Monday, July 21, 2014

Relationship Alphabet: O is for Opportunity

O is for Opportunity
By Zach Brittle, LMHC 

Whenever I work with pre-marital couples, we spend a fair bit of time pondering whatever a marriage actually is. Is it a social contract? A political statement? A business agreement? A holy sacrament? Of course, it’s all of those things and they each have their own implications and consequences. More thematically, we explore whether marriage is a right, a privilege, a gift, a responsibility, a burden - there’s a reason the ball-and-chain metaphor exists. Mostly, we work on exposing the attitudes, biases, and expectations for the relationship. 

If you’re a newlywed, or about to be, I encourage you to explore each of these ideas even if you don’t read another word of this column. Minimally, you need to acknowledge and talk about the fact that marriage is complicated. That said, if I were to argue for simplicity - which I am - I would say that marriage is, above all, an opportunity

Dr. Gottman’s 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse is an allusion from book of Revelation - the last book of the bible. There is some ancient wisdom from the first book of the Bible as well. In the book of Genesis, when Adam and Eve are going through their pre-marital counseling, God basically says marriage is when “a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

Leaving theology and gender issues aside for the moment, let’s take a look at the wisdom of this definition:

1. Leave Home: One of the reasons that Dr. Gottman’s Sound Relationship House metaphor is so effective is that it implies a structure that belongs to you and your spouse alone. The only way to build your Sound Relationship House together is to ensure that you’ve created healthy boundaries around your relationship. This starts with mom & dad. Marriage is an opportunity to declare that someone else is taking the role of “the man in your life” (or the woman, of course). Sometimes, it’s tough to “leave” your mother and father, especially if they are good parents, who have loved and supported you throughout your life. But I’ve actually found it’s tougher to “leave” parents who were less than perfect or even harmful.

Leaving home isn’t just about your parents. It also includes your old boyfriends and girlfriends. Maybe the band you were in during college. Maybe it’s the fact that you usually spend every Saturday with your sister. It could be the actual physical structures that you are living in. Shirley Glass has famously noted that the healthiest relationships are the ones partners keep a window open between each other while erecting walls that protect their privacy from the outside world. Relationships get in trouble when walls and windows reverse and boundaries become messy. Think of your marriage as an opportunity to draw healthy boundaries and build a strong foundation for your very own home. 

2. Seek Unity: Most of us want to find a compatible partner, someone who also likes chocolate and Ghostbusters and long walks on the beach. Personally, I think compatibility is overrated. What’s required is unity. Unity doesn’t mean you’re the same. It means you’re together. The top level of the Sound Relationship House focuses on creating shared meaning. Don’t underestimate the value of this opportunity. 

With the confidence that comes from healthy boundaries, you can take creative risks in establishing new rituals. How will you make “The Holidays” uniquely your own? You can get ambitious about setting goals. Where will celebrate your 5th, 10th, and 50th anniversaries? You can get courageous about defining (and re-defining) your roles in the relationship. Who cleans this week? What happens when we switch the bread-winner role?

Unity means defining together the ideas of “home” and “money” and “family” and “sex” and “autonomy” and even “unity.” This is hard work, because it means having to give up some of your own ideas in order to accept your spouses. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a whole bunch: The hardest lesson I learned during my first year of marriage was how selfish I was. Unity means letting go of your selfishness in order to become a better version of your self. Again, what a wonderful opportunity.

3. Have Sex: This may seem like a no-brainer, and indeed, you may already be having sex, but I wisdom “becoming one flesh” is a specific invitation to have married sex. I’m not trying to spark a moral debate, but I do think there is something inherently different - and better - about married sex. Even Hollywood has figured this out. Think of all the times you’ve ever seen two people making love on screen. It can be explicit or implied. Probably hundreds, right? Now think of how many of all those hundreds depicted married people having sex with each other. Pretty small percentage, I bet. Hollywood is either implying that married sex isn’t sexy, or that it’s somehow too sacred to sell commercials with.

The Gottmans have done a beautiful job advocating for married sex that is both sexy and sacred. They argue for “personal sex” by shifting the focus away from intercourse and toward intimacy. Dr. Gottman is a champion for erotic and emotionally connected sex that comes from a strong sense of trust and commitment. Indeed, you should practice the techniques of sex, but think of your marriage as an opportunity to have different - and better - sex by focusing on your long-term friendship and emotional connection. 

