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  • Writer's pictureRMTC Team

Resilience in Relationships: Using Gottman's Techniques During the Holiday Season


A man sits in front of a woman with his hands open in front of him. The woman sits on a couch making eye contact with the man.
A discussion happening between two partners.

Well, the holiday season has come and gone, did you manage to steer clear of a holiday blowout with your partner(s)?    

  

It can be tough to navigate a relationship with positivity with so many unexpected wrenches that can get tossed in your path. Ever heard of The Gottman Institute? They have an amazing training program for relational therapy, and a few of our therapists at Relationship Matters have training in The Gottman Method. You must be wondering what The Gottman Method is and how it can help your relationship. Let us tell you! The Gottman Method “... is an approach to couples therapy that includes a thorough assessment of the couple’s relationship and integrates research-based interventions based on the Sound Relationship House Theory” (The Gottman Method, 2023). The Gottman Method aims to disarm conflicting communication patterns, remove the feeling of stagnancy, and increase empathy, respect, intimacy, and affection.   

  

Our clinicians trained in Gottman Methods will meet with the couple together for a first session to discuss important questions to get the history of high points and low points in the relationship. They will then meet with the couple for separate individual sessions before returning to work together. Couples require five positive interactions to overcome the contempt, defensiveness, and hurt that one negative interaction can create (Psych Today). The Gottman Method emphasizes the importance of creating a skewed imbalance toward positive interactions, focusing on creating pathways for partners to increase their fondness and admiration toward one another.   

  

The Holidays can be an overwhelmingly busy, stressful, and difficult time for a relationship, so consider the value that the Gottman Method holds in building strong and healthy relationships. Here, we will outline some useful tips to help keep you and your partner conflict-free and happy post-holiday season derived from Dr. John Gottman’s research:  

  

Manage Expectations  

  

Sometimes, we can be pulled in a million different directions during the holiday season, between responsibilities with your family, your partner’s family, work, friends, and the list goes on. As we move into the New Year, it is critical to communicate openly with your partner about your expectations for the year ahead, prioritize what is important to each of you, and compromise to find common ground. You might have to make difficult decisions about what is realistic to accomplish, to prioritize what matters to both of you as an ensemble.  

  

Maintain Your Connection  

  

The Gottman Method emphasizes creating positive interactions between you and your partner, building fondness and affection, so of course it will emphasize the importance of maintaining rituals, making time for each other, and getting away from the rush of everything else to just be together. If you must, it can be valuable to schedule time just for you and your partner when dealing with the rush of all your commitments.   

  

Handle Conflicts with Care  

  

Disagreements are bound to arise, and managing disagreements is one of the cornerstones of a healthy relationship. One of our therapists Tim McCurdy-Myers, MSc, RP, RMFT tells us that “it is important to talk about heavy issues without these conversations leading to heavy conflict”. He goes on to advise us to start these conversations using a soft start-up, rather than harsh intensity. A soft start-up involves using “I” statements, avoiding placing blame, avoiding judgment, and being polite and appreciative.   

  

Create Shared Meaning  

  

Take the time to reflect on your holidays together. What was meaningful to each one of you? What traditions or rituals feel like they have significance in your relationship? Move forward in the year together engaging in activities that build on the basis of these rituals and create a sense of togetherness and positive memories. One great way to create shared meaning when approaching a new year is to build New Year’s resolutions together. Creating goals that you can work toward as a dynamic duo will build a sense of teamwork and partnership.  

  

Express Gratitude  

  

Moving into a new year together will inevitably open the door for challenges, disagreements, and arguments, but it will also create many opportunities to be grateful for your partner. Expressing gratitude is a key to the Gottman Method as you aim to build that fondness and admiration for each other that is so critical. Take the time to create rituals of gratitude with your partner, “Share, show, and speak your love! Take your relationship off autopilot and shift into loving out loud” (The Gottman Institute). One thing to consider is to make a point of ending every night with an expression of gratitude toward your partner.  

  

Considering what we know about The Gottman Method, it is no surprise that it can be incredibly useful when recovering from a busy and stressful holiday season, and moving into a new year that holds high expectations and opportunities. We hope using Gottman's techniques during the holidays season and beyond can help guide you to a happier and healthier relationship!  

  

As always, if you are looking to book an appointment with any one of the therapists at Relationship Matters you may contact us via email at admin@relationshipmatterstherapy.com, or by phone at (226) 894-4112. 

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