Posted by John Aiken, 11 November 2015: One of the great things about working in the field of relationships over the past 20 years, is that during this time there has been plenty of research done on couples. Specifically, these studies have focused on what works and what doesn’t. What makes for happy long lasting relationships, and what spells disaster (e.g. John Gottman).
As a result, there are particular techniques that I teach couples which make a real difference in a short period of time. What’s even better, is that these skills aren’t difficult to learn– but rather they are practical tools that can immediately improve your relationship.
So with that in mind – here are 7 little secrets to happily ever after. Remember to do these daily and often to get lasting change:
1. Listen, don’t fix
It may seem like a good idea to give your partner advice and solutions when they’re stressed out and overwhelmed, but the truth is it always backfires. When your partner is stressed, what they need from you is to listen, side with them, empathise, and never ever ‘fix’.
2. Bring up issues softly
The first 3 minutes of a conversation is the most important. The tone you begin the conversation with will usually determine how the rest of the talk goes. If you begin with criticism, a harsh tone, anger and aggressiveness – then it’s going to go badly. When you’ve got an issue you want to bring up, do it gently with an “I feel..” statement, and tell them what you need moving forward.
3. Always respond to your partner
One of the most frustrating things that can happen between you as a couple, is when one of you ignores the other when they’re talking. Couples make bids for attention all the time, and you must always look out for these and make a point of responding back to your partner so that they feel heard and important.
4. Catch them when they’re good
The more positive interactions going on between the both of you, the less you’ll sweat the small stuff. In fact, the magic ratio is 5:1 (positives to negatives). So look out for times when your partner is good, and lavish them with praise, gratitude and appreciation. It will re-enforce this behaviour and make them feel valued.
5. Take an interest and ask questions
So many couples get complacent and stop taking an interest in each other. Don’t let this happen to you. Every evening, make a point of finding out about each other’s days in detail, and spend time learning about one another’s fears, aspirations, dislikes and preferences.
6. Let your partner lead
Being in a successful relationship means learning to compromise and let go of being the CEO. You want to be equals who share the power and decision making, and work together as a team. The easiest way of doing this is to simply say “yes” to your partner’s ideas and requests. This will encourage them to do the same, and in turn teamwork will develop.
7. Prioritise hello’s and goodbye’s
A small but very powerful way of connecting with your partner is to make sure that you kiss them before you leave every morning and when you return home after work. Don’t go to the kids, or the dog first – go to your partner. It sends a strong message that you’re important to each other and you want to connect.
*For a good read – The Seven Principals for Making Marriage Work (John Gottman)
John Aiken, Findsomeone’s dating and relationship expert, as seen on the hit TV 3 show Married At First Sight. He is a best selling author, appears regularly on TV, radio and in magazines, is a clinical psychologist and runs a private practice in Sydney, is a sought after speaker, and offers intensive couples retreats. (www.johnaiken.com.au)