NOTE: Many of my colleagues and friends encouraged (i.e. dared) me to write an “O is for Orgasm” column this week. I would have argued that a focus on achieving orgasm misses the point of married sex. The ability to talk about orgasm in a safe and curious is a much stronger indicator of sexual health for a couple.

Regardless of how you feel about the Bible, there is some important wisdom about how we are meant to be in relationship with one another. Genesis gives us a glimpse of what a marriage should be. Revelation reminds us of what it shouldn’t.

But let’s take the Bible out of it and weigh the opportunities available to anyone willing to commit to a long-term relationship. There’s a freedom that comes from leaving home and establishing healthy boundaries. There’s an exhilaration and maturation that comes from seeking unity by creating shared meaning and establishing new patterns. There’s an intimacy that comes from investing in emotional connection and prioritizing personal sex. 

Every opportunity comes with a cost. In this case, it’s the work of exposing your attitudes, biases, and expectations for your relationship and then leveraging those things toward the construction of your very own Sound Relationship House.

Happy to bat these ideas around with you, especially if you’re a recently or about to be married and need some help thinking through how to leverage your new opportunity. Feel free to email me at anytime.


This is Zach's 15th posting of his Relationship Alphabet column on The Gottman Relationship Blog. If you missed a posting or are reading for the first time, you can catch up on his column here. Zach is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Seattle, WA specializing in couples therapy. You can learn more about Zach and inquire about availability at Follow Zach on Twitter @kzbrittle.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Weekend Homework Assignment: Build Bridges Of Trust

As many of us know all too well, having learned the hard way, trust begins and ends with emotional communication. Though we may wish this wasn’t so, no corner of our world is free from this rule. We are governed by it in our relationships just as our bodies are governed by the laws of gravity. Dr. Gottman’s studies cannot magic-away all of physics. He freely admits to this. Comparing broken trust in a relationship to a shattered mirror, he says: "You can glue it back together, but it will never be the same again.” 

Nonetheless, his many years of research on our complicated human relationships fill him with hope. He offers it to us, bestowing tools upon those of us who dream of protecting trust. Though we've all been shattered by its fragility, we are not forever doomed to stand amid shards of glass. His studies have shown that a little bit every day goes a long way. If both partners build habits of turning towards each other in simple everyday moments, they build bridges wrought of affection, fondness, and admiration for each other: these are the bridges of trust.

Think of the exercise below as a list of ideas, of building blocks, and remember that they are not set in stone. Every relationship is different. Whether you’d like to build bridges, carve intricate tunnels, or sail messages in bottles towards each other, the connections you create will bring the two of you closer together. Practice affection, and trust will naturally follow.

Things to Do for Your Spouse:

  • Fix coffee, a snack, or a meal for your partner.
  • Wait on your partner when he or she is ill.
  • Compliment your partner, say thank you, praise his or her efforts around the house.
  • Listen. Listen. Listen.
  • Buy a silly gift. Buy something inexpensive. Make it an inside joke.
  • Do something kind for your partner’s friends or family.
  • Run errands for your partner.
  • Call or send an email during the workday. Ask how it’s going.
  • Put a loving note into your partner’s lunch or briefcase.
  • Draw a funny picture or write a sweet note. Hide it in your partner’s coat pocket.

Things to Do Together:
  • Hug.
  • Kiss.
  • Hold hands.
  • Cuddle.
  • Reminisce.
  • Take a class together.
  • Volunteer together.
  • Talk over drinks, or coffee, or tea.
  • Philosophize.
  • Wash the dishes: you wash, they dry.
  • Go camping. 
  • Create artwork together.
  • Help to take care of aging relatives.
  • Take a shower or a bath together.
  • Fold laundry.
  • Take a spontaneous trip to somewhere beautiful.
  • Plan your future. Dream. 

This activity comes from the pages of Dr. Gottman's The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening our Marriage, Family, and Friendships. To learn more about bids, emotional connection, and the many other building blocks of trust, be sure to check it out. For now, we wish you a beautiful weekend.

Happy Friday,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Thursday, July 17, 2014

How To Share Compassion & Empathy in Intimate Conversation

In recent posts on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we've been discussing new relationships. Today, we'd like to take a look at their core: the deep bond a couple builds through intimate interaction, in particular through their daily conversations. In this post, we will explain how to apply Dr. Gottman’s skills for sharing compassion and empathy with your partner. 

Note: While the ideas we share are theoretically pretty straightforward, they can be difficult to put into practice. If you find implementing them to be a challenge, don’t get discouraged! Remember Dr. Gottman’s advice: No opinions or problem solving until you’ve gone through the four steps of attunement. 

