Keeping the "good stuff" in your relationship

Most people come to couples therapy looking to change what's wrong in their relationship or marriage. Of course that's always what stands out for us. It's how bad you communicate, the fact that you're not having sex as often or that there has been a major betrayal. And when there is a crisis you do have to take care of that first. I consider disrespect and a breech of trust to be "crisis" issues that must be taken care of immediately. But if neither one of you has cheated and arguments don't spiral into name calling and curse words, then focusing on making more of the interactions with your spouse or partner positive is definitely worth the effort. 

I have to admit this is where it gets tough for most of the couples I work with. It is really hard to reach out to each other if things have been bad for a long time. It's easy for most people to slowly fall into the habit of keeping to themselves, waiting for the other person to make a move which only makes you build more of a case against things working out if they don't. Yet according to the research of John Gottman, if the interactions in your relationship aren't at least 80% good to 20% bad you are headed for trouble. And you can stop arguing as often, have more peace in your home, even learn to negotiate and communicate better in general but if there isn't enough "good" it makes it more likely that any change is merely temporary. That is because that good will, kindness, appreciation and affection is a buffer to the unavoidable difficult moments in every relationship. And make no mistake there will be difficult times in every marriage. That is why it's important that you make a conscious choice to reach out to your partner in a way that makes them feel good about the two of you.

Again reaching out is not easy. You make yourself vulnerable when you reach out. You take the risk of being rejected. And habit in and of itself makes it easier to keep the status quo. Ask any seasoned couples therapist and they will tell you it is much harder to make a change in a couple that is disconnected and not fighting a whole lot than it is to make a change when you fight all the time but have that connection. Our habits are usually automatic and unconscious. The longer they've been in place the harder they are to change. With all of our busy, hectic lives setting aside time at the end of the day to relax together is usually at the end our long list of things to do. Our marriage or relationship is also the heart of our lives and the foundation of our families once we have kids. That is why focusing on this is so important and really needs to be at the top of our list. So if you want to know one thing you can do to make you relationship stronger it's making sure there is a lot of good.