Updated: Dec 19, 2022
These 3 suggestions to nurture your relationship derive from the work of Dr. Susan Johnson and her evidence-based modality, Emotionally Focus Therapy for Couples, and the work of Julie and John Gottman in their Gottman Method for Couples Therapy, which is backed by extensive research as well. Relationships need to be nurtured for them to flourish. These are three recommendations you can use to create intentional, satisfying, and fulfilling relationships.
1. In relationships, our interactions eventually become patterned and these patterns reinforce themselves over time. One author calls it a “limbic tango” to emphasize how our emotional brains are involved in a dance, often below our awareness. Watching out for how each partner contributes to the current dance, and the rhythms set by your surroundings is key to nurturing your relationship. Taking responsibility for the part you play in your dance is crucial to create a healthier relationship.
We as social beings are deeply affected by the states of others and can be reactive to others, even when we don't understand why we are feeling or behaving in a way we don't really want to. Our nervous system is also scanning for danger constantly. At times, we react to a perception of danger, even when it might not be really there. Increasing our awareness and understanding of this process helps us give ourselves and our partners more compassion while also empowering us to change unhelpful dynamics.
2. The stress-reducing conversation derives from Gottman Method for Couples Therapy. It is important to note that it is not for conversations in which stressors are the relationship or partner, it is only for stressors outside of the relationship. Why? Because it is way more difficult to validate and say “Yeah, I totally see your point.” very calmly when they are complaining about you.
During a stress-reducing conversation, partners take turns sharing the stressors of the day. Be mindful not to jump in to problem-solve their situation. Often, your partner might just want you to acknowledge how difficult their situation is. You can also try asking if they just want you to listen or if they’d like you to offer your advice or perspective.
Lastly – I’ll admit, this is a tough one for me – always take your partner’s side. Communicate an “Us versus The World” position, demonstrate affection, and aim to truly understand your partner's position. The point of this is to provide social support, this helps us feel we are not alone, having social support - especially from a loved one - has been shown by research to lower cortisol (commonly known as the stress hormone).
3. Rituals of Connection, also a component of the Gottman Method for Couples Therapy, are times that you intentionally create to spend time together and strengthen your bond. Create time that you can count on to reconnect with your partner. Ideally, create at least one ritual of connection daily. If that is not possible, aim to have at least once or twice a week a time you can share together with minimal interruptions.
Sitting together to drink coffee or tea, calling each other during lunch to talk about how your day is going, talking at the end of the day about your day, sharing meals together, and making sure to share physical contact through your time together also helps nurture your relationship. For most partners, sexual contact is also important to affirm their relationship. What are other ways you nurture your relationships? Share it with us in the comments!
Thaina Cordero is a Sexologist and Care Coordinator at Cypress Wellness Center. She has an MS in Educational Psychology and Ph.D. in Clinical Sexology student at Modern Sex Therapy Institute. She works with individuals and couples as they explore their sexual expression, needs, fantasies, preferences, curiosities, and difficulties as they create more pleasurable, satisfying, and fulfilling sex lives and relationships. Click here to request an appointment.