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When you say your wedding vows, you promise to have and to hold your significant other from that day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, yadda, yadda, yadda. It's safe to say that when better and worse situations came to mind, a global pandemic and non-stop togetherness didn't top that list.

No one could have predicted the intensity of 2020's brutal storm, leaving the world completely gobsmacked. Amidst the turmoil of political and social strife was the coronavirus that tore through the fabric of society, burrowing into tiny cracks, creating outright ruptures within many homes and marriages.

Marriage is challenging even during a good year. In 2020, COVID-19 put many marriages to the test, with relentless issues that needed constant navigating from parenting, financial stress, homeschooling, and new work-from-home routines. If you find yourself questioning your marital status, it's important to take a pause and question if the feelings are founded, or if it's just the covid talking.

If you aren't sure where you land, we've got a time-tested martial method that helps strengthen relationships with our significant others. It's called the Gottman Method and it promises not only positive results that will help grow your overall relationship but also lessons on how to tackle challenging problems together more efficiently, with less screaming. Here's an overview of how the Gottman Method works and why you and your partner may want to consider applying it during the ongoing COVID crisis.

What is the Gottman Method?

couples holding hand during therapy

The Gottman Method was developed by psychologist couple Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman. This approach to couples therapy focuses on disarming conflicting verbal communication, increasing intimacy, respect, and affection in relationships while removing barriers in opposing situations that create a feeling of stagnancy.

Being able to understand how your partner is feeling is essential to every healthy relationship. The Gottman Method also centers on improving levels of empathy and understanding amongst significant others.

This method brings a much more positive perspective to solving problems in challenging situations like COVID-19 and the perpetual issues surrounding it.

The Gottman Method's Sound Relationship House theory uses a house with seven levels to represent a couple or marriage.

Sound Relationship House Theory: Seven Levels

Traditional English house on an green lawn isolated on white background. Watercolor hand drawn illustration of British cottage with garden and sky

1. Build Love Maps

Put yourself in your partner's shoes—journey into their world. Create a "love map" by drawing a map that encompasses their loves, likes, and hates. Your love maps will help you both interpret your significant other's deepest desires and needs, ultimately bringing you closer together. By creating someone else's love map, you're forced to think in a more empathetic way.

2. Share Fondness and Admiration

Being in lockdown can put a damper on things as well as create some unnecessary tension. However, marriage still requires regular maintenance. The Gottman Method believes "that the difference between happy and unhappy couples is how they manage their Emotional Bank Account." Invest in your marriage by making routine, emotional deposits in the form of quality time spent together, such as date nights, gifts, kissing, hugs, sex, love, and respect. Give your partner something that will make them feel loved and appreciated. Express your appreciation daily.

3. Turn Towards Instead of Away

Being around one another constantly can get irritating, but Gottman Method encourages partners to always accept emotional "bids" from one another. The Gottman Institute describes a bid as "any attempt from one partner to another for attention, affirmation, affection, or any other positive connection."

Accepting bids results in continued engagement and repair in relationships; turning away can diminish this positive effect, which is why the Gottman Method encourages couples to always turn towards one another rather than away.

An emotional bid comes in many forms, from "How do I look?" to "Do you want to watch that new show on Netflix with me tonight?" Every bid matters, no matter how small.

4. The Positive Perspective

As COVID emerged, couples were faced with stressors they've never experienced before. How we manage that conflict mainly depends on perspective.

Many of you may be rolling your eyes, thinking that positive wishful thinking isn't going to get anyone out of this mess. While that's undoubtedly right, positive thinking is a darn good life vest. Negative thinking never helped anyone.

Just like your emotional bank account, banking positive interactions with your honey will pay off in the long run, strengthening your friendship and preparing it for rough waters ahead.

5. Manage Conflict

One of the most critical elements of any healthy relationship is communication. It's natural for arguments to occur, especially during such a tumultuous year, which has created stressors couples never had to manage before.

According to Dr. Gottman, "stonewalling" is a large predictor of divorce. Stonewalling basically means becoming distant or unreachable. It is essential to regularly discuss your frustrations and troubles while avoiding criticism, contempt, defensiveness, or stonewalling.

Feeling like pulling your hair out with remote learning? Talk it out. Extended family not taking social distancing seriously? Set some boundaries and discuss the rules calmly. Financial struggles? Don't turn to the blame game.

6. Make Life Dreams Come True

Always support your partner's goals, dreams, and aspirations. Be their biggest fan. Actions speak louder than words. Don't only say you support your partner's dreams, show them by taking a genuine interest and joining them on their journey. Dream together.

7. Create Shared Meaning

Creating a shared ritual helps on the long road of relationships and marriages; it has a way of tethering you to one another and bringing you home. Whether it be an annual trip or a weekly activity, shared rituals deepen a couple's connection over time.

Can the Gottman Method Really Help Our Relationship?

couple fighting on couch

Think your marital problems are truly unique? They're not. Many couples struggle with similar perpetual issues rooted in marital conflict, especially disputes linked to COVID. Perpetual issues, such as poor communication, differences in parenting, emotional distance, and financial disagreements are the primary focus of The Gottman Method.

Undoubtedly, The Gottman Method supplies couples with the tools necessary to build a more robust and healthier relationship. This approach can help you enjoy the "for better" and cope with "for worse" situations that you could have never fathomed, such as this turbulent year.

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