We have been comparing the structure of a house to the structure of marriage. We talked about the importance of having a strong and deep foundation. We also emphasized the importance of having strong walls that do not succumb to the changes of life.
These walls are reinforced by “filling the relationship tank” or “making deposits in the emotional bank.” But what does this mean? How can I strengthen my marriage?
Gottman, a well-known author, recommends five exercises that, when put into practice, will allow you to fill the love tank, to fill the emotional bank with resources for the marriage relationship. These exercises are:
Exercise 1: Saying goodbye in the morning.
It is recommended that you ask what your partner is going to do during the day before leaving for work. Finding out about at least one event a day in the partner’s life is a way of saying “I care about you.” It helps to break the habit of inattention and the routine that turns couples into strangers who gradually distance from each other.
Exercise 2: Talk at the end of the day.
When you get home, try to mitigate the stress accumulated during the workday though conversation. Many times, when couples get home, they do not speak due to fatigue, or because they focus on complaints or interrupt the other person.
In order to do this, it is advisable to spend a few minutes discussing work issues, how the day went, what you did, etc., without mixing them with those of the couple. By elaborating on concern verbally, we will avoid placing tension on the loved one. It is important to resist the tendency to give advice or to reproach the other person. Instead, it is best to seek solutions and to show support and understanding.
Exercise 3: Show appreciation.
At least once a day, verbally express admiration, appreciation, and value the other person for something he/she has done, directly or through a phone call or sending him/her a message.
Exercise 4: Express affection physically.
Words and sexual contact are not the only important factors. Outside the bedroom, it is also necessary to exchange hugs, kisses, or caresses, to express tenderness and use skin-to-skin contact with each other.
Exercise 5: The weekly appointment.
Once a week, organize a date with your spouse, like when you started dating. Go somewhere together or stay home alone, chatting, getting intimate and expanding the love map.
Following these exercises, we will have dedicated time and attention to our partner, who will gradually help enrich the intimate relationship.
You may be wondering, if those elements are the foundation and the walls, then what would the ceiling be? This would be conflict resolution. That is, solving problems that have a solution.
There are two types of problems: solvable and unsolvable. According to Gottman and Silver (2014), 69% of marital conflicts fall into the category of unsolvable.
What would be a solvable problem? It would be, for example: house cleaning, child discipline, sexual relations, mothers-in-law, situational problems, non-basic problems, that is, problems in which the solution can be reached and solved.
What would be the unsolvable problems? Problems centered on differences in personality and lifestyle. If the person feels rejected by the partner when the conflict appears, if he/she feels that the couple is not moving forward when talking about the problem, if he/she feels less and less willing to give in and stronger when maintaining his/her position regarding the subject, if he/she talks about the subject and notices that there is no affection or good humor.
So, what would be the steps to follow to regulate conflicts and move towards solving problems? Let us start by indicating that the beginning of a discussion in which we seek to solve a problem should have a soft, non-discordant beginning, through a neutral description of facts: “I feel like… and I need that …”. We must be careful about the words we use.
In addition, we must accept our partner’s influence and understand his/her point of view, accept the things that we cannot change, try to relax our body and not be tense (physiological relaxation), make sure that the problem is not due to some sinful situation. Involve God and seek His principles in order to be guided to the solution. Do not talk too much, start with something positive, use “I” instead of “YOU.” Describe, do not judge. Speak clearly about what you need, express appreciation, do not hold grudges or dislikes. Finally, be vulnerable.
Being vulnerable is one of the most important steps, as it will help you lower your guard and it will also allow you to follow all the steps to resolve conflicts.
By following these exercises and steps, we can move towards having a healthier, deeper relationship, one of love and understanding that supports all the changes that befall it, just the house that was built on the rock. May our rock be Jesus Christ. God bless you.