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  • Writer's pictureLori VanderBilt

Wisdom for Valentines Day and Beyond

In between snowfalls and in time for Valentine’s Day, I had the opportunity to attend a Town Hall interview with Drs. John and Julie Gottman. I was reminded of all the wonderful work they have done in Behavioral Marital Therapy that I learned as a therapist and continue to use in my work as a Leadership Coach.

Their new book, Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, offers a fun, ingenious program of eight life-changing conversations—on essential topics such as money, sex, and trust. Julie says these aren’t conversations about what’s wrong, they are attempts to know each other better. They help you rekindle your curiosity about your partner.

I haven’t read their book yet, but I was really taken with the ease, confidence, and warmth in their own relationship as they passed questions from KUOW’s Bill Radke back and forth. They obviously have deep respect for each other, speak of their gratitude for the gifts each brings the other, and easily move into laughter and fun as they thoughtfully consider each question. They are not afraid to be really honest.

They reminded us of the four things that their research shows predict divorce:

• Contempt

• Criticism

• Defensiveness

• Physiological Flooding, aka Stonewalling, or emotional shutdown

And they give us the good news that there are ways to combat these four relationship killers, that neurotic people can have happy marriages (that’s a direct quote from John), and that across cultures and gender and other differences, what we all have in common is the need for deep heart-felt connection.

Here are some tips for what to do about those four things when they crop up, which they do in every relationship sometimes.

  • Look for what your partner is doing right and express specific gratitude (this is really great with your kids, too).

  • Listen to your partner’s dreams and try to support them.

  • When your partner is upset, everything needs to stop while you listen to them. Dismissing negativity is the kiss of death.

  • Spend time talking to each other about what’s important to you. A lot of dual career couples spend less than 35 minutes a week doing this.

  • Having romance, fun, and adventure together is good for grown-ups, not just kids. Play brings us back to joy.

  • Say “I love you” every day. Initiate cuddling and affection.

  • When one of those four things creeps in, go back and repair it with your partner. Happier couples make repairs.We all want to know, “are you there for me?” That’s how we build trust.

I’m sure there are more in the book. Try some of these things, and let me know how it goes for you!

If you want to watch the whole interview, here's the link:

Valentines Day Coaching Special: I am offering a no obligation, complimentary first coaching session. Please tell your family and friends. In coaching, you can talk about your work or your relationship or something else. The agenda is always up to you.

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