Also, remember that immediate advice may come off as glib and insulting to your partner. They may think to themselves, “Does this person think I’m so dumb I can’t come up with my own solution?” This probably rings a few bells - bells of annoyance and maybe even indignation.

Below, you'll find an illustration of two possible conversations between Cheyenne and Will, a young couple walking home from a dinner with their mutual friend, Abby. 

The first example is a failed attempt at expressing compassion and empathy in a bid for intimate conversation:

Cheyenne: I couldn’t believe how Abby reacted when I brought up what happened at the party. What a crude attempt at changing the subject! Who does she think she is? Just shutting me down like that…
Will: You know Abby just doesn’t like crowds. Next time, you shouldn’t bring it up, it makes everything so awkward.
Cheyenne: You’re such a pushover, why can’t you stand up for me? You thought she was acting weird the other night, I don’t see why I can't talk to her about it.
Will: Come on, we’ve been through this before. Let’s go get some coffee or something. On the way, I can show you that art gallery I thought you’d like.
Cheyenne: No, whatever. It’s fine, let’s just go home.

In this scenario, Will reacts without considering Cheyenne’s need for support from him when she is upset. He immediately rushes to offer an explanation, even defending the person his girlfriend feels attacked by. He refuses to engage with her on an emotional level and attempts to distract her instead. She is left feeling disappointed and even more frustrated than before. She expected his empathy, and instead received advice she didn’t ask for and criticism she certainly didn’t expect to hear. Here is a way that Will could apply Dr. Gottman’s skills for intimate conversation to the same scenario, increasing his and Cheyenne’s attunement and trust in each other:

Cheyenne: I couldn’t believe how Abby reacted when I brought up what happened at the party. What a crude attempt at changing the subject! Who does she think she is? Just shutting me down like that…
Will: I’m sorry, I understand how that would make you upset. I know you wanted to help, but she never wants to go there.
Cheyenne: I like Abby… It’s just so frustrating that I have to walk on eggshells around her. It’s exhausting.
Will: That makes sense. I hate it when I have to censor myself in social situations. I just want to relax, too.
Cheyenne: Yeah. You know what? Let’s go see that gallery you’ve been talking about, the one you said I’d like…

Try these techniques in your own relationship, and the results may surprise you! By engaging in supportive, intimate conversations with your partner, you can build trust - the most important ingredient in a healthy, happy relationship - and be closer than ever!

All for now,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Friday, July 11, 2014

What Makes Same-Sex Relationships Succeed Or Fail?

Today, in the aftermath of Pride - in the wake of parades and marches strutting their colorful stuff through the streets of Seattle, Portland, Cleveland, New York, and Chicago - we’d like to turn our attention to same-sex couples. 

Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman have observed the strength and resilience of same-sex couples, even in the midst of the cultural and social stresses to which they are uniquely vulnerable. Together, the Gottmans have made a commitment to assuring that lesbian and gay couples have as much access as straight couples to resources for strengthening and supporting their relationships.

Using state-of-the-art methods to study 21 gay and 21 lesbian couples, Drs. John Gottman and Robert Levenson (UC Berkeley) were able to learn what makes same-sex relationships succeed or fail in The 12 Year Study.

One key finding: Overall, relationship satisfaction and quality are about the same across couple types (straight, gay, and lesbian) that Dr. Gottman has studied. This result supports prior research by Lawrence Kurdek and Pepper Schwartz, who found that gay and lesbian relationships are comparable to straight relationships in many ways.

According to Dr. Gottman, "Gay and lesbian couples, like straight couples, deal with every-day ups-and-downs of close relationships. We know that these ups-and-downs may occur in a social context of isolation from family, workplace prejudice, and other social barriers that are unique to gay and lesbian couples." However, his research uncovered differences suggesting that workshops tailored to gay and lesbian couples can have a strong impact on relationships.

In conducting interviews, coding facial expressions, and collecting other measures, the researchers found the following.

Same-sex couples are more upbeat in the face of conflict. Compared to straight couples, gay and lesbian couples use more affection and humor when they bring up a disagreement, and partners often give it a more positive reception. Gay and lesbian couples are also more likely to remain positive after a disagreement. "When it comes to emotions, we think these couples may operate with very different principles than straight couples. Straight couples may have a lot to learn from gay and lesbian relationships," suggests Dr. Gottman.

