5 Things Couples Can to Do Strengthen Their Bond
Since people across the globe are being encouraged to self-isolate, it can be tempting to spend more time on technology to cope with stress. Couples may be struggling due to unexpected financial strains and time spent in close proximity with home-schooled children and each other. Instead of allowing the stress of the times to add strain to our most valued relationships, why not devote some time each week to investing in your partnership instead?
Here are 5 ways couples can strengthen their bond:
- Research has revealed that a very powerful predictor of relationship stability is whether couples allocate cognitive room for their relationship and for the world of their partner (Gottman & Gottman, 2001). One way to do this is to ask each other questions that broaden your understanding. It is meaningful to simply be known. Here’s an exercise to offer one another that experience.
Take 20 minutes without technology on or nearby and take turns asking one or more of the following questions. The goal is to broaden the knowledge you have about your partner as you listen without judgment. If you already know the answer, bonus points! But your partner may still enjoy being heard, so try to notice new details as you listen attentively.
What is your best childhood memory?
Of your friends and family, who do you think has the best relationship and why?
What is your favourite part about being in this relationship?
Is there something you’ve always dreamed of doing but haven’t done yet?
- The way a couple handles external stress is a predictor of physical health and the health of their relationship. During this stressful time, aim to be your partner’s ally by spending time hearing about the stress they are feeling – don’t problem solve but rather empathize. “It makes sense that you feel that way” when said in a heartfelt manner is a helpful validating statement. Seek to understand their position by asking open ended questions (eg. What is the hardest part about this for you? What do you fear the most?) The two most important rules in this exercise are: Each person must share about an external stressor – something happening outside of the relationship AND you always take your partner’s side (don’t side with the “enemy” even if you can see the other person’s side!). This is a specific time of listening and having your partner’s back, the same way you would hope in return. So ask, what is one thing out there that’s been stressing you lately with work, school, family or friends? We thrive when we know we have an ally during tough times.
- Another way to help your partner manage stress for better physical and relational health is to simply ask what helps them to relax. Whether it’s reading a book in a hot bath, going for a jog in nature, listening to a comedy podcast or catching up with a friend on the phone without interruption from the kids, take time to listen to each other noting the details, and then help to create a space for each person to have this dedicated relaxation time during the coming week.
- Meaningful connection is important in relationships, particularly having regular time set aside to connect. Research suggests it helps to have a regular date night, so, with extra time at home, why not be creative? Try having a picnic; one or both of you can prepare food, and either outside in an open space, on your balcony, or on a blanket in your living room play some music, eat some of your favorite foods and have a conversation (about something other than health). You can even plan something fun after your picnic date night like playing a card game, reading a book aloud to one another, listening to the favorite songs you had when you first met or playing “I Spy”. Get creative!
- Often in life and relationships we may pay more attention to the negative, so, in this time, trying cultivating gratitude by expressing admiration for something that your partner is good at – this can be a task, activity, or character trait. Tell this to them providing a specific example of when you saw them exhibiting this meaningful quality. For more ideas on expressing fondness and admiration, and strengthening your bond, go to https://www.gottman.com/blog/share-fondness-and-admiration/
Brianna is a Certified Counsellor at Living Well Counselling Services Inc. She is dedicated to cultivating a space where people feel genuinely heard and understood. Brianna enjoys working with youth, adolescents, couples, and families and brings a gentle and empathetic presence to each client session. For more information on Brianna go to https://livingwellcounselling.ca/our-therapists/brianna-matchett-mc/
Jennifer is the Founder and CEO of Living Well Counselling Services Inc. and a Certified Counsellor with the Professional Association of Christian Counsellors and Psychotherapists. She specializes in anxiety disorders, couples work and spirituality sensitive counselling helping clients to discover who they really are and their unique purpose. For more information on Jennifer go to https://livingwellcounselling.ca/our-therapists/jennifer-dawn-watts/