Walking along the beach near my office I get to see a lot of weddings. The hopeful celebration of two people, and their families and friends, coming together and making promises of love, life, security, and a future together. I think of the promises that are made; the spoken and unspoken that we speak to our partner when we make the commitment of marriage. Sad though it may be, sometimes those promises are broken and we hurt and suffer through the heartbreak of a devastating decision. I don’t want this blog to be about divorce and loss but rather about the importance of prevention so we don’t have to get to that decision.
What does prevention mean when it comes to marriage or long term relationships? Prevention means making your relationship your number one priority. Prevention means that through all the stress and ups and downs of life you look at your partner and celebrate being a couple. Prevention means waking up every morning and asking yourself: in what ways am I going to love my partner today?
In couples counseling sessions I often hear that life just got too busy and we stopped appreciating or paying attention to each other. At this point couples begin to realize just how much trouble their relationship is in, when they don’t really know their partner any more or when they stop being friends or friendly with each other. I tell couples that sometimes you have to look at your relationship like a business, and in a successful businesses we first start with having a business plan. When we run into obstacles we review the plan, start to brainstorm new strategies for working through the obstacles, and then we put them into action.
So what is your new relationship plan? What are some of the tools you can use to start reconnecting to your partner? Dr. John Gottman explains that the foundation of any relationship is your friendship, so first start reconnecting as friends. Ask your partner open ended questions, ask about their likes and dislikes, and ask about their hopes and dreams. Dr. Gottman even has an app for that (love maps available in App Store) and a card game called Love Maps: http://www.gottman.com/shop/love-map-cards-for-couples/
The next thing in your plan should be creating time in your busy schedule for your partner. I know this is hard to do with kids, work, family, and everything else that comes into our lives on the daily, but I tell couples to start small. This is when technology can be useful. Sending a text filled with love or just a special message for your partner is a great start. Try cooking a meal you know is your partner’s favorite, or taking 15 minutes before bed or in the morning and talking to each other about the day. Turn of the television, the computers the phones and playing a game together, reading out loud to each other, exercising or going for a walk, even just taking the dog out together are simple ways to make time for each other.
Once you get into the groove of doing daily check in’s plan for a big night out. This could be a walk on the beach at sunset, kayaking, going to your favorite restaurant or just going out and listening to music. You pick, but it’s a special night for you and your partner. Gottman talks about the importance of rituals of connections. What are the ways you connect with your partner from day to day? You can also nurture your relationship without being with your partner. You do this by thinking fondly or with admiration. Gottman has a saying, “catch your partner doing something right”. So when you are at work, or just away from you partner, think of positives things your partner is doing. Think of what you appreciate about your partner. Just thinking about positives and what you appreciate will make you feel closer to your partner. When you get home from work that day, tell your partner all the things you appreciate about them. Lastly, plan a trip together. Whether it’s a week from now or a year from now, planning something together gives you something to look forward to.
This is just a little start to what to write in your relationship plan. I can’t stress enough about the importance of prevention in a relationship. Start now and don’t wait. Go to your partner today and start creating your new relationship plan.
If you’re feeling stuck and need help with your relationship plan, or with any other aspect of your relationship, click on the “Schedule Now” button below and schedule a couples therapy session.