Same-sex couples also use fewer controlling, hostile emotional tactics. Drs. Gottman and Levenson also discovered that gay and lesbian partners display less belligerence, domineering, and fear in conflict than straight couples do. "The difference on these ‘control’ related emotions suggests that fairness and power-sharing between the partners is more important and more common in gay and lesbian relationships than in straight ones."

In a fight, gay and lesbian couples take it less personally. In straight couples, it is easier to hurt a partner with a negative comment than it is to make one’s partner feel good with a positive comment. This appears to be reversed in gay and lesbian couples. Same sex partners' positive comments have more impact on feeling good, while their negative comments are less likely to produce hurt feelings. "This trend suggests that gay and lesbian partners have a tendency to accept some degree of negativity without taking it personally," Dr. Gottman observes.

Unhappy gay and lesbian couples tend to show low levels of "physiological arousal." This is just the reverse for straight couples. For them, physiological arousal signifies ongoing aggravation. The ongoing aroused state - including elevated heart rate, sweaty palms, and jitteriness - means partners have trouble calming down in the face of conflict. A lower level of arousal allows same sex partners to soothe one another.

In conflict, lesbians show more anger, humor, excitement, and interest than conflicting gay men. This suggests that lesbians are more emotionally expressive - positively and negatively - than gay men. This may be the result of being socialized in a culture where expressiveness is more acceptable for women than for men.

Gay men need to be especially careful to avoid negativity in conflict. When it comes to repair, gay couples differ from straight and lesbian couples. If the initiator of conflict in a gay relationship becomes too negative, his partner is not able to repair as effectively as lesbian or straight partners. "This suggests that gay men may need extra help to offset the impact of negative emotions that inevitably come along when couples fight," explains Gottman.

And what about sex?

In their famous 1970s study, Masters and Johnson found that the gay and lesbian couples have sex very differently from the heterosexual couples or strangers. The committed gay and lesbian couples were the only people excited by their partner’s excitement, while the others were focused on getting to orgasm. Gay couples turned towards their partners’ bids for emotional connection during sex. They took their time, enjoying the ecstasy of lovemaking. Rather than being constrained by a single-minded focus on the end “goal,” they seemed to enjoy the stimulation and sensuality itself.

To learn more, clinicians and all others interested may find The 12 Year Study here.

Have a great weekend,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Art of Science & Love is for Everyone

Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we pick up where Zach Brittle left off in his Relationship Alphabet column on Monday, "N is for Newlyweds." Actually, we pick up before "N is for Newlyweds," and even before "M is for Marriage," all the way back at "L is for Love" ... or "like-like," if you please!

In short, if you're in a relationship, this post is for you - whether you've gotten to M or not.

If you've been enjoying the blog, but have been wishing to supplement your reading with something a little more hands-on, look no further! Please imagine us waving excitedly, possibly hopping up and down, and directing your attention to this...

Our Art & Science of Love weekend workshop, fully explained here, is appropriate and excellent for all couples, no matter what your relationship status - premarital, newly married, or long-term partners!

If you have a strong relationship, this workshop will provide you with insights and tools to make it a great one. If your relationship is distressed, this two-day workshop will provide a road map for repair.

If you live in Seattle, or would like to visit our beautiful city, you can register for one of the following dates. Workshop co-creators Drs. John and Julie Gottman will present on:

  • August 9 & 10 at the Seattle Convention Center 
  • October 11 & 12 at the Shoreline Community Center
  • December 6 & 7 at the Tacoma Convention Center

Additional Art & Science of Love workshops are presented by Certified Gottman Therapists (CGTs) around the world. Check them out here.

Questions? We have compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions about the workshop. 

Q: We are happy and in love. Why should we attend a Gottman weekend workshop before we get married?
Start early! Get your relationship off to a healthy beginning and keep it healthy. The average couple waits six years before seeking help for marital problems (and keep in mind, half of all marriages that end do so in the first seven years). This means that the average couple lives with unhappiness for far too long, and we always advocate a position of prevention over intervention. Learning the skills that masters of relationships have taught us will improve your ability to build friendship, manage conflict, and create shared meaning in your partnership. 

Q: Can I add The Art & Science of Love weekend workshop to my wedding registry?
Absolutely! If you are using The Knot or Amazon Wish List to manage your registry, you can add the workshop to your universal gift wish list. We're biased, but we think this is the most important gift that you can list on your registry.

