Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Year


        February 29th, commonly known as Leap Day, is a date that occurs every four years in the Gregorian calendar. Earth’s complete revolution around the sun takes approximately 365 days and 6 hours, but most years only have 365 days. Leap Year is a way to make-up these unaccounted for 24 hours and balance the modern calendar. There are many traditions surrounding Leap Day including an old Irish legend made popular by Leap Year, a 2010 movie starring Amy Adams and Matthew Goode. The story goes that St. Bridget made a deal with St. Patrick to allow women to propose to men once every four years. This reversal of tradition balances the gender roles of men and women in the same way Leap Day balances the calender.

        The Gottman Institute also believes in balancing your relationship. The balance theory implies the unusual point of view that negativity is important in healthy relationships. Negativity plays many prosocial functions; for example, culling out interaction patterns that don’t work, renewing courtship over time, and airing differences. A certain amount of conflict is necessary to help couples weed out actions and ways of dealing with each other that can harm the marriage in the long run. Thus, couple therapy should not declare war on negativity. A relationship without any negativity would be lifeless and boring, and their marriage would not be stable if they didn’t talk about their complaints at all. 


        Research suggests that what really separates contented couples from those in deep marital misery is a healthy balance between their positive and negative feelings and actions toward each other. Even volatile couples can stick together when they balance frequent arguments with lots of love and passion. However, balance does not mean a fifty-fifty equilibrium. Dr. John Gottman charted the amount of time couples spent fighting versus interacting positively—touching, smiling, paying compliments, laughing, etc. He found there is a very specific ratio that exists between the amount of positivity and negativity in a stable relationship. 

        The magic ratio is 5 to 1. In other words, as long as there is five times as much positive feeling and interaction between partners as there is negative, the relationship is likely to be stable. It is based on this ratio that Dr. Gottman is able to predict divorce; very unhappy couples tend to have more negative than positive interactions. So even though some level of conflict is necessary for a stable relationship, positivity is what nourishes your love.

        Leap Day only comes once every four years, so make it count! Do something special with your partner and talk about the balance within your own relationship. Pay attention to your interactions and see where they fall within the 5 to 1 ratio.

J. Fuller
TGI Staff
(Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, pp 56-57, 66-67)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

2012 Readers’ Choice Awards


        We have been nominated for Best Marriage Blog/Website in About.com’s 2012 Readers’ Choice Awards! Voting will take place from February 22 and continue through March 21 with winners announced March 30. Readers can vote once each day in each category. There is no award for winners other than the satisfaction of official recognition (we really just want the bragging rights).

         The Gottman Institute is nominated for three other Marriage Awards: The Science of Trust for Best Marriage Book, "The Art & Science of Love" for Best Marriage Workshop, and two nominations, I Feel… and Love Maps, for Best Marriage App. Click here to vote for best blog and here for an overview of all marriage categories. We are honored to be finalists and excited to see how readers of one of the largest online networks vote. 


Thank you!
J. Fuller
TGI Staff

Monday, February 27, 2012

Featured Blogger: Marina Edelman, MA, MFT




Marina Edelman, MA, MFT is a Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Westlake Village, CA and is a member of CAMFT. Marina gained her master’s degree in psychology from Phillips Graduate Institute. She has been featured in broadcast, print and as a speaker on mental health topics. Marina has expertise in resolving intimacy and relationship problems. You can learn more about Marina Edelman, MA, MFT and her practice at www.marinaedelman.com.



Increasing Sexual Intimacy
By Marina Edelman, MA

Sexual intimacy differentiates couples from roommates. Majority of couples want a healthy satisfying sex life but are not sure how to achieve it. To keep intimacy alive it must be a priority, which means your partner must be given the same amount, or more, of attention as a friend.


1. Explicit talk. The simple act of sending a sweet text message or complimenting your lover can send blood rushing into the genitals. Not only does it build anticipation, but will also keep your partner thinking about you all day.

2. Switch gears after work or after parenting responsibilities. If you work outside the home use your drive to shift your mindset from employee to lover. This could be achieved by listening to calming music or visualizing your work day being filed away and your ‘love’ file being extracted. If you work inside the home, spend 15 minutes prior to your partners arrival home by taking a deep breath and concentrating on yourself as an adult as opposed to a caregiver, for example. This can be achieved by freshening up or pouring a beverage and reviewing a magazine. Whatever ritual you choose it should highlight your role as a lover/partner.

