Mindfulness for Couples: Relationships 101

Relationships are hard work. People get busy with life and simply neglect to nourish their union. Sometimes it turns into a competition for time between family, work and self-care. With all that happens in a day or even a week, what’s left over for sustaining a relationship?

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Unintentionally, we often overlook feeding our partners with what is necessary for a healthy relationship. Mindfulness for couples is used, often, in couples counseling sessions by the professionals.

Why wait until there’s so much turmoil you need couch time in a therapists’ office? There are plenty of exercises you could initiate now!

First, let’s look at the mindfulness concept. In a nutshell, the practice of mindfulness is being present in the moment, becoming aware of the situation at hand and accepting, without judgment, what’s happening.

It might sound complicated but it’s rather simple, it just takes practice.

For instance, when an individual is stressed out and on the verge of breaking, a professional counselor trained in mindfulness techniques might recommend a “time-out”. Go to a quiet space, sit down with your back straight and do breathing exercises.

Take a deep breath in through the nose counting to three and slowly exhale out through the mouth counting to five.

Listen to your body and simply be aware; concentrate only on your breathing and how it makes you feel.

How Can Mindfulness Benefit a Relationship? 

Mindfulness for couples is much the same, only with your partner. No, not necessarily breathing exercises but there are plenty of exercises you can do with your mate that will help develop a greater understanding of their emotional state.

Many of us wait until we are in the middle of a screaming match before trying to effectively communicate, but by that point no one is really willing to listen, words go flying and feelings get mutilated.

This is followed by regret and maybe an apology or even the silent treatment; neither of which are healthy and both can be avoided.

Specific Mindfulness Methods

Let’s take a look at some mindfulness for couples techniques that might be useful:

Daily Affirmation

It’s one thing to tell your love that you appreciate something they are doing or have done, but when you give them your undivided attention, look them in the eyes and follow the affirmation with how it makes you feel, it is far more appreciatively received, and it sticks.

To go a step further, your partner would effectively reiterate what you’ve just told them in their own words.

For example, “I love it when you rub my back after a long day at work; it makes me feel like you care that I’m tense and want to help.”

Your partner would then follow-up with his interpretation of what you’ve just relayed.

Scheduled Date Night

Sounds simple enough right?

But there are rules!

Put your devices down if you are enjoying a meal together, look each other in the eyes and engage in meaningful conversation.

Avoid topics that would cause critique or conflict.

Open your ears and hear what your partner is saying without thinking of an immediate response while they are still talking.

If you are going to a movie or a play, hold hands while sitting, share the same popcorn and soda, and then talk about your opinions on the show afterwards.

Any event will work and if you both don’t share the same ideas on what you should do, alternate.

He wants to see a movie and she wants to have a picnic in the park? Easy. One thing this week, the other next week.

Be excited to spend the quality time with one another and fully engage, mindfully and purposefully. Whatever you do, don’t skip out on your mate and reschedule!

Most importantly, if it’s not “your thing”, don’t disassociate.

Make an extra effort to consciously focus, experience and participate.

Make memories. 

That is what mindfulness is and does.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Sit down with your loved one and create a list of things that make each of you happy and deliriously in love. Remember when you were dating, and he brought you flowers or when she would nibble on your ears?

Write... It... Down....

Use a list or even put cut these suggestions out on strips of paper and place them in a jar.

Each week grab one out and do it. Suggestions?

Hold hands while watching TV.

Bring a surprise home after work; a candy bar, a new perfume, a flower you picked from the neighbour's yard… anything, but make sure it’s sincere.

Write a love note. Cook and serve a meal.

Grocery shop together.

These things are simple but could mean the world to your lover.

Mindfulness for couples doesn’t necessarily mean you have to gaze into each other’s eyes and profess your undying affection.

There are endless “exercises” you could incorporate into your daily lives that will create a mutual love and adoration.

And when you are mindful with your love and adoration guess what happens?

You are less likely to explode during the tough conversations inevitable in any relationship.

Mindfulness is the Opposite of Taking for Granted

Engaging your conscious mind to be more mindfully aware of loving and being loved will move your relationship from a should be/could be/would be existence to an “is now” experience.

You both will subconsciously reflect on how loved you are and that you are in this together, thus creating a stronger team and much greater respect for your mate.

It’s a win-win! Don’t stop with these few suggestions though.

Find what works best in your relationship and for your given situation.

You wouldn’t neglect your body of food or water, right?

Relationships take constant work and nurturing as well.

Mindfulness for couples is work, yes, but it’s so worth it!

Give your relationship the fuel it deserves to grow and succeed!

Hello. I am delighted to have Laura Heck here with us today.
Laura is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice.

She recently served in a leadership role at the Gottman Institute as the Director of Professional Development. Together with the Gottman Institute clinical director, Laura co-developed the Gottman Seven Principles Program and is also the author of the “Seven Principles Companion Workbook,” a tool for couples to use in conjunction with the “Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” book by Dr. John Gottman.

Laura is a master trainer for the program which has trained thousands of people to offer the Seven Principles Program in their communities across six continents.

Laura resides in Salt Lake City with her beloved and very patient husband. And they have a one-year-old son.

Welcome, Laura.

Thank you. So what Alison didn’t say is that I’m also the godmother to her child. So we know each other very well. She is my BFF. So I’m here.

I’ve given, sort of, about an hour. And what I’d really like to do is just share with you the CliffNotes version of the “Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.” I’m just curious, by kind of a show of hands or a nod or a wink, how many of you have either heard of Dr.

John Gottman or are familiar with the “Seven Principles” book? OK. How many of you have actually seen him live, seen him present live?

OK. I am not going to be as charismatic or funny or brilliant as John Gottman, but I will certainly try to give you as much information in as short a period of time as possible.

So as Alison had mentioned, the reason why I’m here and speaking on the Seven Principles is that I have had the pleasure of co-developing the Seven Principles Program, which is really a training program for training professionals all around the world to work with couples using this as their main criteria, their main curriculum.

I know the Seven Principles inside and out. And I just taught the class yesterday here in Seattle, Washington.

And I think the next place I go to Chicago.

And then it just kind of continues on from there.

As far as questions, I think maybe what would be helpful is if you have a question about something that we’re covering if I notice, just as far as time goes, that I have some time to take some questions, I’ll ask for you to come up to the mic.

And I might be able to take a few. And if I don’t get to it, hold on to your questions.

Hopefully, you can remember it. And then I’m hoping that we can cover all of them. OK?

OK.

So this book has actually been in print since 1999.

And it just recently rolled over the $1 million mark. Not million dollars, but 1 million copies sold.

And there was a rewrite that was done on this just one year ago. And it has been translated into 20 different languages.

The reason why this book is so important is that Dr. Gottman has been studying couples for 40 years. He’s studied over 3,000 couples.

And over those 40 years, he has been able to distill down as much information as possible into seven principles which I’m hoping I’m able to get through all seven for you so that you can go home in whatever relationship you have, and you can begin to apply some of these principles for making relationships work.