Q: Can I give the workshop as a wedding gift?
Yes, you can. Just call us at 888-523-9042 ext 1 or email us at, and we will help you put together your wedding gift.

Q: Where can I hear from real couples about how the workshop helped them? 
KIRO 7 News did a "Profiles" documentary on Drs. John and Julie Gottman in August 2010 and they interviewed real couples about their experience. Watch it now here. 60 Minutes Australia did a piece in May 2010 on the Love Lab and also interviewed real couples. See it here. We also filmed our own testimonial video after a workshop in 2012, which you can view on our YouTube channel here.

Q: We don’t want group therapy. Do we have to share with the other couples?
No. The workshop is an educational experience with exercises built into the curriculum to teach you the skills that the “masters” of relationships use. There is no group work and no public disclosure of any kind. The information is presented to you in an interactive lecture format by Drs. John and Julie Gottman, and you will work in a “nest” of just the two of you during the exercises. We provide plenty of room, so you don’t have to worry about the other couples overhearing you. And if you get stuck on an exercise, we have a team of CGTs on hand to help you through the exercise.

Q: We would prefer to get private therapy before we get married. Are there CGTs who do pre-marital work?
Yes. Just give us a call at 888-523-9042 ext 1 or email us at and we will give you a referral for a CGT in your area who does pre-marital work. You can also find a Gottman trained therapist near you by using The Gottman Referral Network here.

Click here to view more FAQs. For more information about The Art & Science of Love or to register, please visit our website here, call us at 888-523-9042 ext 1, or email us at

All for now,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Monday, July 7, 2014

Relationship Alphabet: N is for Newlyweds

N is for Newlyweds
By Zach Brittle, LMHC

In my last post, I suggested an imaginary list of "Top 5 Regrets from the First Year of Marriage." There are at least five things I’d do differently, but I’m not actually sure “regrets” is the right word. Regrets in particular somehow imply regret in general, which I don’t have. Given the opportunity to do it all over again, I’d definitely still choose to get married and to the same person. But our first year as newlyweds was rough.

Newlyweds. The word inspires songwritten images of carefree Sundays that begin with playful games of “Guess Who Cooks?” and end with reading poetry from overdue library books under the apple tree in the backyard (credit to David Harris for that one). Our first year wasn’t like that. We did have an apple tree in the backyard of our first rental house, but we also had a moldy basement.

I do a fair bit of pre-marital counseling in my practice and lately my philosophy is shifting. I used to work through a pre-established set of topics to help couples prepare for marriage. At the end of six sessions, we’d check the box off and the happy couple would head off to marital bliss. The problem with this sort of pre-marital counseling is that it implies that you can prepare for marriage before you’re actually married. But I don’t think that’s possible or healthy.

More recently, I’ve been asking couples to throw out the notion of pre-marital therapy and think instead of “transition to marriage” therapy. Giving couples an extended vision for therapy helps cement the preparation and acknowledges that only the only thing that can prepare you for marriage is actually being married. It turns out there are Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, but in my work with newlyweds I focus on priorities more than principles. So, without further ado, here are:

Three to Four Priorities for Newlyweds

1. Have a Thing: In the Gottman vernacular this would be “Create Shared Meaning.” Basically, it’s the idea that couples need to get proactive about forming a marriage culture that is uniquely their own. We spend most of our lives forming our identities through our family of origin. Then, one day we decide to get married and take on a new identity. I encourage couples to start by “Having a Thing.” Sometimes it’s the creation of a ritual - like Saturday morning hikes. Sometimes it’s the cultivation of a value - like generosity or hospitality. Sometimes it’s agreeing on a dream and working toward it - like a 5 year anniversary trip to Ireland. In order to have a thing - together - you have to get to know your partner’s hopes and fears, you have to focus your vision, you have to make sacrifices. Having a Thing is a fun and relatively easy thing to prioritize.

2. Fight Fair: Again, in the Gottman vernacular, this would be “Managing Conflict.” There’s a reason that songwriters are drawn to images of carefree Sundays rather than stress-filled Mondays. Conflict isn’t poetic, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be artfully done. It is important for couples to recognize that conflict is inevitable and that the sooner they identify their problem issues, the better. The hardest lesson I learned during my first year of marriage was how selfish I was. I wasn’t very good at picking my battles and so we fought about everything from how to spend money to where to store the toothbrushes. When couples do the hard work of understanding the anatomy of their conflict and establishing healthy patterns of relating, it can help secure the foundation of the relationship in the long run. Fighting fair is a less fun, but arguably more intimate, priority for the first year.

