- Psychologists and married couple Julie and John Gottman have studied relationships for 40 years.
- They've used their findings to create self-help books and couples therapy methods to boost intimacy.
- Their "marriage minute" exercises help partners find small ways to improve their connections daily.
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John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman are psychologists and a married couple who have collectively spent 40 years researching relationships. The Gottmans have turned their findings into self-help books like "Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love," and created a couples therapy method called The Gottman Method.
As part of their mission to help people improve their relationships, the Gottmans also launched "Marriage Minute" exercises in the form of a free weekly newsletter.
Like the name suggests, each exercise takes just a minute to complete, and allows couples to reflect on how they can improve communication, understanding, and intimacy with each other.
Though much of the advice is geared towards romantic couples, the Gottmans said the exercises can benefit anyone looking for healthier connections.
"Our goal is to teach you one thing per email that will deepen your friendship, allow you to use conflict as a catalyst for closeness, and enhance the romance in your partnership. And each one should take about a minute or so to read. It's an easy way to get into the habit of relationship health," the Gottmans wrote on their website.
Insider spoke to the therapist couple about how partners can build healthier and deeper bonds.
Learn the difference between privacy and secrecy
According to the Gottmans, there's nothing wrong with keeping certain things in your life private, even from your partner.
But it's important to know the difference between privacy and secrecy.
"It's OK to keep some things private from your partner. They don't need to know every small detail. Secrets, on the other hand, can be toxic. When something private is coupled with shame, it becomes a secret," the Gottmans wrote.
They said couples should learn to respect each others' privacy while also recognizing when you're actively hiding something from your partner.
Reframe complaints to express your underlying emotions
To better communicate your needs with your partner, the Gottmans suggested reframing complaints to get to the heart of the matter.
If you commonly tell your partner, "You're always working on your computer," consider the underlying reasons why you don't like that habit. You might be missing quality time and connection with your partner, for example.
"Under the complaint is a longing for connection, but the recipient doesn't always see it. Instead, they see the complainer as an adversary. So the next time you're going to complain, ask yourself, 'What do I need?'" wrote the Gottmans.
Notice when you're feeling defensive, and name it
Similarly, learning to acknowledge feelings of defensiveness can boost relationship communication, according to the Gottmans.
"Feeling defensive is normal and natural. It's what you do with that feeling that makes all the difference," they wrote.
Instead of retorting when you feel defensive, ask yourself why you feel that way.
They gave the example of one partner saying, "The sink is full of dirty dishes."
A defensive response might sound like, "Some of those dishes are yours! I haven't had time!"
The Gottmans suggested saying "I'm feeling defensive" directly to your partner when these feelings arise so the conversation becomes productive, rather than an argument.
"You will likely feel defensive again in the future, but being aware of your reaction can turn the tide of a conversation for the better," the Gottmans wrote.
Remember that conflict is inevitable
Though the Gottmans want couples to be better communicators, they also recognize that all relationships will endure conflict.
Rather than avoid conflict, they suggested reframing a disagreement as an opportunity to learn more about your partner and their needs.
"It's how you approach conflict in your relationship that makes all the difference. In fact, not all conflict needs to result in an argument. It can be productive," they wrote.
Don't fight over text
You should also avoid arguing over text message, email, or other text-based methods, according to the Gottmans.
"It's a lot easier to say things you don't really mean when you're typing them on a keyboard," they wrote.
In the case you or your partner start to get heated over text, the Gottmans suggested typing one of the following messages:
- I don't like where this is going. Can we talk about this at home tonight?
- I'm feeling defensive. Can we talk on the phone about this later?
Then, you can hash it out.
Learn your triggers and share them with your partner
If you notice a specific habit your partner has makes you regularly feel upset, annoyed, or sad, consider examining those emotions deeper.
"In a recent episode of his podcast, Mark Groves explains that 'if it's hysterical, it's historical,'" the Gottmans wrote. "What he means by this is that if you have a 'hysterical' reaction to something seemingly insignificant (like a stack of mail piling up), there's probably something from your past that's triggering you."
For example, your reaction to your partner's disregard for the stack of mail could actually symbolize feeling unheard or unimportant.
"So the next time you get triggered, get curious. What's going on for you and why? Try to share this with your partner," they wrote.
Be intentional when you spend time with your partner
It can be difficult to disconnect from our internet lives, but the Gottmans say doing so will strengthen your relationship.
They said to reframe date nights or quality time with your partner as the "feature presentation."
"Be intentional about your time together," they wrote.
Create a unique couples' ritual
In addition to date nights, the Gottmans suggested creating a small daily action to boost the connection between you and your partner.
They call it a "doorway ritual" because it signals your time apart has ended and you're reconnecting.
"We're big fans of the six-second kiss, but you can make any small moment of connection into a doorway ritual," wrote the Gottmans. They also suggested the following options:
- A compliment.
- A heartfelt "I love you."
- An inside joke.
- A nice warm hug.