The nice part about Dr. Gottman’s principles is that it’s not just about intimate relationships, although those are the ones that he was studying.

You can directly apply a lot of these principles to coworker relationships, to the relationships with your children, to the relationships with your parents.

Any relationship that you have. Because it’s really about how to communicate in a way that is truly hearing your partner.

It’s about being able to work through problem-solving and how to have a meaningful connection with another person.

OK. So what I’d like to start out by doing is to just give you a brief synopsis as far as Dr. Gottman’s research and how he came to come about all of this information.

So Dr. Gottman originally started out as a mathematics major at MIT. And he was actually young when he started. But he had a roommate. And this roommate was studying psychology.

And I don’t know how many of you enjoy psychology, but John was looking at his math books and had decided that whatever his roommate was studying was more fun than what he was studying, which I don’t blame.

So he promptly finished up his mathematics degree and then went in to become a psychologist. So not only does he have this firm foundation in numbers, he became a researcher, but he also has this firm foundation in psychology.

So we have this amazing combination in this math wizard that was interested in relationships but could also study really, really well and definitively defining what it is that relationships, makes them work.

So Dr. Gottman went from MIT, and then he went over to the University of Indiana. And he started working with his best friend, Bob Levinson.

So Dr. Gottman says at the time that his relationships were not going so hot at the time.

And Bob Levinson and he was interested in good relationships with women. But at the time, Bob said, we can either research good relationships or we can have them. And right now, we’re researchers.

So the two of them set out to discover it, I think he would say somewhat of a selfish way, what is it that makes good relationships work. And they wanted to study relationships in a way that had never been done before.

It’s very difficult to predict behavior in one person. But Dr. Gottman wanted to predict behavior with two people.

So they would bring couples into a laboratory setting and within eight hours of the couple being apart, he would have the two of them sit side by side. And they would hook them up to monitors that would study how fast their hearts were beating at the time.

They would see how much they were sweating by testing the palms of their hands.

They had monitors underneath the chairs that would measure how much they would fidget. They were called jiggle-ometers.

And then he would just ask for these couples, I simply want for you to just catch up. Tell me about your day.

What have you been doing?

So couples would turn to one another and they would start talking about sort of the mundane things about their day.

Meanwhile, researchers were coding their facial expressions.

They had cameras that were recording them.

And back in the day, in the ’70s, how large was the computer back in the ’70s, right? Size of a refrigerator.

All that computer was intended to do was to take the physiological data that was going on with these couples and timecode it.

And then he would ask for couples to switch over. I want you to just choose a topic.

Something that the two of you haven’t been able to agree upon. And I just want you to try to solve the problem.

Have this conflict conversation while we are watching you. So couples start to pick a problem.

Maybe they’re talking about the mother-in-law, maybe they’re talking about laundry. What are things that get underneath your skin? And they recorded the data. So they had these two snippets of time.

Happy conversation, not so happy conversation.

Then they sent the couples away. All they were looking for were patterns. They really didn’t have a hypothesis at the time of what they were looking for, but they were looking for patterns a lot like early day astronomers that were looking at the stars. Simply looking for something to stick out to them.

That was about 35 years ago. 25 years ago, he goes from the University of Indiana, now he’s at the University of Washington. And he opens up what he calls the Love Lab.

The BBC had sort of called it the Love Lab. But what he wanted to do was he wanted to see if couples were in a natural environment for 24 hours, what would I see. What would stick out?

What patterns would arise?

So he made this one bedroom studio apartment as comfortable as possible on the University of Washington’s campus. It overlooked the Montlake Cut, so you could see the boats floating by.

It was a beautiful setting. And he would say from Sunday at 8 o’clock in the morning until Monday morning at 8 o’clock in the morning, I want you to just come and hang out.

We will not prompt you. We’re not going to give you anything to do. We just simply want to watch and observe you.

But we want this to be, like, really comfortable for you.

We want you to feel as if you’re in a bed and breakfast.

We want this to be as natural as possible. So couples would bring their creature comforts.

They would bring groceries, they would bring newspapers, they would bring puzzles and games. Anything they could do for 24 hours.

So in this bed and breakfast-like setting, couples would hang out. Again, they’re wearing the monitor so that they could see how fast their heart was beating.

Any time that they urinated, they would take urine samples. They had a one-way mirror where researchers would be back behind coding their facial expressions.

And when everything was said and done, they would go right next door, and they would have their blood drawn.

But Dr. Gottman assures us that it was very relaxing for couples and it was a lot like a bed and breakfast.

So then he would send these couples home. But it was a longitudinal study. So meanwhile, he’s collecting all of this data, and he’s starting to look for patterns.

The only way that you can look for patterns is if you have this longitudinal data. Where do these couples end up?

What do we know about these couples?

So he had 147 newlywed couples.

And then he checked back in with those newlywed couples.

Of those newlywed couples, 17 of them ended up divorcing.

What were the patterns?

How do we know what is distinct and different about the 130 couples that stayed together and what is distinct and different about the 17 couples that ended up divorcing?

So remember when I said that he was very interested in being able to predict behavior.

So it’s hard to predict behavior for two people. Even more difficult than one person. He was able to predict 15 out of 17 of those couples. So he said those, those, those, those, those, those, those.

And when he checked back in with the couples, 15 out of 17. So with 90% and above accuracy, that those couples would end up divorcing.

And he repeated this study seven times and still was able to predict with 90% accuracy.

So we know with pretty good certainty what those behaviors are.

Are you interested in knowing what it is that those couples were doing?

Either the ones that weren’t doing so hot and the ones that were doing well?

OK. So that is the foundation of this book.

And John jokes that he’s really just a researcher, he wasn’t very interested in helping couples.

He was making a fine living at watching these couples’ relationships deteriorate.

It wasn’t without the bleeding heart of his beautiful, wonderful wife, Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman, that really got him interested in taking this data and turning it into something that real couples could hold onto.

So that is how the “Seven Principles” book came to be, are they started working with couples and applying the concepts that he had learned. And says, don’t do this, but do this.

And that’s how the “Seven Principles” book came to be.

So without further ado, I’m really not good at slideshows.

This is really just because my husband told me to do a slideshow.  I listen. I, took his advice. So what is it that we learned about these couples?

Well, Dr. Gottman was able to notice that the couples who’d ended up divorcing, there were four patterns that were specifically and incredibly destructive to relationships.

So if you’ll take a look up here, you notice that criticism is the first one.

Criticism is incredibly common in relationships. It’s incredibly common. I’m sure you’re probably thinking, oh yeah, I know what criticism feels like. I definitely have somebody that criticizes me.

It’s my mom, it’s my wife, I criticize my partner, whatever it might be.

But criticism comes up in relationships all the time. It looks like when you have a complaint about something, whatever it might be, the thing that I complain most about are the clothes that are left next to the bed.

So my husband has this habit of undressing before bed, and then there’s this pile. And at the end of the week, the pile is as tall as the bed.

Do you know what I’m talking about? So I could either criticize my partner and I could say something like, you’re such a slob, you treat this home like a frat house.

