One of the methods I often use with the couples I see is referred to as The Gottman Method. The Gottman’s know couples. They know them because they’ve studied them…intensely. If you’ve never heard the story of how the Gottman Method was developed, it’s worth a read. It’s kind of crazy to imagine all those couples being filmed for an entire weekend, and then the follow up, over YEARS to identify differences in the couples that lasted! Those were some committed couples!
One awesome piece of info the Gottman’s encourage in their method is often referred to as doing “small things, often.” The Gottman’s teach that in lasting relationships, there is a culture of appreciation that is upheld using small moments to connect with your partner. These small things aren’t big grand gestures you’d pull off on Valentine’s Day, or Anniversary trips. It’s great if you happen to be good at big gestures, the problem is that over the y e a r s big gestures tend to get spaced farther and farther apart, because life changes. It just does. These “small things” are done in the every day moments you share with your spouse. The day in, day out, between wrestling toddlers into car seats or arguing over who’s going to do the dishes things. These things are rituals of connection, that when done often, help couples avoid falling into too deep of a hole of disconnection so when sh*t really hits the fan you still have those many moments that can remind each other that we are in this together.
Here are some examples of small moments, often.
KISS — Does that seem obvious? Good! I like obvious, because obvious hopefully means it’s easy to replicate. Not just Hi and Bye pecks. Kiss longer, try to do it for 5-6 or more seconds. As John Gottman describes, give a “kiss with intention”. If you’ve been in your relationship for a while….think back to the early months…THAT kind of kissing HA!
DON’T ASK, DO. — Open your eyes, look around your home or watch what your partner is up to, and try and see what they might need some help with. Really look around and then DO something. Don’t wait for them to ask, don’t ignore what may have been ignored for days (*I’m looking at you week old laundry pile), just help! This type of small moment gives that partnership feeling time and time again. Resentment is a slow and steady monster, keep it out of your relationship by using even the most mundane tasks as a moment to connect.
HOLD HANDS — Don’t role your eyes at me. This is another one of those couple things that gets lost in time. In the car? Grab each other’s hands. Waiting in a line, hold hands for a bit. Walking with your kids, link hands like a chain. This is great for the “physical touch” people out there, but even if you’re not into PDA, a quick kiss on the hand can still be meaningful. Some couples will even take those really heavy moments, in between an argument, when it kind of gets silent — both partners are frustrated and have talked and talked and still a bit upset — that’s the moment to hold hands for a bit. Sometimes it’s easier to compromise with that moment of connection in place.
SEE IT & SPEAK IT — Notice your partner, remind yourself why you chose them, why you are grateful for them in that moment, and for the love, TELL THEM. We can get so used to expecting things from each other and forget how good it feels to be noticed. “Thank you so much for your help yesterday, I was really overwhelmed and it meant a lot to me”, “I saw you reading earlier and thought you looked beautiful”, “It’s been hard with you working later hours this week, but I appreciate how much you are doing for our family, I’m going to plan a date night this weekend for us”, “You’re cute.”
Small things, often is one of my favorite ways to start building a culture of appreciation in a relationship. If you and your partner feel like you need some help getting back into the swing of things, don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule a few couples sessions with a local therapist. Whether or not you use Gottman method, just recognizing that there is room to improve is a great first step to changing the course of your relationship.
Jessica Lombardo is a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) and certified addictions professional (CAP) located in Tampa Bay, FL. To learn more about Gulfside Counseling, LLC. visit her website at www.gulfsidecounseling.com Jessica specializes in working with Women’s Issues, Teens (13+), Millenial Couples, and Firefighters.