Much of what we now know works in relationships isn’t hard to do – at least theoretically. Couples that stay together have three qualities to their relationship: they treat each other like friends, they are positive with each other, and they are gentle in how they handle conflict. This translates in a pattern of non-attacking, non-defensive interactions in managing conflict. They like each other and are positive in non-conflict interactions. In other words, treat your partner like a good friend. We all know how to treat our friends to keep the relationship going, even when we feel disappointed.
I encourage couples to be patient with themselves and with their partners, especially on the bad days. This relationship stuff takes a while to get. “Little things often” is a signature motto of the Gottman Institute. Over time those little things make a difference, and little things are easy to do, we just have to remember to do them.
What’s one little thing to do often? Well try this, every day find at least three positive things you like or appreciate about your partner and actually tell it to him/her. If you do that every day for a week, it is likely that the relationship will experience a bit of a lift. Simple concept, but sharing positivity speaks to a basic law of relationships: Negativity leads to more negativity, positivity leads to more positivity. See if you can find some way to treat your partner like a friend next time you are upset, it’s not hard, just hard to remember sometimes.