Relationship Institute Australasia

Counselling and
Professional Training.

25 November 2020

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Well, how to describe this year without using words like unprecedented, lockdowns, COVID 19, pandemic, strain, and stress. Ok, so I don’t think it is possible. 2020 has been a beast of year that has drained our resources on all levels. Families and friends separated from each other, support networks and activities reduced or reconfigured for much of the population at different times throughout the year. Jobs ] lost, the economy dipped into recession for the first time in 30 years, and many people have used their superfunds to stay afloat. People are seeking support of psychological and relationship services in numbers never seen before. Co-existing with this, 2020 has created opportunities to build resilience and adjust our lives and to reflect on what is important, what we want more of, less of and what we want to change.

We are all looking towards the holiday season with a heightened sense of anticipation and relief, a time to brush ourselves off and to reset for 2021.

Many relationships have felt the strain of 2020 and require more attention, energy, gentleness and kindness. Let’s make this holiday period a time to reset and refocus your relationship, to replenish and restore connection, fun and stability.  In the Christmas carol 12 days of Christmas, the story tracks the gifts given across the 12 days of Christmas entailing small and grand acts of gift-giving. Whilst I’m not suggesting you gift your partner a partridge in a pear tree or two turtle doves, I am suggesting that a focus on your relationship would be a wonderful gift across the holiday period. Here are some suggestions:

12 simple ideas you can gift your partner to restore and replenish your relationship:

1. Daily, make an active invitation to your partner to do something together like walking the dog together, seating on the deck at sunset, binging on a Netflix series, eating dinner together, going to the movies. Also notice your partners attempts for connections, no matter how subtle or obtuse and lean into them, try to find a way to say yes to connect rather than turning away.

2.  Daily, communicate to your partner that they are important in your world, tell them how important they are to you and how you do notice and appreciate all the little things they do. Don’t just think the positives; say them out loud.

3.  Once a week over the holiday season, do something that is a surprise for your partner buy tickets to a concert or show, surprise them with a small meaningful gift, write a love poem and leave it on their pillow, organise a picnic, go for a drive into the country, stay overnight in the city –the list is endless, just make it simple.

4.  When the inevitable disagreement or fight occurs, be ready to repair. Repairs can be tiny and simple. For example, if a disagreement is occurring, saying the following 12 examples can really help:

  • Can we slow this conversation down so I can understand you more?
  • I’m feeling criticised or blamed can you rephrase that?
  • My reactions were harsh, sorry.
  • Can I take that back?
  • Please don’t withdraw.
  • Let’s take a break.
  • We are getting off track.
  • That’s a good point.
  • This is not your problem it is our problem.
  • I want to be gentler to you right now.
  • What are your concerns?
  • Let’s compromise here.

5.  Daily walks together are a great way to spend time together; many couples report having great stress reducing conversations as they increase their daily steps. A daily walk can become a tremendous ritual of reconnecting at the beginning or end of the day and even help work off some Christmas calories.

6.  Take time out just for you to restore and regenerate, give each other the opportunity and support to do activities that nurture and provide relaxation. Treat yourself to a massage or day spa, connect with a friend you haven’t spoken to for a while, prioritise your exercise and fitness activities.

7.  Every day look for opportunities to be kind to your partner, acts of kindness build a strong and lasting positive perceptive in your relationship. From making your partner a cup of coffee in the morning to helping them with whatever household task they are doing. Kindness is about being generous in spirit and action, being attuned to your partner and acting in their best interest.   

8.  The way a conversation starts predicts the way the conversation will end. If a conversation begins in a harsh way, it will often end harshly. If the conversation begins gently more often than not, it will end gently. The art of gentle start-up helps a relationship to better deal with the expression of negative emotion and complaints. A gentle start-up is expressing an issue in a way that will land for your partner, not put them on the back foot, defending themselves. Generally starting with what you feel about a situation and what your positive need is will help in creating a constructive dialogue.

9.  Develop one new holiday season ritual of connection that becomes an ongoing and predictable activity that you both really enjoy. Here are 12 examples:

  • Christmas tree and decorations ritual
  • Christmas day breakfast, lunch or dinner
  • Family dinner time where everyone talks about their day
  • Christmas day gift-giving
  • Returning to your honeymoon destination every year on your anniversary
  • Leaving ‘I appreciate about you’ notes on the breakfast counter for your partner to find
  • Taking a dance class together
  • Watching a favourite TV show together
  • Initiation of intimacy
  • Family game night
  • Enrolling in a cooking class
  • Learning a new language

10.  Special time together—not necessarily date night but organising time to do activities together that you both really enjoy that build connection,  like going to the movies, playing board games, dinner, musical or a play.

11.  A weekly couple conversation about how you are both travelling together:

  • talk about what is working in the relationship
  • share five examples when you have appreciated your partner over the last week
  • identify one thing you are both going to work on for the next week

12.  Download the Gottman Card Deck App to gain hundreds of ideas to build and grow your relationship.

One Last Simple Gift Idea

If you count up the gifts from the 12 days of Christmas carol over the 12 days, there are a total 364 gifts given. Well, we can go one better, Trish Purnell-Webb and I have published a book 365 Simple Ideas To Improve Your Relationship.

This book provides daily information, tips and tasks to make small lasting change often. Based on 40 plus years of research by Drs John and Julie Gottman these daily tips provide simple, common sense, safe handrails to stabilise, strengthen and deepen intimacy and connection through doing small practical things with positive intention.

The suggested daily tasks are designed to assist you and your partner to discover a closer, connected, satisfying partnership. 365 Things to Improve your Relationship is the scaffolding to build a successful, lasting life together. Click here for more details

From our families to yours – a wonderful Holiday Season to you all!

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