3. Greet each other as if a friend walked in through the door. Put down the phone, the baby (in a safe place), the bills, etc and great each other. This can be with a hug, kiss or genuine interest in the form of questions. Allow yourself time to think about your partner in a sensual way during this exchange.

4. Make time to be intimate. Many couples are under so much pressure that they are exhausted by the time they crawl into the bedroom. If you have enough energy to go through your bedtime ritual then you have enough energy to make love. It doesn’t have to be a theatrical performance all the time. Even a quick connection is better then nothing. 

5. Do something sensual. Taking the time out to do things for your lover that shows that you care and spices things up. Plan to go to a favorite restaurant, run a simple errand or create a romantic dinner together. These unexpected small acts can actually form deeper bonds.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Magic Five Hours



When Drs. John and Julie Gottman followed up on couples who attended their couples’s workshops, they found the couples who continued to improve their marriage had not dramatically changed their lifestyle. In fact, they discovered successful couples were only devoting an extra five hours a week to their relationship. Although each couple had their own style of spending their extra five hours, some clear patterns emerged. Generally these couples were giving their marriage a concentrated refresher course in the Seven Principles (found in John Gottman’s guide The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work). Their approach works so phenomenally well that it has been coined the Magic Five Hours. Here's how you can do it, too:

Partings. Make sure that before you say good-bye in the morning you’ve learned about one thing that is happening your partner’s life that day—from lunch with a childhood friend to an important meeting with the boss or a doctor’s appointment.
        Time: 2 minutes a day x 5 working days
        Total: 10 minutes

Reunions. Be sure to engage in a stress-reducing conversation at the end of each workday.
        Time: 20 minutes a day x 5 working days
        Total: 1 hour 40 minutes

Admiration and appreciation. Find some way every day to communicate genuine affection and appreciation toward your partner. 
        Time: 5 minutes a day x 7 days
        Total: 35 minutes

     
Affection. Kiss, hold, grab, and touch each other during the time you are together. Make sure to kiss before going to sleep. Think of that kiss as a way to let go of any minor irritations that have built up over the day. Lace your kiss with forgiveness and tenderness for your partner.
        Time: 5 minutes a day x 7 days
        Total: 35 minutes

Weekly date. This can be a relaxing, low-pressure way to stay connected. Ask each other questions that let you update your love maps and turn toward each other. Think of questions to ask your partner like “Are you still thinking about retiling the bathroom” “Where should we take our next vacation” or “How are you feeling about your pesky coworker these days?”
        Time: 2 hours once a week
        Total: 2 hours

Grand Total: Five hours!

The amount of time involved in incorporating these changes into your relationship is minimal. Yet these Magic Five Hours will help enormously in keeping your marriage on track. Working briefly on your marriage every day will increase the health and longevity of your relationship.

Look forward to our second "Featured Blogger" on Monday, Marina Edelman, MA, MFTMarina has expertise in resolving intimacy and relationship problems. Her mission is to help couples become successful and happy so that they feel more intimately connected to each other and more fulfilled and alive in their relationships. She provides tools, structure, and education needed to:
  • Acquire communication techniques that work so that you feel close and calm, not distant or angry, even when talking about difficult topics 
  • Connect more intensely with each other
  • Feel more deeply desired and loved by your partner 
  • Feel more attracted to your partner again
  • Believe that you are your partner's first priority
  • Create a plan that breeds intimacy rather than prevents it

Have a great weekend! 
J. Fuller
TGI Staff

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday


        
      
        Another trait of happy couples is they spend quality time together. Being alone with your partner is vital for effective communication, showing appreciation, and fostering emotional intimacy. Unfortunately making time for your relationship often falls by the wayside in our fast paced society. What little time we do have to spare at the end of our busy day is often spent on relaxing activities alone: watching a favorite television program, reading a few chapters in a new novel, or mindlessly browsing the web. This focus on me-ness is understandable, but not beneficial for your relationship.

        The Gottman Institute does not identify as a Christian organization, but we like the idea of Lent. Starting on Ash Wednesday, Lent is the Christian observance of the church year in which faithful ones commit to fasting or giving up certain types of luxury as a form of penitence. At The Gottman Institute, we view Lent as a great opportunity to give up harmful relationship practices. Just like the over-indulger who gives up sweets and the smoker who gives up cigarettes, a lover who values me-time over we-time can benefit from relationship Lent. It is time to fast from your alone time! Vow to spend 30 more minutes every day with your partner. In a little over a month, you can accumulate 20 hours of quality alone time with your loved one.