Or I could be gentle.

So the antidotes are in the blue.

And I could complain rather than criticize.

Criticism looks like a globalizing criticism of your partner’s deficiencies. So you may say to your partner, you’re a slob.

That’s criticism.

But if you really want to do what the masters are doing, you would complain without blaming. You would say, you know, I’m not so hot on all of these clothes next to the bed.

I would really appreciate it if you were to take the clothes and put them in the hamper. So that’s what the masters are doing. I’m not telling you not to complain about your relationship, I’m just asking that you don’t criticize.

OK?

The second one is defensiveness.

So criticism and defensiveness go hand in hand. Defensiveness is warding off a perceived attack. So if your partner is a master criticizer, you are going to become a master defender.

And criticism can look like, well, I don’t do that, but did you see this over here?

And you’re sort of, like, counterattacking.

Defensiveness can also look like whining.

Oh, why do you always pick on me?

So the masters, instead of defending themselves, they’re noticing what it is that their partner is criticizing or complaining about.

And instead, they’re taking a small piece of that and taking responsibility.

So my husband, if I’m going to criticize him and say, you’re such a slob, he might say, yeah, you know what, those clothes have been there for a week and I haven’t picked them up. He’s taking some small responsibility for it.

You do not have to take the blame.

But if you can find a piece of that to take responsibility for, it easily diffuses the situation.

Contempt.

Contempt is what Dr. Gottman refers to as sulfuric acid on the relationship. It is the most potent of all four of the Horsemen. Contempt is something that comes later on in the relationship.

We see it happening much later as well as stonewalling. But contempt is when you believe, you truly believe, that you are better than your partner.

It looks like this. I’m smarter, I’m cleaner, I’m wiser, I’m better looking than my partner.

And it comes across in statements that are really, really hurtful. In fact, Dr. Gottman found that if I’m contemptuous to my partner, in the next four years, he is more likely to have communicable diseases.

It takes an effect on your immune system. It actually starts to work and chip away at the immune system.

So if you want to hurt your partner, if you want them to be out sick a lot, then just be contemptuous.

What are the masters doing rather than being contemptuous? The masters are scanning their environment for what it is that their partner is doing right.

If you find that you are starting to slip into contempt, if you find that you are starting to think of your partner in contemptuous ways, you can change your brain by starting to recognize what is it that I truly love and appreciate about my partner.

My partner may not be the smartest, but my partner is an incredibly hard worker.

My partner may not be the sexiest, but my partner is an incredible father.

So you can start to train your brain to be looking at your partner in fond ways and thinking of what are the things that I really appreciate about them. Stonewalling. This is an interesting one.

So Dr. Gottman found that something was happening. So let’s go back to the Love Lab.

He’s looking at husband and wife.

And he notices husband is starting to escalate, his heart rate’s starting to go up.

And then all of a sudden, he disengages from the conversation. His eyes are cast to the floor, and he’s no longer paying attention to his partner.

Then he went back and he asked these guys, he said, hey, what’s going on.

What are you doing?

I noticed that in this part of the conversation, your heart rate started to go up. What was going on? He found that people were starting to psychologically soothe.

And in order to psychologically soothe when they were starting to feel flooded in these contemptuous conversations, these really tough conversations, they would completely disengage.

They’re physically still present, but they’re emotionally disengaged and they are cognitively disengaging from the conversation. 80% of the time it’s happening with men.

Doesn’t mean that women don’t stonewall, it just simply means that it’s more common for men.

So what is it that the masters are doing instead of disengaging from that conversation?

They’re doing psychological self-soothing.

This would mean that they might indicate, hey, you know what, I can’t have this conversation right now. I need to take a break. Or they start to breathe.

Whatever it might be, they’re taking a break and they’re not allowing themselves to disengage from the conversation because that will only escalate the partner further.

OK.

Before I go on, I just want to ask, does anybody have questions about the Four Horsemen?

These are the four behaviors that have come up.

Yes?

AUDIENCE: I’m confused in that you describe stonewalling as disengaging as psychological self-soothing, but then what you should do is also disengage in psychological self-soothing?

LAURA HECK: Right. Exactly. So, mic?

Oh, repeat the question,

OK.

So she’s confused about the psychological self-soothing.

So what’s happening is that there’s this feeling of feeling emotionally flooded that comes up when you are in an argument or you’re having a conflict conversation. And so as you start to feel emotionally flooded, we know that that’s happening physiologically because the heart is starting to beat faster.

When it reaches up and over 100 beats per minute, and for people who are incredibly fit, like Alison, it may be more like 95, right?

So once it reaches up and over 100 beats per minute, your body is starting to release chemicals that tell you to fight or flight.

And in order to do that, people shut down and they curl down and they become disengaged from the conversation.

What the masters are doing instead, when they start to feel the flooding come up, is they’re taking a break and they’re stopping that conversation. Because what stonewalling looks like is this. And what a partner sees is you don’t care enough to have a conversation with me right now.

They escalate.

So the conversation continues to go round and round. The more I raise my voice, the more you shut down. If you’re not paying attention to me, now I’m going to really start to throw some fireballs at you.

Verbal fireballs.

Any other questions?

Yeah.

AUDIENCE: The reflex is physiological.

LAURA HECK: Physiological self-soothing, to start to take a break. So what we teach couples is if you feel like you’re starting to feel flooded, emotionally flooded, then let’s take a 20-minute break.

We’ll take about 20 minutes for women, about 25 minutes for men.

Go for a walk. Maybe clean.

That would be what I would do.

Take a bath, pet the dog, whatever it might be.

And then you start to decrease.

OK. So now I want to start talking about, we’ve talked about the four destructive patterns that Dr. Gottman discovered.

What is it that the disasters of relationships are doing?

What will cause, if left unattended to, what will cause divorce?

What will cause relationship demise?

I do want to say that you probably if you were like a med student and you’re going through all of the diseases and you’re starting to recognize symptoms of these diseases in yourself, it’s a lot like the Four Horsemen.

You can still have a healthy relationship with the Four Horsemen.

But you also have to look at some of the ways in which you can change and transform those. So if those are what are the difficulties that couples are having, what are the things that Dr. Gottman found will increase and make your relationship better?

So we’ll go through the principles.

So principle number one has to do with having a strong marital foundation. It’s called the friendship.

I know it sounds kind of funny that if you’re married to this person, of course, you’re going to be friends. But imagine being with somebody for 40 years. I know with my own personal life, sometimes I would ask, are my grandparents even friends.

Doesn’t even seem like they like each other anymore.

So Dr. Gottman found that in order to have a strong relationship, it has to be a foundation of friendship.

In order to increase your friendship, you have to know your partner’s inner world in and out. You have to know everything about them. When you start a relationship when you start to fall in love with someone, you’re trying to decide, is this my forever.

So you might ask questions like, well, what is your grandmother’s maiden name?

And what kind of is your favorite animal?

What’s your favorite color, and what’s your favorite holiday?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

You ask all of these questions to get to know them.

