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1

Couples get stuck when they defend their intentions instead of focusing on how they made their partner feel.

Whether or not you meant to hurt your partner’s feelings, their feelings are hurt. Saying “I didn’t mean to upset you” doesn’t make them feel better. It’s not even really an apology.

Instead, accept responsibility for your own actions and attitude. “I’m sorry I was rude” is an apology that takes ownership.

Gottman Newsletter 7/16/19

2

Relationships are like a dance. There are times when you feel drawn to your loved one and times when you feel the need to pull back and replenish your sense of autonomy.

The potential for conflict arises when partners’ needs fall on different ends of the spectrum. Some people desire more frequent connection, while others crave more independence.

Viewing your relationship as a dance rather than a tug of war will remind you to collaborate to meet each other’s needs rather than fight to preserve your own.

Gottman Newsletter 7/04/19

3

Sorry for venting.
Sorry for being late.
Sorry for taking up your time.
What if you reframed apologies as appreciations?
Thank you for listening.
Thank you for waiting.
Thank you for spending time with me.

There are some things you should apologize for. For everything else, try saying thank you instead.

Gottman Newsletter 7/02/19

4

Before you say something to your partner, first ask yourself, “Is it kind?”

If the answer is no, then don’t say it. Or say it in a different way.

Sounds simple, right? It’s not, especially during an argument.

“Kindness doesn’t mean that we don’t express our anger,” Julie Gottman explains in an interview with The Atlantic, “but the kindness informs how we choose to express the anger. You can throw spears at your partner. Or you can explain why you’re hurt and angry, and that’s the kinder path.”

Treat your partner like they’re someone you love.

Gottman Newsletter 6/22/19

5

When your partner is upset with you, your first reaction may be to defend yourself.

But here’s the thing: even if you think they’re being unreasonable, they’re still upset. And that’s worth digging into.

It's almost always about something deeper. Explore that. Breathe, listen, and ask questions. Seek to understand their position.

They’ll feel heard, de-escalate, and you’ll both have a better understanding of what caused them to get upset. They may even apologize if they said something unkind.

And besides, nobody has ever calmed down after being told to calm down.

Gottman Newsletter 6/25/19

6

Happy marriages are based on a deep friendship. In fact, as Certified Gottman Therapist Cheryl Fraser puts it, a romantic relationship is really just “friendship plus nudity.”

And even though many people will say “I married my best friend,” it’s hard to think about what that looks like in practice.

What does friendship look like to you? How do you choose the people you stay friends with and how do you treat them?

Do the rules you apply to your friends also apply to your partner? For example, you might have a friend who is consistently 15 minutes late any time you get together and that’s “just the way they are.” Do you treat or regard their tardiness differently than your partner’s?

Friendships are a vital supplement to any romantic relationship, but it’s important not to forget to be a friend to your partner.

How can you be a better friend? How can you be the best friend?

Gottman Newsletter 6/06/19

7

It feels so good to give a compliment. But one thing can sour it: the response.

Oh, I don’t know.
No I’m not.
This old thing? It’s nothing.

Accepting compliments well is just as important as giving them. It honors the person giving the compliment and allows you to believe something nice about yourself. Everyone wins!

This week, practice giving (and receiving) compliments with your partner or a friend, giving equal importance to both sides of the equation.

If you’re struggling, here is a tested and proven script when receiving a compliment:

Gottman Newsletter 5/21/19

8

We can’t emphasize enough the importance of taking a break when you’re upset.

When one or both partners are flooded, it takes at least 20 minutes to calm down and be able to re-engage rationally.

But what if, after 20 minutes or so, you just feel more upset? What if you’re less overwhelmed, but filled with righteous anger? What if you’ve spent 20 minutes thinking of the perfect thing to say to nail your partner to the wall when you get back into it?

Once you’ve done the good work of suggesting a break, make sure you actually take it.

It’s okay—helpful even—to completely disengage from the argument to self-soothe.

Gottman Newsletter 5/14/19

9

Does your relationship have space to accommodate change?

Who were you five years ago? How were you different six months ago?

In what ways has your partner changed that you’re grateful for, beyond maybe a questionable hairstyle or two?

How have you changed together, as a couple?

Evolution is not to be feared.

In relationships, the only constant is change. Embrace it.

Gottman Newsletter 5/09/19

10

There’s one question you can ask your partner every day that will improve your relationship.

“What can I do to make you feel loved today?”

It takes the guesswork out of loving them.

It may not feel authentic at first, and that’s okay. You’re learning how to do something that you didn’t know how to do before, like playing an instrument.

But over time, with intentionality and consistency, it will become more natural.

Soon, the answer might be, “You’re already doing it.”

Gottman Newsletter 4/25/19

11

Do you practice digital emotional intelligence?

There are a lot of ways to do this, but one of the easiest is to check in with yourself before hitting “send” on an email, Facebook post, tweet, or text.

Take 10 seconds to ponder these questions before you send:
Am I feeling defensive? Reactive? Angry?
What is my emotional state?
Would I say this to someone in person?
Is there a chance my tone could be misinterpreted, or that I have misinterpreted theirs?

It’s easy to compose a reactive response, forgetting that there is a human being on the other end of the screen. Emotional intelligence is a powerful muscle to build, especially with more and more interactions happening digitally.

In the long term, practicing digital emotional intelligence can set you up for more positive in-person interactions.

Gottman Newsletter 4/23/19

12

When you see your partner in pain, your first instinct may be to offer advice or fix the problem to alleviate their suffering.

However, it can be more helpful to simply offer a listening ear. Acting as an empathetic witness to your partner’s struggles is often the most supportive move.

Offering advice can unintentionally communicate that you think they aren't smart enough or capable of solving their own problems.

When in doubt, replace your solution with two magic words: “That sucks.”

Gottman Newsletter 4/18/19

13

When was the last time you and your partner laughed together? Like, really laughed?

For many couples, play falls further and further down the priority list over time. Work, family demands, and stress can suck the fun right out of a relationship.

But according to University of Denver Psychology Professor Howard Markham, “The correlation between fun and marital happiness is high and significant. The more you invest in fun and friendship and being there for your partner, the happier the relationship will get over time.”

Plain and simple—couples who play together, stay together.

Gottman Newsletter 4/02/19

14

“You’re selfish.”

When you label your partner instead of their behavior, that’s criticism.

If you do it from a position of superiority, that’s contempt.

Both are Four Horsemen, which are damaging to the health of your relationship.

Instead, describe their specific behavior and how it made you feel. And tell them what you need.

“I was upset when you were late and I didn’t hear from you. I need you to text me next time.”

Gottman Newsletter 07/25/19

15

Today, or on your next date night, try asking your partner this question:

What’s something I don’t know about you?

Alternatively, you can ask them for a story they’ve never told you before.

You may think you know everything about your partner and that you’ve heard all of each other’s stories by now. But things can slip through the cracks.

Sometimes all you have to do is ask.

Gottman Newsletter 07/30/19

16

Their “same old dull routine” didn’t include room for champagne, piña coladas, or midnight lovemaking. Their relationship was, according to the lyrics, “a worn-out recording of a favorite song.”

How do you re-heat things in your relationship before deciding to take out a personal ad (or, more likely, downloading Tinder)? How do you keep monogamy from becoming monotony?

Create opportunities for adventure. Try new things together. Write a personal ad detailing things you’d like to try with your partner (then share it with them, rather than posting it).

Gottman Newsletter 08/01/19

17

If you expect perfection of yourself, your relationship, and others, you are bound for disappointment.

A perfect relationship would require each individual to stop being imperfect or, as it is better known, human. Perfection as a metric for success is the foundation of countless sci-fi plotlines.

While you should maintain high expectations for how you are treated in a relationship, you may want to change the metric for "success."

Instead of trying to be perfect or conflict-free, try measuring your success with questions like these:

Was I kind to my partner today?
Did we treat each other with respect?
Can we trust each other?
Are we friends?
Were we able to repair any conflict that arose?

The answers to those questions will be better indicators of your relationship’s success. After all, holding yourself to a standard of perfection is exactly what the robots want.

Gottman Newsletter 08/29/19

18

If a child showed you their artwork, how harshly would you critique it?

That’s not what a whale looks like.
Spiders have eight legs, not five and a half.
That’s ugly and looks nothing like me.

You would probably encourage them. If you kept up the criticism, the child would eventually stop showing you their art, or stop drawing altogether.

Do you show the same encouragement to your partner?

No one can survive in a marriage (at least not happily) if they feel more judged than admired. Your partner won’t make use of your constructive criticism if there’s not a surrounding climate of admiration and respect,” Psychologist Harriet Lerner cautions.

In fact, we believe there is no such thing as constructive criticism in a relationship. All criticism is painful.

Continuing to meet your partner’s bids with criticism may cause them to stop sharing their life with you.

So couch the critic.

Gottman Newsletter 09/05/19

19

Stephen Covey writes, “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour.”

Accordingly, it is likely our first impulse to build a defense of our behavior any time our intentions are misinterpreted.

I’m not a bad person! If only I could make you understand.

It’s a difficult impulse to corral.

Next time you find yourself thinking, “How can I make them understand?” try asking, “What can I learn from this?” instead.

What can you learn so that, in the future, your behavior and your intentions will be more closely aligned? How can you make sure your partner is getting the message you intended?

Gottman Newsletter 09/12/19

20

Think of a conflict discussion as a dinner party you and your partner are throwing together.

You have certain guests you want to invite (Resolution, Repair Attempts, Humor, Permission to Take a Break). Then, there’s the guest you just know will show up no matter what—Negativity.

Negativity is usually the first to arrive. They smelled something cooking, didn’t bring a beverage or a dessert, and they waste no time making themselves at home.

You and your partner exchange glances. Negativity’s shoes are off and they’re already gnawing on a drumstick (Where did that even come from?).

How can you stop Negativity from taking over the party, alienating your other guests, and telling that same old story too loud like they did last time?

Mitigate.

Set boundaries with Negativity early. Don’t let them dominate the conversation.

For every one thing Negativity says, you agree to outweigh it with five positive contributions from the rest of the group. Friendship is there, and they’re on your side.

You and your partner are in this together.

With careful cooperation, you can keep Negativity from getting out of control and overstaying their welcome—at the party and in your relationship.

Gottman Newsletter 09/12/19

21

Two types of couples: the Masters and the Disasters.

The Masters more or less like each other and stay together, while the Disasters either break up or stay together and are unhappy.

As you can see, the standard for being a Master is pretty low. Everyone can do it.

It’s not about having a perfect relationship or even being the perfect partner. it’s about being kind, repairing when you hurt each other’s feelings, and always remembering that you’re on the same team.

Gottman Newsletter 09/26/19

22

In healthy relationships, partners are curious about each other’s feelings.

They adopt the motto, “When you’re hurt, the world stops and I listen.”

In unhealthy relationships, on the other hand, partners tend to ignore each other’s feelings.

They think to themselves, “I don’t have time for your negativity.”

So the next time your partner is upset, ask them to share their feelings with you⁠—and just listen.

Gottman Newsletter 10/01/19

23

There’s a difference between privacy and secrecy in a relationship.

It’s okay to keep some things private from your partner. They don’t need to know every small detail.

Secrets, on the other hand, can be toxic. When something private is coupled with shame, it becomes a secret.

So respect each other’s privacy. But don’t keep secrets.

Gottman Newsletter 10/10/19

24

Feeling defensive is normal and natural. It’s what you do with that feeling that makes all the difference.

When confronted with something that makes you feel defensive (“the sink is full of dirty dishes!”), you have two options.

You can respond defensively: “Some of those dishes are yours! I haven’t had time!”

Or, you can check in with yourself and acknowledge how you’re feeling in the form of a repair attempt: “I’m feeling defensive.”

That statement works to get the conversation back on track.

You will likely feel defensive again in the future, but being aware of your reaction can turn the tide of a conversation for the better.

Gottman Newsletter 10/15/19

25

“You’re always working on your computer.”

What they’re really saying is, “I miss you.”

Under the complaint is a longing for connection, but the recipient doesn’t always see it.

Instead, they see the complainer as an adversary.

So the next time you’re going to complain, ask yourself, “What do I need?”

Gottman Newsletter 10/17/19

26

Conflict is inevitable. While a nice thought, a conflict-free relationship is not a realistic expectation.

Between any two imperfect humans, disagreements and misunderstandings are bound to arise.

It’s how you approach conflict in your relationship that makes all the difference.

In fact, not all conflict needs to result in an argument. It can be productive. Often, it is an opportunity to connect and hear your partner’s needs.

So don’t be afraid of conflict. It can be helpful to remember that while conflict is inevitable, combat is optional.

Gottman Newsletter 11/12/19

27

When a person stonewalls, they’re creating a cold, impenetrable fortress. That fortress communicates one thing to potential intruders: keep out.

But fortresses also exist to protect what’s inside.

When you or your partner stonewalls, it is usually to protect from feeling psychologically and physically overwhelmed.

Thoughts within the fortress might sound like:

I’m feeling attacked.
I can’t take this.
Maybe they’ll tire themselves out if I don’t respond.
If I say anything back, this will only get worse.

However ineffective, stonewalling is a response to wanting to protect and preserve.

The next time you encounter a fortress, it may be best to ask what it’s protecting. It could be your key to getting beyond its walls.

Gottman Newsletter 11/14/19

28

In the story of “The Zax,” by Dr. Seuss, a North-Going Zax and a South-Going Zax find themselves at odds. They’re moving in opposite directions and tell each other, in rhyme, “You’re in my way.”

Rooted in a foundation of pride and sheer stubbornness, they each refuse to step to the side. Years pass. A highway is built around them. Neither Zax goes anywhere.

This simple story demonstrates the four characteristics of gridlocked conflict:
1) They’ve had the same argument again and again with no resolution.
2) Neither of them can address the issue with humor, empathy, or affection.
3) The issue is becoming increasingly polarizing as time goes on.
4) Compromise seems impossible because it would mean selling out—giving up something important and core to their beliefs, values, or sense of self.

In a relationship, those course corrections might look like turning towards each other, remembering you like each other, and making temporary compromises.

Gottman Newsletter 11/21/19

29

Relationships aren’t easy, but they’re worth it.

We are consistently in awe of those who are willing to put in the work, to invest in another person, and to embark on the journey of learning to love others better.

Gottman Newsletter 11/28/19

30

Practice self-soothing in moments when you are less distressed so that you can draw from that skill when you become overwhelmed.

When you can talk to your partner with less tension and stress weighing you down, you can have better and more productive conversations

Gottman Newsletter 12/17/19

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