3. Collect Resources: In my last post I mentioned that you need to find a financial advisor. This is an example of what I mean by resources. Perhaps it goes without saying, but I think you should also find a good therapist - one for each of you and one for your relationship. Get to know your neighbors. Get a library card. Take a cooking class. Basically, get to know your community and the resources that are available therein. Marriages aren’t meant to exist in a vacuum and knowing where and how to get help from (and give help to) your community can go long way...especially when the newlywed phase fades into the “we’ve been married a while, now what?” phase.

4. No Regret: All things considered, this may not belong on the list. Some of the most successful pre-marital therapy concludes with the couple deciding not to marry. Or at least not yet. Marriage is hard work and you’re bound to make mistakes. Regrets are okay. Regret is another thing altogether. I hear way too many stories of divorcing couples who say things like “I ignored the warning signs” or, “We shouldn’t have gotten married in the first place.” Don’t ignore the warning signs. Keep your eyes open for the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse and reign them in. Early in Gottman Method Couples Therapy, we ask this question: If you had your life to live over again, do you think you would: (a) marry the same person (b) marry a different person (c) not marry at all? Be sure to give your relationship the scrutiny it deserves so that 5, 15, 50 years later you answer (a) with confidence and conviction.

If you have your own list of "Top 5 Regrets from the First Year of Marriage" or something to add to the list of "Three to Four Priorities for Newlyweds," please send them my way ( I’d love to hear your thoughts.


This is Zach's 14th posting of his Relationship Alphabet column on The Gottman Relationship Blog. If you missed a posting or are reading for the first time, you can catch up on his column here. Zach is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Seattle, WA specializing in couples therapy. You can learn more about Zach and inquire about availability at Follow Zach on Twitter @kzbrittle.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dr. Gottman's 5 Tips for Summer Travel

In The Relationship Cure, Dr. John Gottman emphasizes the importance of vacations as a ritual of connection. Taking a honeymoon after you get married is, as he explains, society's way of saying, "Take some time alone together in a romantic spot and get this relationship off to a good start!" 

If you had a chance to read Dr. Julie Gottman's guest post on Tuesday, you know that your honeymoon doesn't have to be a once in a lifetime experience.

In fact, John and Julie go on an annual anniversary trip to Salt Spring Island, and recommend that you do something similar. Continue to honor your relationship by repeating a honeymoon ritual throughout your lives!

Here are Dr. Gottman's 5 tips from for creating your own summer vacation rituals:

Reconnect: "Find a destination that's both romantic and pleasurable. Leave the kids, pets, and other relatives at home. And don't bring the work cell phone." Take some uninterrupted time together and reconnect, away from the distractions and stressors of your everyday lives.

Relax together: Parents may benefit from planning weekend getaways without the kids a few times a year, and all couples should plan "dates" at least twice a month - "even if it's just go to a pub or coffee shop for an hour or two."

Plan: The emphasis here is on the word "plan." If you've ever been on an adventure (to lands near or far!) with a partner, you know just how easily traveling gives way to quarreling. On the road, there doesn't ever seem to be a shortage of sources of conflict. After all, who wants their freedom to do each and every little thing they want limited on vacation?

Accept Influence: If squabbling isn't on your ideal itinerary, and you would rather your outing be a joyous affirmation of your shared love than a lament of your differing wakeboard rental preferences, it may be wise to take some preventative measures ahead of time. Remember the importance of accepting influence in pursuing mutually satisfying compromises - topics of disagreement can range from the ice cream flavors you're sharing to whether or not you'll be visiting your in-laws, so it may be wise to acknowledge divergent preferences and brainstorm ideas with your partner in advance.

Yield To Win: In Drs. John and Julie Gottman’s collaborative The Art & Science of Love weekend workshop, husband and wife role-play the winning strategy known as the "The Akido Principle," or Yield To Win. To quote directly from the workshop’s manual, “one does not win an argument by countering everything [their] partner says. If you are a brick wall, things will only escalate. In fact, what you have to do to win is to get your partner to start saying yes, and the only way to do that is to yield to those parts of your partner’s point of view and argument that seem reasonable to you.” In doing this, you achieve something powerful. The two of you turn towards each other, become a team, and work together to solve your shared problem! 
In your travels on vacation, this exploratory, improvisational philosophy can take you far. Isn't saying yes and turning towards new opportunities what adventure is all about? 

All for now,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff