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Tip of The Week

Tools to Transform Your Marriage or Relationship

By Laura Oliff, Ph.D.

Couples often wait until their problems are quite severe before considering couple's therapy. The strategies presented here are not only important for relationships in crisis but can be valuable in repairing smaller conflicts or dissatisfactions. According to research based on repeated interviews and observations of thousands of couples, John Gottman, PhD has defined several strategies and tools to transform your marriage or relationship.

  • Develop patterns of interaction that strengthen your relationship. For example, learn how to talk about a problem gently, without criticizing your partner and how to deescalate negative feelings during a difficult interaction with an apology, a smile, or a touch of humor that breaks the tension.
  • Recognize and modify damaging patterns of interaction in your relationship. For example, learn how to avoid global attacks on your partner's character or personality when expressing dissatisfaction and learn how to minimize defensiveness, anger and stonewalling when responding to a partner's complaint.


  • Photo by Everton Vila on Unsplash.

  • Learn to share responsibility for the problem rather than blame the problem on your partner.
  • Notice your partner's positive actions and tell them you appreciate what they are bringing to the relationship.
  • Learn how to identify and respond to the underlying longing in your partner's complaints rather than getting into a pattern of attacking and counter-attacking.
  • Prevent issues from getting gridlocked. These include differences in emotional expression, attitudes toward finances, togetherness and independence, or sex and intimacy. Address these issues by making conversation the goal rather than trying to find the perfect solution. Learn to recognize that there are no right or wrong answers and accept that you can live with the conflict peacefully even if it is never completely resolved.

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash.

  • Build connection in your relationship by scheduling weekly two hour "dates" away from your children when you can talk privately or plan an overnight getaway a few times a year, when possible.
  • Consider taking up a regular activity you both enjoy or begin a project you can work on together.
  • Regularly update your knowledge of your partner's life history, daily routines, values, likes and dislikes. Recognize that as our lives progress, we often change how we view ourselves, our priorities or our place in the world. Couples who maintain accurate information about their partner report greater happiness in their relationships and manage stressful life events better.

Laura Oliff, Ph.D., Associate Director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy (New School for Social Research) is a licensed psychologist in the state of New York, Founding Fellow and Diplomate of The Academy of Cognitive Therapy and a member of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies. With twenty-five years of clinical experience with individuals, couples and families, she most recently completed Gottman Method Couples Therapy Level 1 Training.

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