Have you lost the spark in your marriage? What was exciting at one time seems a little ho-hum these days? Gottman’s Couples Therapy offers assessments and strategies that have been tested on many couples and shown to be effective to liven up marriages, result in better communication and increase intimacy. Willingness from both parties to put in effort is a necessity. Date nights, strategies for communication, and love maps are just a few examples of ways to light the fire.
Date nights are a great way to start. Remember how exciting that time was when you started your relationship and were dating. Get some of that excitement back. Take turns making plans for a weekly date night. Take a break from dishes, diapers and cooking; away from work, grass cutting and responsibility. Turn towards fun, carefree times, and ways to amuse yourselves. Make the dates exciting, do things you have always wanted to do. Go to another town for coffee, try something really different for dinner, spend a night in a hotel together, go on a picnic and let your ideas flow. It might take awhile before you relax and enjoy date nights together but don’t give up as they will become exciting. Date nights help couples communicate meaningfully and are a worthwhile investment.
How do you start to communicate meaningfully? Maybe you have lost the art of spontaneous communication you had when you first met and hours became minutes. Perhaps one of the ways to start is to concentrate on four strategies that Gottmans refer to as the “Four Horsemen in Your Relationship”. The four horsemen in your relationship are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. Overcoming these four horsemen leads to the art of owning your feelings verses criticism, appreciation verses being defensiveness, being present and owning your feelings or walking away to cool down verses stonewalling, and avoiding contempt by owning parts of an argument as your own. Studies done by the Gottman Institute has shown a high percentage of couples who communicate using the four horsemen end up divorce by 7 years of marriage. The effort to turn this dysfunctional style of communication off is not easy, but it works with awareness and motivation. Once the conversation becomes more friendly, loving and intimate you are ready for love maps.
The love maps are an intervention that involves a series of questions to learn intimate details about your partner. This questionnaire can be utilized on a date night and/or in a therapy session or both. This is a simple strategy to learn more about each other and to be involved in a more meaningful way. This intervention helps the couple to start communicating on date nights if they are having a problem with what to say to each other.
Date nights, strategies for communication, and love maps are just a few ways to start work as a couple towards relationship repair. Working with a therapist together as a couple or with a therapist with groups of couples, helps motivate the couple(s). Awareness through assessment of the problems helps the therapist know what couples needs to do to guide them to some solutions. Solutions lead to a more functional relationship that works more effectively for the whole family.