Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Relationship Workout Workshop

[Photo from]

You know how way back when I talked about how important it was to work on my relationship instead of getting caught up in all the wedding stuff? Well, it turns out that can be a challenge. Life can get so hectic without my really noticing how busy we are. Like chickens with our heads cut off many (most?) weekends, I tell you.

But we did the bestest thing last weekend! We set the weekend aside to attend a couple's workshop at the Gottman Institute.

While there are no pretty pictures to share with you (which I'm sure you'll forgive after all the cute animal photos in the last post, right?), I feel more strongly about the benefits of this workshop than I do pretty things. That's saying a LOT. I feel very strongly about pretty things, so just imagine how good this workshop must be!

I feel so very lucky that I'm with someone who is willing to take the time out of our hectic lives to work on our relationship. We both feel that the skills we learned will take us a long way towards understanding each other's needs and building a life together.

The ideas taught at the Gottman Institute are really quite simple, but also very easy to forget to do when the business of life sets in. All of these relationship goals build on one other, of course, and there's a lot to remember and to implement. I won't pretend to be able to summarize them in any way that would be useful for another couple, but just to show how brilliant this workshop is, I'll talk very broadly about what we learned.

First, know a lot of stuff about each other. You know, like friends do. Ask them about their day, how they're feeling, what's stressing them out, etc. Seems simple, but, I tell you, there are days where this takes *work.*

Be nice to each other. Actually tell each other that you appreciate the other person. Show them some respect. Again, simple, but it's so easy to take your partner for granted when you share a life together. It's easy to just silently appreciate that your husband just did the dishes and forget to actually say "thank you." These little things go a long way.

Look towards each other for help and support. Tell each other what you need. Listen to each other. No, really listen. There are lots of techniques used during the workshop to teach active listening skills. This is much harder than it sounds.

If you do all of those things for one another (easier said than done, of course, and the Gottmans have many suggestions on exactly how to go about doing these things on a daily basis), you'll feel good about your relationship. Makes sense, right? Again, sometimes a refresher course is necessary.

Then, the Gottmans talk about how to manage conflict. Apparently, studies show that couples that manage conflict well are much more likely to stay in couple-hood than those that don't. As in, it's one of the main indicators of whether your relationship will be successful. Holy cow! In the workshop, the Gottmans start to impart the skills necessary for recovering well from an argument. This includes understanding where one another is coming from (because an argument about who is going to take out the trash usually has *nothing* to do with garbage). They offer skills for listening to each other's point of view as well as starting conversations to address problems in a nice way. (Just think!) They also talked about how to deal with problems that you may face frequently in your relationship. (In case you were wondering, it is very validating to hear someone say: "every relationship has perpetual problems.") There are also tools on how to effectively work towards compromise without feeling like you are giving up your sense of self. Gah! BRILLIANT.

As the workshop progressed, the Gottmans talked about more high-level goals, such as working to make each other's life dreams come true. You know, even if those dreams are different for each person, since we are, in fact, individuals. I love it.

The last step involves really understanding what your partner wants and needs out of life, and working to share in those values and developing a shared legacy.

Doesn't this make so so much sense!? I won't lie, it sounds a lot like the mediation training I've taken in the past, but it is so so much harder to implement these skills in your own relationships. We have cheat sheets. No joke. They're awesome and going up on the fridge. We also have homework. Self-imposed relationship homework. Maybe that sounds awful to some people, but the fact that both of us are interested in working to strengthen our relationship so that we can have a successful marriage sounds like one of the best things ever.

This workshop is worth every.single.penny.


  1. Awesome. Just awesome. I'm so happy for you guys and just a teeny, tiny bit jealous... Way to do the smart thing and make the rest of us look like bumbling shlubs :)

  2. Well, surely my intention was not to make anyone feel shlubby! And, well, we have a lot of work to do to implement these practices. But, I won't lie, I'm pretty excited about what we learned!