And soon enough you decide,

OK, I’m going to settle in with you.

You are mine forever. But then 25 years go by. This person has changed, but you haven’t asked those questions. You have no idea who this person is any longer.

Love Maps is this metaphorical idea that you have a map of your partner’s internal world.

The goal is to make this map as detailed and up to date as possible.

How do you do that?

So I’m going to be giving tips.

You can start to use this every day of your life.

You ask your partner open-ended questions.

These are not questions that they can answer with a simple yes or no or one-word answer.

You’re asking your partner questions that really start to chip away at who this person is.

Maybe you ask them about their hopes and dreams.

What do you want to do in the next five years?

What is one thing that you have, a goal that you have yet to realize?

Or how do you feel about this Republican Party right now?

I mean, what do you think?

Or it might be a question like, you really, really wanted to be a mother, and we haven’t had children.

How do you feel about not having children right now?

These are open-ended questions. So for those of you who have an iPhone, you can actually download an app.

It’s and if you shake it, it gives you a new open-ended question.

So no matter where you are, you will always have an open-ended question.

You don’t have to come up with them yourself.

OK, so we’re still talking about that foundation of friendship.

Number two is nurturing the fondness and admiration.

Simply put, is that you are choosing on a daily basis to scan your environment for the positives of what your partner is doing versus the negatives.

OK? So we’re going back to the bed.

I wake up in the morning, I look over at my husband, he has drool coming out of his mouth.

He has, like, a retainer in so that he’s not chewing on his tongue or doing whatever people do with retainers in. I look, I see, I notice that the clothes are on the floor.

I have to step over the clothes.

So instantly I’m starting to think and create this world in which my husband has done all of these wrong things.

Or I can wake up in the morning and I can look over at my husband and I think, well, he sure looks sexy over there. He’s been working out, I see some biceps coming in. And maybe I look a little bit more and I notice that he’s curled around our one-year-old that he pulled into bed in the middle of the night, and I didn’t even notice.

Like wow, what a great dad.

Thank you, I enjoyed eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.

So I step over that pile of clothes.

I don’t even notice them this time because I’m scanning my environment for the positives.

What is it that my husband is doing right versus what he’s doing wrong?

You can use this with your children as well. If you are waiting to correct your child for every wrong thing that they do, do you really think that they’re going to be looking for you when they achieve something wonderful and great?

Or are you going to wait to applaud your child when they’re doing something right and really make that a big point?

That is awesome.

Thank you so much for putting that back, that is fantastic. Also, with your relationships with, maybe the people that you’re managing. If you are rewarding people and scanning for the things that they’re doing right, they’re more able to do those things correctly.

So fondness and admiration are really about thinking about your partner on a daily basis, about the things that they are doing correctly and that you really love about them. It’s about training your brain.

One thing that you can do is make it a habit every single day.

And if you can’t remember, do this. Set an alarm on your phone to send a text to your partner.

And I want you every single day to say thank you so much for, I really appreciated it when you did this, you’re so sexy, I saw you walk out the door today and that skirt looked amazing on you, whatever it might be.

But even though you have an alarm on your phone and your partner is like, why does this always come in at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. It doesn’t matter because they’re going to appreciate that you’re sending it at all.

So if you’re going to do that, do that now.

Little pro tip.

So we’re still talking about friendship and nurturing this friendship foundation. The third principle is turning toward. The motto is small things often.

With everything that Dr. Gottman does, it is a motto of small things often. You can change the trajectory of your relationship simply by doing small things every day consistently.

You do not, I will tell you this, Valentine’s Day gentleman and ladies, you do not have to buy that $5,000 ring or that $50,000 car or take them on that $10,000 vacation. That means nothing. But if you’re sending those appreciations every single day at 2 o’clock for 365 days? Boom.

Free.

So we’re looking for ways to turn toward our partner.

So here’s the deal.

Our partners, on a daily basis, are turning towards us. And the key is being able to recognize when they’re turning toward because what turning toward really is, is it’s a small, subtle way of saying I have a want, a need, a desire, are you there for me.

So here’s what turning toward looks like.

Maybe I’m standing at the sink doing dishes and I notice that it’s starting to snow, which it did in Salt Lake City yesterday.

It’s 80 degrees here, Salt Lake City, it’s snowing.

And I say, are you kidding me?

Is that snow?

And my husband’s in the other room.

How is he going to turn towards me?

He’s going to go, yup.

That’s it. That’s all you have to do.

Because why am I talking out loud?

You’re going to say you’re just talking to yourself.

Your partner’s not talking to themselves, they’re talking to you.

They want you to respond.

And you don’t have to make it a grand response.

All you have to do is go uh-huh. Just recognizing that they’re speaking to you.

Bids can be overt and they can be covert, so that would be a bit of a covert bid, right?

Overt bid would be that you sit next to your partner on the couch and you pull him over and you put your arm around him and you go– that right there is a bid.

Now how does the person respond?

You have three choices to respond to a bid. You can turn toward them, which would be like saying uh-huh. Or you go, oh yeah?

Let’s go upstairs.

Or you can turn away from your partner, which would mean missing their bid or ignoring their bid.

How do we ignore bids?

I’ll tell you.

Digital Distraction.

That’s the number one way right now that people are ignoring bids. Whether you recognize it or not, if you are face down on a computer or a game, or your phone, you’re going to miss bids from your partner.

So you can also turn against your partner.

If my husband’s rushing out the door and as he’s rushing out the door I say, oh, before you go, I’m going to go grocery shopping, is there anything special that you’d like for dinner tonight?

That’s really sweet of me to ask, right?

He’s going to turn against me.

Here’s what he says.

You know that Monday nights I go out with the guys after work.

Why do you always manipulate me into staying in on these nights?

That’s turning against.

OK?

So you always have three options.

The nice part is that with turning toward, all you have to do is just recognize when your partner is making bids and remember that you can turn toward them in very small ways every single day.

If you imagine that your relationship is a lot like an emotional bank account, every time you turn toward your partner, you’re putting a deposit in.

This is important because when something external to the relationship really causes some pain, when something happens, when you have a fight, when the car breaks down, when one of the kids is being obnoxious, and the two of you are super stressed out, you have enough of those emotional deposits in that bank account to buffer.

So that when you take a withdrawal out, you’re not overdrawn.

Does that makes any sense?

OK.

So here’s the interesting part.

Remember that newlywed study that was in the apartment lab?

And that all those newlyweds, of those 17 newlyweds that ended up divorcing, they went back and they said, what do we know about turning toward. And they counted. They figured out that 86% of the time, the couples that are still together, they were turning toward each other’s bids.

But those that divorced missed them.

They were only turning toward 33% of the time.

You can see how important it is to recognize those bids in your relationship, the times when your partner is trying to reach out to you.

Has a want, a need, a desire, and how important it is that you’re recognizing it and you’re choosing to turn toward rather than away or against them.

So before I move on, does anybody have questions about maybe the first three principles?

So we have the Love Map principle, we have fondness and admiration, and we have the turning toward.

