There is a wealth of research from both overseas and here in Australia which indicates that marital and relationship satisfaction decline once a couple become parents. It is estimated that as many as 67% of couples become dissatisfied after they have children. That is why I started From 2 to 3, because I knew that getting in early to couples counselling when relationship happiness was starting to decline could make the biggest positive impact for the long term. The good news is that the research of Dr. John Gottman, relationship counselling expert, who followed 3000 couples over long periods of time, found that there were some couples who were relationship “Masters”. These relationships remained stable, happy and endured over time.
There were 3 key factors that Gottman found which set the relationship Masters apart from all the other couples. He found that by teaching couples in counselling to do these 3 things it could save their relationship.
So the 3 things that could save your relationship are:
Treat your partner like you would a good friend. Show interest in what’s happening in their life by checking in with them and asking questions. Make the effort to ask your partner how their day went. This sounds simple but it can be easy to fall into the habit of neglecting your partner as a unique and individual person.Couples that show this type of genuine interest in each other are able to connect more deeply. There is always more to learn about each other, so stay curious and don’t assume you know everything about your partner. Use open ended questions and follow-up with them on events they have previously mentioned. This communicates care and that you are really listening to them. This is often a technique that I use in couples counselling, and it allows people to feel acknowledged, validated and understood.
2. Constructive Conflict.
Relationship masters are gentle with each other when there is conflict. They don’t blame or criticise the other person, rather they raise the issue by focussing on their own needs and feelings. Being respectful, open, interested and accepting of your partners’ feelings and using humour where appropriate will lead to more positive outcomes. Responding positively to your partner during conflict means you are more likely to see the opportunity for a win-win situation where you can both get your needs met. In relationship counselling, I have noticed that being negative, defensive, withdrawn, or contemptuous means you are less likely to resolve the conflict with your partner. In fact the conflict is likely to escalate further and leave you both feeling upset.
3. Make Repairs Early.
All couples will make mistakes, say things in the heat of the moment and hurt one another. You can’t always avoid this happening but you can make repairs and make amends quickly. Rather than ignoring the situation and allowing upset feelings to fester and grow, getting in early and taking responsibility for what you have done is very important. It can be difficult to admit you are wrong, however being able to acknowledge you may have hurt your partner, will deepen the intimacy and friendship with them. It’s a lot easier to forgive and forget, when both parties take their share of the responsibility for what’s gone wrong. In relationship counselling, I often see couples who want to avoid conflict, because they think it’s a bad thing. Actually conflict in your relationship and making effective repairs afterwards, teaches you more about your needs as well as your partner’s, and can add to the strength and depth of your connection.
If you are feeling dissatisfied with your relationship now you are a parent and would like to support to become a relationship Master, then contact me now to see how I can help. Working with a couples counselling professional like myself can make a positive difference when you are starting to have problems with your partner. Relationship counselling can make a positive difference to your relationship and your happiness. Let’s talk before it breaks.