emotional bank account. Additionally, if you or your partner does something that makes the other person feel uncomfortable or disconnected, points may need to be withdrawn from the account accordingly.
It is recommended to check the balance weekly or monthly to track the progress.
Exercise 2: The Stress-Reducing Conversation
According to Gottman, the most effective way to earn points in your emotional bank account is to have a stress-reducing conversation (i.e., “to reunite at the end of the day and talk about how it went.”). This conversation helps manage stress that is NOT caused by the relationship to ensure that they don’t spill over into the relationship.
Although couples may think that they have many conversations, sometimes their stress level is increased because they feel frustrated that their partner did not listen to them. If that’s the case, then it is important to learn a better approach to communicating so those conversations are calm and stress-reducing for both partners.
Here are the steps to practice stress-reducing conversations:
- Plan a time (20-30 minutes) for this chat when both of you want to talk rather than venting right after getting home
- Only talk about things outside of your relationship
- Take turns to share or complain (not criticize)
- As the listener, do not give unsolicited advice
- Show your understanding and validate feelings
- Take your partner’s side and express a “we against others” attitude
For example, during the stress-reducing conversation, you share that you had a tough day at work and your partner listens actively. They validate your feelings by saying “I can understand why you’re feeling that way, it sounds like it was a really tough day at work.”
They also express that they are there for you and willing to help you cope with the stress. This kind of conversation will help both of you to manage the stress that is not caused by your relationship.
By turning towards each other in small ways every day and having stress-reducing conversations, couples can create a solid foundation for their relationship. Remember, it’s the little things that make a big difference in keeping the love alive.
Don’t underestimate the power of emotional bank accounts and regular check-ins to build a deeper connection with your partner. Practice these exercises and see how they can spark up your relationship in the long run.
To learn how to deepen your relationship more, contact us at Brentwood Counselling Centre.