Yeah.

AUDIENCE: So I didn’t get the two positives.

So if somebody makes a bid, you can decline no, you can say yes, and what’s the third one?

I didn’t get the difference here.

LAURA HECK: So the difference is that you can turn toward your partner, which is basically any response that’s positive toward your partner’s bid. You can turn away from them, which looks a lot like ignoring a bid.

And you can turn against him, which would mean kind of lashing back at them.

Any other questions?

Yeah.

AUDIENCE: So in the example of your husband kind of going against, what would be a better response for him knowing that, if he still wants to hang out with his buddies or whatever.

LAURA HECK: That’s a great question. So what would be a better response?

If my husband was rushing out the door and I said honey, what would you like for dinner tonight, I’m going to go to the store.

And rather than being rude and lashing back, he could turn around and he could say, oh, well, that is so nice of you to offer, but actually Monday nights is the night that I’m going out with the guys so I won’t be home tonight.

So it doesn’t mean that he has to change or say yes, dear, or do what I want, but responding back to me with, if I could sum it up, respect and honor.

By responding back with respect and honor, then he could still turn toward me. OK. I’m going to move on to the next question.

Anybody else has a question?

All right.

So principle number four.

This is moving away from the friendship foundation. We’ve covered the friendship foundation and now we’re starting to get into what Dr. Gottman noticed with couples, which is letting your partner influence you.

He noticed that there was a vast majority of couples where most of the time they allow their partner to influence them. I have taken this to heart. When it came time to buy a vehicle, how many of you have had like a struggle buying vehicles in your relationship?

Because one of you wants, like, the smart car or whatever it might be, and you won’t like the big Yukon, and you have to find something in between that fits both.

So this has been an exercise in my own relationship of letting my partner influence me. And really what it comes down to is when your partner says, I want this, your first response is OK, yes, let’s make this happen.

If your partner says, I have a dream to go back to school, that your first thought is whatever you want, let’s make it happen, and let’s find excuses why it won’t work later.

But oftentimes what happens instead is that you become a roadblock. Whatever it might be. Have you ever noticed that sometimes there are couples that there might be that one person that it’s like no matter what I want if I want to buy this orange juice for $at the grocery store?

You don’t want that, you want to buy the orange juice that’s $2.99.

That that extra $is going to be an argument right now.

So let your partner influence you, being able to negotiate.

Being able to say, why is this so important, tell me more. Rather than immediately saying no.

That’s a big deal.

So you can see there’s a statistic up here. 81% divorce rate when men are not willing to share power. Eventually what ended up happening is that Dr. Gottman found that when men were saying no, when they weren’t even willing to entertain negotiation with their partner, when it was a power struggle, 81% of those times they ended up divorcing.

It’s powerful.

Being able to say why is this important to you, let’s just have a conversation. It’s not yes, dear. I have to say that part.

It’s not yes, husband.

It’s why is this important.

If it’s important to you, let’s at least entertain the idea and let’s talk.

Any questions?

Yeah.

AUDIENCE: Which year was the study made?

Because like I read pretty much the reverse statistics.

LAURA HECK: The reverse statistics?

AUDIENCE: Yeah.

LAURA HECK: So what would the reverse statistic be?

AUDIENCE: No, I mean, I read about Generation X, for instance.

About the men vs women and the way in the US in particular.

Because of the high divorce rate and the kids staying with their moms, what happens is the Gen Xers, now that they’re growing, the male actually is insecure and searching all their life, or the other way around, the women.

And I’m not Gen X, I’m Gen Y.

I’m not grown up here, my parents aren’t divorced or anything. So I was wondering if this is coming from the ’80s, from the ’90s, et cetera.

LAURA HECK: So it is. Most of Dr. Gottman’s research, especially with the research lab, is coming from I think the ’90s, actually.

But I would be interested to know what it is.

Are you saying that the inverse of it is that women are unwilling to yield power? AUDIENCE: No, nothing like that. What I’m saying is that this strong kind of macho culture has gone away for the years.

LAURA HECK: OK, now I know where you’re going with that.

Yeah.

So yes, to answer your question, the research does go back quite a bit because he did the majority of his research over the last 40 years. So a lot of it is not going to cite things that are happening now and moving forward.

Yeah.

Any other questions about yielding power, saying yes?

OK.

So of the complaints that come in, so I had mentioned I’m a couples therapist. The number one thing. Couples come in, they say we’re having trouble communicating, we have conflict all the time.

Dr. Gottman really wanted to figure out what is it that the masters are doing to solve their conflict.

So what I will start talking about now is what is it that they’re doing when it comes to conflict.

You can have two types of conflict.

It’s either solvable or it’s perpetual.

The fundamental difference between solvable problems and perpetual problems. What percentage, I’m just curious, what percentage do you think of happy couples do you think they would be able to solve their problems?

Happy, masters of relationships.

What percentage are able to solve their problems?

Or what percentage of problems are they able to solve?

That’s probably a better way to put it.

What do you think?

50%? 80%?

Anybody else?

What’s that? 30%?

That’s low.

The bar is low for you, huh?

OK, so truth be told, Dr. Gottman found that of all conflict with couples that were thriving, that was happy, they were only able to solve 31% of those problems.

Yeah, so is that encouraging for you?

Or is that discouraging?

Like, that you’re going to have 69% of these problems that are just going to stick around for the rest of your life.

There was one researcher, and I like this, that he said when you stand up on that altar, really what you’re doing is you are agreeing to the 50 years of problems that the two of you are going to have.

For the next 50 years, we are signing up for this conflict.

What Dr. Gottman found is that he was doing these longitudinal studies. He would have these couples come in, he’d hook them up to their little jiggle-ometers, and he would say, nice to see you again.

Your clothes have changed, your hair has changed, it’s nice to see you after four years. I want you guys to just choose a conflict and just kind of sort it out.

Something that the two of you can’t agree on.

What happened?

He said that he could put the tape of them rolling four years prior to the tape of them now.

A few more gray hairs, their clothes are a little more in style, maybe a few more pounds.

Same conflict.

Boom, boom, boom, boom. Same conflict.

So that means that these couples, 69% of them, they’re perpetual problems.

Why are they perpetual?

It’s because we are unique, wonderful human beings and what makes me up, my value system, my likes, my dislikes, is different from my partner’s value system, likes, and dislikes.

It’s the fundamental things that make me who I am.

So if I’m an introvert, which I am, believe me, and my husband is an extrovert when Friday night comes around, what do I want to do?

I want to watch Netflix, I want to eat ice cream, I want to sit on the couch and I just want to veg.

What does my husband want to do?

He wants to go out every Friday night.

Is this a conflict?

Absolutely.

So other differences.

Am I neat?

Yes, I’m neat.

Is my husband not so neat?

Absolutely.

These are things about the two of us that are a little different. And so these are the perpetual problems.

The problem is that when you don’t know the difference between perpetual and solvable, is that you end up getting gridlocked and you think there has to be a way to solve this. But unfortunately, it’s not about solving your perpetual problems.

