As we enter into the last week before christmas and the last two weeks of the year, I want to introduce an activity that I believe can benefit all the relationships in our lives.
Did you know that John Gottman, a Relationship expert, discovered that couples who have a ratio of 5 positive interactions to every negative interaction are considered stable and much more likely to remain happily together? In many ways this seems like common sense; of course when we are nicer to each other we will be happier, but for most couples achieving and maintaining this ratio proves to be more difficult than expected. With the holidays fast approaching, many couples struggle to stay connected and be kind to one another. It is a stressful time of year on all fronts – work, family, kids, finances, relationships, and this can cause us to be a little more prickly towards those we are closest to than we would like to be. In addition, there is a lot of pressure for us to be happy at this time of year which makes us feel even worse when we aren’t.
Because time is of the essence and many of us are sliding into the holidays burnt out and in need of a break, I want to recommend one small practice that could make a world of difference in your relationship.
If you look at the research, another one of the greatest predictors of relationship satisfaction and success is vulnerability (I would encourage you to read both Brene Brown and Sue Johnson if you are interested in learning more). One way to increase vulnerability is to start a gratitude practice. Now I know we have heard this word thrown around a lot over the past few years but it is for good reason. Gratitude changes the way our brain sees things and therefore also how we experience things. In other words, it is a surefire way to make ourselves feel better or, in our relationships, to feel more connected if we both choose to practice it.
So how can you bring more gratitude into your relationship this holiday season? Start sharing one thing ever day with your partner about why you are grateful for them. Be as specific as possible and let them know why this impacts you the way it does. Try to make this about your relationship as much as possible.
Most people find that this is challenging to begin with because we aren’t used to always sharing even our positive emotions with our partners. Start with something you feel comfortable with and then continue to get more vulnerable each time you share.