Many couples strive to increase communication, intimacy, and connection. As psychologist Esther Perel said,
"The quality of your relationships determines the quality of your life."
This explains why so many of us are working to create a strong relationship and often find that when our relationship is out of balance, we feel out of balance as well.
I have found that in working with couples, there are a few exercises and activities that can help improve the relationship. These resources are not silver bullets offering a magical solution to your relationship concerns, but rather little steps that offer meaningful changes when consistently used.
FANOS is an acronym that provides a structure for couples to use when checking
in. Check-ins are an essential part of improving communication between partners.
A daily check-in for at least 30 days is recommended to create helpful change in
communication. Afterwards, a check in of 3 days a week and then down to 1 day a
week is beneficial.
Feelings: Share an emotion with you partner that you are feeling in the moment or that you experienced during the day. If needed, reference a feelings wheel.
Affirmations/Appreciations : Share a positive affirmation with your partner about who they are or something they've done. For example, "I appreciate your support" or "I appreciated when you listened to me when I vent about work."
Needs: Identify a need that you have. This need may be one that has been mentioned before, but still needs to be met. It's not necessary that the need must be met by your partner (i.e., I need to have that talk with my boss so I feel less anxious at work).
Ownership: Is there anything you have said or done that you need to take ownership of and apologize for?
Struggles/Sobriety: Share any struggles you are currently dealing with (which may or may not include your partner). If you are in a recovery program, this is the time to mention your sobriety status and any recovery work you are focused on. Be honest, but not graphic.
2. Article: How to stop arguing and start talking about your feelings.
This article comes from the LA Times and provides a helpful metaphor for leaving defensiveness behind and creating healthy communication during conflict.
3. Active Listening
On that note, mastering the ability to active listen is an instrumental part of healthy communication. Here, the Gottman Institute provides a helpful outline for active listening.
Below is a list of books that many clients have reported are helpful in improving communication and intimacy while reducing negative conflict patterns:
Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson: Hold Me Tight offers readers a guide through 7
conversations to improve their relationship. drsuejohnson.com/books/
Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman and Nan
This book offers seven principles to provide an outline for partners to implement into
their relationship. Included in the book are several questionnaires and exercises to help
couples focus on each other and navigate day to day moments. While it mentions
marriage in the title, this book is helpful for those who are not married as well.
Attached The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You
Find-And Keep-Love by Amir Levine and Rachael Heller: Levine and Heller
provide an overview of adult attachment research along with an overview of three
attachment styles and how they interact. This book is helpful for understanding and
evaluating attachment styles, a crucial part of any adult relationship.
As mentioned before, these resources are helpful in supporting a couple in their process to improve communication, intimacy, and connection. When the skills from these resources are used consistently, a couple may experience improvement in their relationship. However, even with all of the resources and skills presented, a couple may still struggle to make improvement. Couples therapy is a beneficial in helpful a couple overcome their negative cycle and create the improvement they seek. If you have questions about any of these resources or the process of couples therapy, please reach out to us by contacting us below.