It’s about learning how to communicate through those perpetual problems in a different way that’s still honoring and respecting your partner.

So how are the masters talking through those solvable problems, the 31% of those solvable problems?

What are the solvable problems?

These are things like, how are we going to use our tax refund?

We’re obviously going to buy a hot tub, guys.

Or whose house are we going to go to for Memorial Day, my mom’s house, your house?

What are we going to do?

How are we going to celebrate?

These are solvable problems.

They often tend to be short-term in nature.

So a solvable problem would probably be something similar like if we can’t figure out what to do for childcare, it goes away after 18 years, right?

Eventually, you don’t have that as a problem any longer. And then they bring their munchkin, and then you’re the childcare for their munchkin.

So the masters are doing some really amazing things.

When they have a conflict conversation, if you can take these skills home, this would be fantastic.

Number one, the skill that the masters are doing is that they’re bringing up a complaint, which is OK.

To criticize is not OK.

They’re bringing it up in a really gentle way.

They’re incredibly skillful.

Think of it as, like, putting on the art of manipulation. How can I bring this complaint up in a way in which my partner is going to hear me and is going to be willing to work with me on this?

And if it’s a sure fire way to blow it, you can bring it up by saying, you always or you never. Right?

How many times do you always and you never end right?

How many times do you actually get your partner to say, you know what, you’re absolutely right. I am always a slob.

I am always doing this. So if you want to blow it, start it like that. But if you don’t, you bring your complaint up by using I statements and you’re describing what’s going on in a non-judgmental way.

You know, honey, I notice that there are clothes next to the bed again. And I would really appreciate it if you could undress next to the hamper rather than undressing next to the bed.

Do you think maybe you could do that?

It’s pretty gentle, you think he’d be willing to give it a shot at least that night?

Yeah?

Poor guy, he gets thrown under the bus so much.

What is something else that the masters are doing?

So here’s an interesting statistic. Dr. Gottman can tell how a conversation is going to end by how it starts.

So he watches the first three minutes of a conflict conversation.

He says, oh yeah, I know how that’s going to end.

You know how?

96% of the time, if it starts off gentle and kind, it will end gentle and kind.

If you want to get what you want, ask for it in a nice way. I mean, that’s kind of a no-brainer, right?

But that’s not always what happens. Here’s another thing about the first skill.

Who do you think is most often going to bring up conflict in a relationship, the man or the woman?

It’s the woman, yeah. You were like.

Yes, it is the woman.

Most of the time, the female is going to complain. And that’s absolutely true.

Skill number two, people who are starting a conflict conversation, they are making repairs all the time.

So you may start off with you always or you never, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be doomed. You can make the repair and you can turn that conversation around.

So if you imagine being a truck driver, have you ever seen those ramps where the trucks when they lose their brakes, they have to go up the ramp?

That’s sort of what a repair attempt is. It’s using that ramp to stop the trajectory, and the speed, and the momentum of the conversation.

So you’re using a repair attempt and you’re saying, you know what, I really think we’re going off track here.

I think I need to start over.

Or you know what, I’m really sorry, I used a blaming statement there, I’d like to turn this around.

So there is an entire sheet of repair attempts.

And it feels a little weird at first.

And when I say entire sheet, there’s an entire page of repair attempts in here that you can use when you start to notice that the conversation is getting derailed. What makes the repair attempts so powerful is whether or not you have that foundation of friendship.

So you can use a repair attempt, but your partner won’t hear that unless you have a strong foundation for a friendship, which is why Dr. Gottman said it’s so important.

So if you’re using a repair attempt, I use this as an example. Two of my friends are driving in a car,

I’m in the backseat.

They bicker back and forth, they’re going, going, going.

I’m not paying any attention, I’m probably on Facebook on my phone.

And all of a sudden, the car gets silent. And I look up and I notice that the driver is staring straight ahead, the passenger is staring out the window. And me as a couples therapist, I’m like, ooh, this is juicy.

What’s going to happen?

So about 30 seconds go by and the tension is really high. And then all a sudden, passenger turns around and licks the driver from his jaw up to his ear.

It’s disgusting, right?

But do you know what that was?

It was a repair attempt. Believe it or not. So a repair attempt is anything that you do to take something that’s getting derailed, a conversation, an interaction, and change it.

Did he accept the repair attempt?

Absolutely.

How could you not?

How could you ignore a lick on the face?

Anyway, I digress.

You can make repair attempts, but what makes it most potent is whether or not you have that friendship foundation and whether or not your partner accepts your repair. OK,

so we talked about flooding a little bit when we were talking about stonewalling.

What ends up happening when you’re getting emotionally flooded?

So being emotionally flooded can feel a lot of different ways for different people. You can get a tightness in your chest. So imagine that you’re having a conflict conversation with your partner and it’s really, really going bad.

In your head, you’re thinking, oh no, not this again.

And maybe your partner just thinks if I just raise my voice, he’ll hear me eventually, right?

Or maybe I should just throw a few things to get his attention.

So you might start to feel physiologically aroused.

So your heart starts beating, your face might feel flushed, you might start sweating a lot. Or maybe you start to get tunnel vision.

Have you ever had road rage so bad where you literally didn’t, I mean, it’s Seattle, so I’m sure all of us have had road rage at some point. But where you almost feel as if, like, you lose vision or you can’t hear any longer or your heart is just pounding out of your chest?

That’s what it feels like to be flooded. But the masters are recognizing before they get flooded that they need to do some psychological and physiological self-soothing, which means that they’re stopping the conversation.

Now this feels a little weird for some people. Well, if we stop the conversation we’ll never get back to it.

The rule of thumb is if we stop the conversation, we’re coming back to it in 20 minutes.

So one of you indicates I’m feeling, I’m feeling flooded, we need to take a break.

And they go their separate ways. In order to take a break where your body is going to be able to self-soothe and relax and come back down, you have to leave your partner’s sight.

So it’s not the two of you sitting in silence staring at each other. You have to change the course of where your mind is going.

So you have to think about something that’s pleasing. This is not an opportunity to formulate your rebuttal.

So you’re going to start thinking about ponies and rainbows and all those wonderful things.

So I’m just curious, for you guys, what do you do to calm down?

What do you do to soothe?

Do you go for a walk?

Walk the dog?

Facebook?

I know,

I do it too.

Clean, take a shower, work out.

What’s that?

Cook?

Awesome, come to my house.

We’ll all cook together.

Yeah. So you’re going to do something that is soothing for 20 minutes, and then you’re going to come back to the conversation.

And by that point, here’s the interesting part.

Why is it that we’re taking a break?

What is it about flooding that you have to take a break?

It’s because you’re no longer using your prefrontal cortex.

You literally flip your lid.

Your body says I’m in fight or flight, I can’t use my prefrontal cortex, I need to use my reptilian brain now because this is going to save me.

So now you’re using the back of your brain and you’re not able to have a conversation that is logical with your partner.

What ends up happening and why people get hurt so badly in conversations where they are flooded is that they keep trying to have the conversation, but they’re no longer using logic or reason.