        It is not necessary to find extra hours in the day, but to utilize your time wisely. There are countless ways we can manipulate time to the advantage of your relationship. Try getting up just a little bit earlier. Linger over your morning coffee while you enjoy each other’s company. Or start preparing dinner together every night. Maybe you can focus on we-time and save water, too. Showering together is a fun way to spend time with your partner and may even lead to other “fun activities." Whatever you decide, be rigorous with yourself. Get in your 30 minutes every day and watch your relationship grow stronger.

J. Fuller
TGI Staff

Monday, February 20, 2012

Featured Blogger: Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT


Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of The Toolbox at LisaKiftTherapy.com with tools for marriage, relationship and emotional health.  A frequent consultant for the media, she has appeared in numerous publications and online news sources including CNN.com, HuffingtonPost.com and Martha Stewart Weddings Magazine.  Learn more about Lisa’s private practice working with individuals and couples in Marin County, CA at MarinTherapyandCounseling.com


Happy Couples Can Make for a Great Sex Life
By Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

As much as technique is important in sexual intimacy between committed partners, great sex in a long term relationship is really about something more.  A strong relationship foundation, emotional safety, secure attachment and attunement to one another are crucial ingredients to increase the chances of a satisfying and sexually intimate life together.

Relationship research by Drs. John and Julie Gottman and others have demonstrated that indeed, there are qualities that the more successful relationships tend to share.  Christine Carter, PhD, sociologist and happiness expert also offers “practical prescriptions” for couples seeking happiness together.  If your sex life has been a disappointment for some time there are many ways to ignite some passion into it like sexy date nights, spicy change in your routine, sexual enhancers, etc.  As helpful as these and others can be, I’m going to suggest the most important way you can work towards improved sexual fulfillment together is to take careful stock of the quality of your relationship. 

Happy couples can make for a great sex life.

The better the quality of connection between you and your partner, the more the road towards great sex can be paved.  Assess your own relationship as you read the following research-based “traits of happy couples” to see where you can make improvements as well as noting where you already shine together.


Traits of happy couples:
  • Their relationship is full of positive, pro-social emotions such as gratitude and appreciation.
  • They recognize and respond to each other’s bids for attention.
  • They prioritize intimacy and sex.
  • They are good at using humor to de-escalate conflict.
  • They show interest in each other’s worlds by asking questions.
  • They support each other’s growth and learning of new things.
  • They see conflicts as joint problems to be solved.
  • They accept influence from each other.
  • They can both calm themselves effectively during conflict.
  • They put their individual happiness first, knowing that the happier they are the more they can offer each other and the relationship.
  • They are connected to other happy people as emotions are contagious and happiness is best predicted by social ties.
  • They avoid damaging behaviors such as criticism, contempt, stonewalling and defensiveness.
  • They make relationship repair attempts when things go awry.

Built-up anger and sadness towards one another can become toxic over time.  This underlying emotional discontentment can lead couples to not only avoid each other but sex all together.  Some say that intense emotions can ignite passionate “make-up” sex but you’re better off addressing the underlying lack of security with each other for the long-term health of your relationship. 

Happy couples that have a solid foundation under their “relationship house” have an advantage over distressed couples lacking in emotional safety in that they enter into the sexual part of their relationship with less baggage.  Their inherent openness and communication skills can serve them well in the bedroom.

As a couple, bringing up the happiness quotient is a win-win for all areas of your relationship.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Challenge Wrap-Up


         
        You did it! You completed the Gottman Institute’s 30 Days to Reinvigorate Your Relationship. Over the past month, we have shared specific tips to help with communication, intimacy, and connection, both physical and emotional. We used information from Drs. John and Julie Gottman’s studies as well as other respected sex and relationship professionals to provide you research-based tools and skills for a healthier sexual relationship. Please share your thoughts about the relationship challenge. Leave a comment on this post or tweet us @GottSex. Our mission is to help repair and strengthen your relationship so we love your feedback.

        As mentioned on Valentine’s Day, The Gottman Sex Blog is introducing a new series for readers called Featured Blogger. We are very excited to announce our first featured blogger will be Lisa Brookes Kift. She is a Marriage and Family Therapist located in the Bay Area of California who specializes in tools for marriage, relationship, and emotional health. Look for her guest entry next Monday; hopefully you will find as much value in her posting as we do.

