By: Karen Weier MA, LLPC, NCC
When we first meet someone, who we think will be our forever person, we are intentional on developing a friendship with them. We want to get to know everything about them. Why does this intentionality, this desire to be friends, seem to fade after marriage or a commitment is made? Many couples, who walk through my office door, have stopped strengthening their friendship. According to Dr. John Gottman (1999), in his study and observation of habits that make and/or break a marriage, he has found that at the heart of a happy marriage is a deep friendship. Bolstering the friendship is so critical, Gottman explains, because it fuels romance, passion, and intimacy. Gottman (1999), in his book the Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, explains seven basic principles that can help guide couples on the path to a long lasting and harmonious relationship. The first three principles allow couples to rediscover the friendship that brought them together, in the first place.
The first step, in helping couples rebuild their friendship, is to help them learn how to build love maps (Gottman, 1999). Love maps are a road map of your partner’s internal psychological world. It’s asking open ended questions, remembering the answers, and really paying attention to the details of your partner’s world. It involves remembering the major events in each other’s history and constantly updating this information as the facts and feelings of your partner’s world changes. This is also the time to periodically take your partner’s emotional temperature, asking “how are you doing, baby?” and really wanting to know, how they are doing.
The second step, in helping couples rebuild their friendship, is to help them build fondness and admiration, two crucial elements in a rewarding and long-lasting romance. This involves focusing on the positive habit of mind by looking for what your partner is doing right. It’s a time to express fondness, affection, and admiration, verbally and physically, which is done in small amounts, but often. When couples are able to express fondness and admiration it builds a culture of appreciation, respect, fondness, and intimacy (Gottman, 1999).
The third step, in helping couples rebuild their friendship, is to help them learn how to turn toward bids for connection, which builds trust and romance. Romance is kept alive each time you let your partner know that they are valued during the grind of everyday life. Partner’s make bids for connection, for attention, interest, excitement, humor, conversation, affection, support, or playfulness. You can either turn towards or turn away from your partners bid. When you choose to turn towards your partners bid you are building trust and an emotional connection (Gottman, 1999).
A deep friendship is at the heart of a happy marriage/relationship. Happy couples have mutual respect, for each other, they enjoy each other’s company, they are well versed in the likes and dislikes of each other, they share in each other’s hopes and dreams, and they express fondness and admiration, for each other, in big ways but through small gestures, day in and day out. Do you need help rediscovering or reinvigorating friendship with your partner? Our qualified therapists, at All Things Possible Wellness Center, desire to help you and your partner rediscover and strengthen your friendship, as you continue to build your life together.
Gottman, J. M. & Silver, N. (1999), The seven principles for making marriage work, New York: Harmony Books.