Has anybody seen that YouTube clip, it’s these two one-year-old babies, they’re twin boys?

They’re in the kitchen, they’re both in diapers, and they’re talking to each other in baby babble.

And one’s going blah, blah, blah and then the other one, blah, blah, blah, blah.

That’s what it looks like when two adults are physiologically flooded, is there’s nothing going on up here.

It’s just babble at that point.

So any questions about self-soothing or flooding?

LAURA HECK: Yeah.

So what do you do when you come back from your break and your partner doesn’t want to discuss it anymore?

It has to be an agreement.

There has to be an agreement that if you’re going to have this conversation and one of you is feeling flooded and needs to take a break, that it has to be an agreement to come back to it.

Because if it’s a conflict, if it’s important to you to solve the problem, it’s important to both of you.

So it needs to be a conversation.

But sometimes your partner may say, I’m still flooded or I’m really hurt.

And at that point, maybe you need to do some repairing in order to get back to the point where you want to have that conversation again. I think one of the common misconceptions is the idea doesn’t go to bed angry.

This is actually really harmful.

Because if you are so worked up and you’re trying to solve the problem and you’re no longer using your prefrontal cortex, now you’re in your reptilian brain, but all you want to have to do is solve the problem because we have to go to bed, you end up exhausted the next day.

You haven’t solved the problem.

And now you don’t like your partner anymore.

So go to bed.

Take a nap.

Do what you need to do so that you come back to it. Not all arguments or conflicts will be solved at the moment. It might take a couple of days to work through a conflict. But being able to respect when your partner is flooded is number one, and recognize that they need to self-soothe.

OK. So what do you do if you do have a solvable problem?

31% of those solvable problems.

How do you actually go through to solve them?

This is something that we recommend is that you draw these circles on a piece of paper and the circle in the inside is your inflexible area. So let’s just pick a solvable problem.

What are we going to solve?

Car?

So my husband wants to get, what’s that?

What movie to see?

I need something that’s a little juicier.

I’m going to go with a car just because it sort of has some value systems around money.

So let’s say that my husband wants to get the new Tesla that just came out. And I want to buy the used minivan for $5,000.

You’re giggling, but that happened.

So what’s happening is the two of us need a new vehicle and he wants to get the Tesla. I don’t even know how much Teslas run, but they’re expensive, right?

So he wants to get the new Tesla, I want to get the minivan. It’s all sort of grounded in money. I kind of have money issues.

I’m the saver, he’s the spender.

That’s a perpetual problem that comes up a lot in relationships.

But we need to actually solve it because we need a vehicle.

So my areas of inflexibility are going to be the areas that if I was to compromise on these issues, it would feel as if I was breaking the bones of my own body because it was so tired of my values system, so tied to my worldview, so tied to who I am as a human being that if I was to compromise, I would have the same argument with him two months from now.

So I’m going to write in the center circle that I think it is incredibly important that we only pay cash for cars.

That’s just a value system.

Dave Ramsey taught me that. So he’s going to put in his inner circle that his core need, his core desire is tied to, what would be my husband’s core need for this, I was going to say to look cool, but maybe his core need is that he’s worked really, really hard to become a VP and now that he’s there, he needs a car that also represents that he’s a VP.

So maybe that’s his core need, is like this feeling of status or this feeling of needing to reward himself for his hard work.

So now that we have our core areas of inflexibility, now we’re going to talk about what the areas of flexibility are.

So my area of flexibility is I’m flexible on the color of the car, I’m flexible on whether or not it’s four-wheel drive, I’m flexible whether or not we don’t get a minivan, it doesn’t have to do with the sliding door.

But maybe my area of inflexibility might be that I don’t want to spend any more than $30,000 on a car.

So then he’s like, oh boy, that Tesla’s not happening any time soon. So this is how you find common ground.

The most important piece about this exercise is that the two of you are putting down the pieces that are most important to you and those are sort of like, we’re not willing to yield on these.

Being willing to yield is important, but the inner circle, it’s small for a reason. You don’t want to have too many areas of inflexibility.

The goal is wanting to compromise with your partner. But if you indicate what areas it is that if you were to yield on it, it would feel as if you’re breaking your own bones, why would you want to compromise your partner’s values in order to get what you want?

Any steps about this area?

OK, so now we’re at principle six.

We’ve gone through some of the friendship foundations. We’ve talked a little bit about yielding to your partner.

Now we’re overcoming gridlock.

So there are perpetual problems in the relationship and there are solvable problems in the relationship. But sometimes you get really gridlocked.

You know that you’re feeling gridlocked on an issue because every time it comes up, all of a sudden, you feel like oh, not this again.

Or you go from 0 to 60 within, like, two seconds of talking about that topic. Or you feel even more polarized like you started off pretty close, you were almost willing to negotiate, but now that you’re gridlocked, you guys are on total opposite ends.

You lose your sense of humor, you’re no longer willing to negotiate with your partner.

What do you do?

The masters figured out that in order to overcome gridlock in relationships, you have to suspend the desire to solve that problem and see from your partner’s perspective. We call this empathy.

So one of the things that couples can do is that you can sit on opposite sides of the couch and you can say, I understand that we’re pretty gridlocked on this issue, and I’m willing to hear your perspective. In every argument and disagreement, there are two perspectives.

Both of them are correct, both of them are right.

You feel so strongly about this side and he feels so strongly about this side that you have to be willing to understand what is it, why are you so, why are you so focused on this?

Why is this so important?

And if you’re willing to hear your partner and they’re willing to hear you, suddenly you have much more respect for where your partner’s perspective is coming from. So what we ask for couples to do is they take turns.

One couple will start off, and you’ll ask questions like, tell me why this is so important to you. Tell me why you are so focused on this one thing. I’m really curious. You’re suspending judgment, you’re suspending the desire to solve the problem, and all you’re doing is listening.

It’s incredible when you see people who are fighting if you give them the opportunity to just state their perspective in full without someone interjecting or poking holes in them, how amazing that starts to de-escalate everything. So one partner takes turns.

Maybe it’s 10 minutes.

And all you do is just listen. Tell me your perspective.

From your perspective, why is this important?

And when they’re done, you state back and you say, so this is what I think is your perspective, this is what I hear you saying, and then you swap.

And the other person gets to share their perspective.

Did you solve the problem?

Not at all. All you did was had the opportunity to share why it was so important to you. This is the last and final principle, and then you all can leave me for the day.

So once you have learned to master a friendship in your relationship and you have learned to master how to solve a conflict in a healthy way, the final way is to create meaning in your relationship.

So couples come in and they say, is this all that there is.

We just procreate, we have babies, we see family and friends on the weekends. And is this really all there is?

I go to work, I come home.

Like, it feels like we’re roommates.

There’s nothing really substantial to our relationship that’s creating meaning.

And Dr. Gottman found that for healthy, happy, thriving couples, they’re creating meaning in a lot of different ways.

They’re moving from I or me to us. And the way that you create we in your relationship is to look at these four pillars.

