“So to all the young lovers out there just beginning all this (or to any of you caught in the crazy tough middle bit), if you really think you’ve found your soulmate, hold on if you possibly can for the stuff that truly matters. Because the cups of tea, laughter, fierce loyalty, deep love, forgiveness, shared tears, the unspeakable joy of watching your kids grow, and the wrinkles (or as I like to think of them, the song lines of life) that come from living a REAL life together, are so worth it.”
Lisa Wilkinson, 29 Valentine’s Days together
Forget Valentine’s Day?… you’re not alone.
The meaning of romance for even the most in-love couples – tends to change once children are in the mix! Sleep deprivation, financial pressures, domestic chores (….you know, that never-ending pile of laundry), added mental loads and having used up ALL your grandparent babysitting favours can put a few too many barriers between you, and (remembering to organise) a romantic night out.
Whilst it’s easier to feel focussed on each other during those rare kid-free weekend getaways, finding ways to connect and build a life together on the day-to-day is a bit more of a challenge.
Remember, small acts of love make a difference.
As you know, we are always committed to providing you with evidence-backed strategies that make the lives of busy working parents easier, so we’re taking this opportunity to introduce you to The Gottman Institute – pioneers for more than 50 years in the study of relationships. Having studied with them, and with the knowledge that couples are entering marriage with just a 50% chance of staying together, we can’t think of a better time to share their top seven tips for nurturing your relationship:
1. Seek help early. Kind of seems obvious, but for many there is a shame in asking for help as you undertake the transition from independence to interdependence.
2. Self-edit. Successful couples are kind to each other, and avoid criticising or blaming each other.
3. Raise issues with a ‘soft start-up’. Raising problems gently, without blame, is less likely to trigger your partner’s amygdala and result in an argument. The Gottmans found that the way you start a discussion determines the way it will end 94% of the time!
4. Accept influence from your partner. Gottman’s research has found that in heterosexual couples, where men can accept influence from their partners (women being generally conditioned to accept influence from their male partners), the relationship was more likely to succeed.
5. Have high standards for each other – if you’re tolerating bad behaviour early on, it’s likely to continue.
6. Learn to repair and exit the argument: don’t get stuck on winning. Rather, back down, or add some humour, or acknowledge the pain. In marriage, as in the martial art Aikido, you often have to yield to win.
7. Focus on the positives and pay attention to the ‘bids for connection’ from your partner. For many of us, this means putting our phones, newspapers and books away and noticing when our partners are seeking to connect with us. Healthy couples constantly make and respond to bids for connection, and this is what separates the Relationship Masters from the Relationship Disasters.
But for now, happy valentine’s, lovers!