Today I’m going to be sharing with you another piece of expert advice from psychologist and marriage guru John Gottman.
Gottman’s extensive observational research on married couples has shown the most effective way that you can restore emotional intimacy with your spouse on a daily basis.
The answer sounds simple but is so important for the long-term health of your marital relationship.
The simple truth is that the most important conversation you need to have with your spouse each day is the one which starts with “How was your day?”
Having a daily conversation with your spouse in which you can offload any stress or worries you experienced during your day will prevent stress from outside of your relationship from affecting your marriage.
This conversation will enable you and your spouse to calm one other down, support one another and develop a closer connection.
However, these benefits don’t simply come from asking the question “How was your day?”
In order for this conversation to effectively reduce stress and strengthen emotional bonds between you, you and your spouse each need to follow the following guidelines:
1. Wait until a time where you are both able and wanting to talk.
For instance, you may want to tell each other about your day as soon as you both get home, or you may want to wait until dinner or until after you have put the kids to bed.
2. Talk about the things each of you are experiencing OUTSIDE of your relationship at the moment – not your relationship problems.
If you ask your spouse how their day was and they give a short response such as “Good thanks” or “It was alright”, try probing a little further to show you are truly interested in what is going on in their life.
Try being a little more specific. For instance, you could ask “How is everything going at work at the moment?” or “What did you do today?”
If your spouse again gives you a short answer, it may be a sign that they are not in ‘talk mode’ right now.
If this is the case, you could try to start up the conversation from a different angle a little later on, or make a comment about your day and see if they are willing to continue this line of conversation.
3. Spend at least 20 minutes having an in-depth discussion.
Take turns to talk, so the focus is kept on one person at a time for at least 10 minutes.
4. Actively listen to your spouse when they are talking. This means removing any distractions and focusing your full attention on your spouse.
Make eye contact with your spouse and show genuine interest in what they are saying through nods, agreements and further questions.
Giving your spouse your full attention when they are talking will make them feel incredibly valued and cared for.
5. When your spouse is telling you about any complaints from their day, show understanding before suggesting any solutions to him or her.
Sometimes advice is not what our loved ones are looking for when they tell us about a problem.
Empathize with your spouse and validate their emotions – express that you understand how your spouse is feeling right now and that they have every right to be feeling that way.
Listen to your spouse to try and work out if they are actually asking you for advice or simply just want to know that you care.
If you don’t know if your spouse is looking for advice, first show them your understanding and emotional support and then ask if there is anything you can do to help.
6. Take your spouse’s side – never side with the ‘opposition’ in a situation.
Taking the other party’s side over theirs when your spouse is telling you about a problem will only make your spouse feel hurt, angry, unsupported and rejected. This will also make them less likely to want to confide in you in future.
Instead, let your spouse know beyond a doubt that it is him or her that you are supporting and give the impression that you will ‘fight this problem together’.
Remember that your primary focus here is to be there for your spouse – not to be the judge of who is ‘right’ in the situation. So don’t show any judgment or criticism of your spouse’s perspective.
When it is YOU who has made a mistake, you will feel a lot better having your spouse take your side and support you, rather than criticize you for what you may have done wrong.
7. Lastly, show your spouse affection during or after your conversation.
Use affectionate words such as “I love you” and affectionate touch such as hugs, kisses, or an arm around them.
When you and your spouse make time to engage in these stress-reducing conversations every day, it will do wonders for your marriage.
Over time, it will reinforce to each of you that you are on each other’s side and that your spouse is the one you can turn to when something is stressing you out.
This can’t help but bring you closer together. It is the vital step towards restoring the emotional intimacy which may have been lacking in your marriage.
Sometimes the small acts are the ones which have the biggest impact.