Have a splendid weekend,
J. Fuller
TGI Staff

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Shared Meaning: Reinvigorate Your Relationship



Day 30: Create an atmosphere that encourages honest talk about personal convictions.

        A long-term relationship isn’t just about raising kids, splitting chores, and making love. It can also have a spiritual dimension that has to do with creating an inner life together—a culture rich with symbols and rituals, and an appreciation for your roles and goals that link you together. Each couple and each family creates its own microculture with customs, rituals, and myths that explain what it means to be a part of their group. Certainly it is possible to have a stable relationship that “works” even if your dreams aren’t in sync. But it is also true that a rewarding connection is about more than sidestepping conflict. The more you can agree about the fundamentals in life, the richer and more meaningful your relationship will be.
 

        You can’t force yourselves to have the same deeply held views, but coming together on these issues is likely to occur naturally if you are open to each other’s perspectives. A critical goal, therefore, is to create an atmosphere that encourages each person to talk honestly about their convictions. With candid and respectful conversation comes a blending of your sense of meaning. Along the way you will also strengthen your friendship and be better able to cope with conflicts. As with every tip from 30 Days to Reinvigorate Your Relationship, the increased intimacy will translate to more passionate sex in the bedroom.

Congratulations on finishing our relationship challenge!

J. Fuller
TGI Staff
(The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, pp 243-6)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Kissing: Reinvigorate Your Relationship



Day 29: Have a six second kiss.  


        Do you remember when kissing was the best part of your relationship? When you counted down the minutes until you could steal a smooch from your new crush? You planned hour long make-out sessions and proudly bragged about your partner’s kissing prowess. However, kissing probably fell by the wayside as other sex acts came into play and the relationship progressed. According to Dr. Ian Kerner
, “Kissing becomes a forgotten act for many couples in long-term relationships, unless it’s during foreplay. But kissing is probably the simplest, sexiest act there is.”

        Knowing the power of kissing, Dr. John Gottman recommends incorporating a six second kiss into your everyday life. This simple ritual is not a quick peck on the lips, but a deep, slow and often passionate kiss. It tells your partner that you care about them and about your love for each other. A daily six second kiss is a timely consideration for your relationship. In the time it takes a web page to load, you can build connection and intimacy with your partner. Kerner continues, “Couples who kiss regularly tend to have sex more frequently.” Sex is not the only benefit of passionate kissing, but it certainly doesn't hurt.

J. Fuller
TGI Staff


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine’s Day: Reinvigorate Your Relationship



        Before we move on to today’s daily tip to improve your relationship, the Gottman Institute would like to briefly thank all our readers for your continued support. Today marks our 100th post since beginning The Gottman Sex Blog last July. We are so pleased with all the positive responses so far and, as always, appreciate your feedback.

        There are some exciting things in store including our upcoming Featured Blogger series. Starting next week, we will invite a prominent sex or relationship blogger to contribute a post every Monday. Hopefully they will provide you even more tools to improve your relationship and sex life. Thank you and we look forward to the next 100 posts!

Day 28: Work at building emotional connection every day.


        Hollywood has dramatically distorted our notions of romance and what makes passion burn. Watching Noah Calhoun swing Allie Hamilton into his arms as they kiss in the rain may make your heart swell, but real life romance is fueled by a far more humdrum approach to staying connected. It is easy to build unrealistic expectations on Valentine’s Day; media would have you believe this is the only day to live out your epic romance, as if the last 364 days were building up to this very moment. Don’t believe the hype. It you choose to celebrate, today is about your partner and your love for each other, but it is not the epitome of your relationship.

        The greatest moments in a relationship do not occur on a sinking ship or in dramatic love triangles, but in scenes any Hollywood film editor would relegate to the cutting room floor. There is deep drama in the seemingly insignificant moments. Will a couple read the Sunday paper together or silently alone? Will they chat while they eat dinner? Romance actually grows when you know your partner is having a bad day at work and you take sixty seconds to leave words of encouragement on their voice mail. It is kept alive when your partner says, “I had the worst nightmare last night,” and you say, “I’m in a big hurry, but tell me all about it tonight,” instead of, “I don’t have time.” Couples who turn toward each other in these scenes remain emotionally engaged and stay together. Working on emotional connection every day, not just Valentine’s Day, will improve the romance of your relationship and lead to a more passionate sex life.

Happy Valentine’s Day!
J. Fuller
TGI Staff


(The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, pp 79-80)