On the go? Listen to our blog instead of reading it.
by William Schroeder, MA, LPC, NCC
Many people come into therapy and are curious about how to have a happy relationship or how can they improve their relationship. There are a lot of factors that go into building rewarding relationships but some simple points that John Gottman often brings are are as simple as bids for connection, gentle startups, and repair attempts. Who is John Gottman and why should I care what he thinks? John Gottman has studied thousands of couples over the past 30 years and put together an evidence based practice of how to work with couples. (Also see 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work and Relationship Warning Signs)
Action items for a happy relationship
- Bids for connection – Partners who express interest in each other’s worlds. Bids for connection are things like asking daily, “how was your day?” Being truly interested in this helps attunement in relationships. Look for details that you might easily miss without focused interest. In one study, it was found that as many as 200 bids for connection can happen during dinner alone. A question like, “how do you like your wine” is a perfect example.
- Gentle startups – partners who make specific complaints and requests and avoid blaming. An example might be someone saying, “We need to go to the store this weekend and we have a lot of stuff to get and I really would like your help. I am worried you might get distracted on your phone and that might overwhelm me more. Is there something we could do beforehand to make sure that doesn’t happen?” This sounds much better than blaming someone for inattentive behavior prior to embarking. “Masters handled conflict with mutual respect, humor, interest, openness, they accepted influenced, and they acknowledged their partner’s ideas or feelings. These positive responses consistently were found to be at a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative, as opposed to the Disasters, who had a positive to negative ratio of 0.8:1.” – John Gottman
- Repair attempts – This is simple. Conflict will happen but seeing it as an opportunity to grow and change is difficult. Arguments and hurts will happen in relationships and it is essential to repair them. This helps to build the safety of the relationship. “The ability for couples to repair is directly related to the strength of their friendship as identified in #1.” – John Gottman
Pro tip: Want to see an example of how to voice a complaint with a gentle startup?
If you would like more personally tailored advice for your relationship, contact us to make a counseling appointment to see if we are a fit. We have 9 couples therapists with varying approaches to fit your comfort and guide you through couples counseling.