Number one is rituals.

You can create rituals in your relationship that create beautiful meaning, but more importantly, it creates an opportunity to connect on a really reliable time and space.

So a ritual in our household is in the morning, when my baby wakes, up husband hears the baby and me waking up, and he brings me up a cup of coffee.

And we play in the big family bed for 10 minutes.

It’s wonderful. I look forward to it, he looks forward to it. I feel cared for and we have connected first thing in the morning.

Another ritual that I really like is one partner, I had a couple come to me and they started every evening, once the kids went to bed, he would put the tea kettle on the stove.

And by the time it was done and whistling, the wife would come in and they would sit on opposite sides of the couch and they would sip on their tea, and they would massage each other’s feet and catch up about the day.

Right?

How many of you would like that?

So that’s a ritual that they are looking forward to. It’s something that’s unique and special to their relationship. But it’s also something that they have as a time that they can connect every single day.

Roles. How do you make roles unique and special in the family within this relationship? You can ask one another, what do you want your role as husband to be?

Like, what did you envision as a husband?

Did you envision being the emotional person in the relationship or did you envision providing for the family?

And if that’s what you envision, how can we make this happen?

Or a role in the family might be that you’re the caretaker.

So every time somebody gets sick, and this is true in my family.

I’m not the caretaker, by the way. But I have a step-mom and she’s incredible.

She is the caretaker for the entire block. That was something that is unique and special for her. And everybody embraces that. So she takes care of everybody.

When somebody gets sick, they are pampered. They have the special blankie, they have the Neti pot, they have, like, feet warmers.

I mean, she goes above and beyond. But that’s a role that is really special to her that has created meaning in their relationship.

Common goals. You know where John and Julie Gottman are right now?

They’re hiking, they’re actually backpacking.

For those of you that don’t know, John is in his 70s now and Julie loves to hike.

And that’s something that she does.

And John likes to say that he’s not willing to go anywhere unless there’s room service. But John’s hiking, which is pretty incredible. So they have this common goal. And he’s joining Julie on this goal that she has of hiking.

Even more is that when John and Julie met each other, Julie had this goal, I want to help as many couples as possible. John had the research, Julie had the know how.

They came together and they created a special goal and meaning around their relationship that they are going to touch as many lives possible and look at them now.

So the final pillar is symbols, and this would be things that have shared meaning in your relationship.

It might be a cross, it might be a family portrait, but it’s a tangible item that has a meaning of the “we” within the relationship.

So Dr. Gottman says that this is really like the top of the house, that once you have built this foundation and the pillars of this relationship, creating shared meaning is really like the top of the house.

And thus, there are the seven principles for making your marriage work. So I will entertain, I recognize that we’re four minutes over 1 o’clock.

I have about 10 minutes that I can answer questions if you have any questions about the seven principles.

And I’ll stick around.

AUDIENCE: Googlers. How can we help?

I mean, what can a company like Google with our technologies, with our power do to help people?

LAURA HECK: What can you do at Google?

How can your skill set help touch people’s lives? Well, you have a very broad audience. And you have people who have done incredible research and are really just looking for that research to be sort of distilled down, so as much as we can get that information out.

So what we’re finding is that John and Julie Gottman, they hold these couples workshops. And people fly in from all around the world.

And they have 250 couples attend these workshops.

And they’re training as many therapists as they can to get this information out. But what’s really going to broaden the audience is being able to use technology to get it out there.

Getting videos to people, getting talks like this to the masses. That’s what I would say.

AUDIENCE: So YouTube.

LAURA HECK: Yeah, you bet.

AUDIENCE: So perhaps except for the licking part, are there any of those tips or principles or guidelines not applicable to workplace relationships?

LAURA HECK: OK, so are any of these principles not applicable to workplace relationships?

No, not a single one.

They are all directly applicable. Here’s what I’ll say about workplace relationships, and I will say this specifically between males and females, that if you have a partner at home, you want to be comfortable or careful about your boundaries.

So the information that you’re sharing with your partner is going to be different from the information you’re sharing within a workplace.

This is if you have, like, male-female workplace coworkers. But all of these are directly applicable, so knowing your coworker, asking them open-ended questions.

It’s really incredible what can change with the dynamic of someone that you’re working with.

Let’s just say that you only are coming together and all you have is shop talk, just trying to solve problems related to your work description.

But if you happen to know that this person really enjoys golf on the weekends and you ask him, like, hey, did you happen to go golfing this weekend and how are the kids or I know that your birthday’s coming up.

Knowing the inner pieces, having a Love Map for the people that you work with is important. The other part is, have you ever noticed this is the repair part, maybe you said something that might have been misconstrued or perhaps made your coworker upset in some way.

You can use a repair to get you back on track. So all of these are directly applicable. Yeah. There isn’t research that’s been done yet by Dr. Gottman on that relationship, only on intimate relationships, but there is a program that’s being developed for coworkers in a professional setting.

Any other questions?

Yeah?

AUDIENCE: Maybe you have advice. How to complain without criticism, I think, is the way you phrased it. How do you complain, I see how it’s better to describe how you’re feeling and what bothers you instead of just saying you always do this.

LAURA HECK: Right.

AUDIENCE: But even that can sound passive aggressive and whiny. If you just use the words the other way, it can still come across as an attack.

So how do you actually practice communicating instead of just attacking passive-aggressively?

LAURA HECK: OK.

So if you’re using like an I statement.

So passive aggressive. So part of the passive aggressive piece is when people don’t take ownership for something, and what we’re really asking is that you’re taking ownership of what’s bothering you.

And that’s OK. Because when things store up, they sort of are like a volcano.

They bubble to the surface. So we’re asking that people take some ownership of something that’s bothering them and use the I statements. So I’m upset about this, I’m frustrated, I’m hurt, I’m sad, I’m lonely.

And when you take ownership of that, it loses the passive aggressive piece because you’re really not doing passive. You’re taking ownership. You’re being more assertive in your relationship.

So I’m lonely. I haven’t seen you for the last three nights. That’s true, right?

So you’re describing what’s going on in a non-judgmental way. You’re simply stating what’s going on. I haven’t seen you for the last three nights, I’m lonely.

I’d really like it if we could schedule a date night sometime this week so that we can reconnect.

Or I was really hurt when you didn’t introduce me to your boss this afternoon. I really would love to get to know the people in your life that you’re spending most of your day with. Do you mind if maybe we could go out for dinner with him and his wife sometime next week?

Whatever it might be. I don’t know if I answered your question, but part of the piece about complaining is that I’m not saying that it’s not going to– nobody likes to complain, right?

You don’t like to complain, you don’t like to hear complaints, but what we’re trying to do is that we’re trying to change the complaints so that the criticism.

So they’re not criticizing your partner in a global way. You’re certainly going to complain about this one thing right here and you’re not going to store it up, rather than globalizing it and criticizing your partner altogether.

Any other questions?

No?

OK, I hope you guys enjoy the rest of your workday.

Mindfulness for Couples

Tony

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