Written by Kate Pauley
I’m not typically the biggest fan of New Year’s Resolutions, but when they’re based on research, I can get more on board.
John Gottman is the world’s leading relationship researcher. He classifies couples into two categories, relationship “masters” or relationship “disasters.”
To become a relationship master this year, here are 5 resolutions to set with your partner:
- When your partner makes small gestures for your attention (“bids for attention”) respond with interest. For example, when your partner says “hunny, look at the deer outside the window” rather than saying “yep” without looking up from your phone, put your phone down for a second, look outside the window, and make a genuine response. This shows your partner that you care what he or she has to say and that they are more important than whatever is going on on your phone.
- Increase the number of positive to negative interactions that you have with your partner. Look for the positive things that your partner is doing and then comment on them. Praise your partner for the things that they are doing that you enjoy. So often couples get stuck in negative interaction cycles where they only notice the negative and then criticize. This year see if you can find 3 positive things your partner is doing to every 1 negative and actively point them out to your partner. These can be small and simple things like: “thank you for emptying the dishwasher” or “I appreciate you offering to drive today.” It doesn’t matter how small, the goal is to get to a 3:1 positive to negative ratio so that when a negative interaction does occur, you have many positive things keeping your relationship emotional bank account high.
- Get excited together. When you partner shares good news with you, respond enthusiastically. Share in your joys together. Get excited with your partner, show them that you really care about their good news. A response like, “sounds good” can be incredibly deflating, how can you show your partner that you are thrilled right alongside them.
- Don’t make assumptions, ask instead. Rather than making assumptions about your partner and immediately acting upon those assumptions, ask questions. When your partner is late to dinner, rather than assuming that they don’t care about you or being on time, ask them to tell you about their day instead. Maybe you can even respond with something compassionate like, “sounds difficult, I’ve been there before.”
- Be kind. This one seems so easy, but can be so difficult when we have so many feelings and so much importance caught up in our romantic, most important relationships. The trick to doing this is to take a pause and notice what is coming up for you before responding. Often, as humans, we jump straight into reactions, but if instead of reacting immediately you can take a pause, check in with yourself, notice what is coming up from you, and then respond from there. That moment of awareness allows you to respond in a kind manner rather than reacting with anger or criticism.