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Marriage Homework Assignments

In Wednesday’s blog post, we walked you through the debunking of some common relationship myths. Personality problems don’t ruin marriage, common interests don’t necessarily keep couples together, and no, men and women aren’t from different planets. We hope that Dr. Gottman’s research gave you some insight into the ineffectiveness of popular, quick fix methods for repairing and strengthening your relationship. Although we offered you a glimpse into the truth behind these misconceptions, in today’s blog posting we’d like to do take it one step further by providing you with the skills and tools to put these debunked myths to the test in your relationship.

Practice the following “Love Map building” activities with your partner, paying particular attention to their answers. Don’t just be a good listener. Remember what your partner tells you! When you work on your Love Maps with your partner, getting to know their inner psychological world, the responses that they give not only help you to stay connected, but they strengthen your emotional connection as well. Here are some fun “Love Map building” exercises for you and your partner to try this weekend:

  • Communicating using only active listening skills when attempting to reach conflict resolution will not save your relationship, and regardless of your usual argumentative style, showing your partner the warmth and love that you feel for them naturally will lead you to better resolve your differences. In a caring and affectionate manner, ask your partner how they feel about the way that the two of you approach conflict resolution and discuss your own feelings with them. Having this conversation should help the two of you to better understand each other the next time you disagree.
  • Think of an area that you and your mate have had conflict over recently. Ask them why they feel the way that they do, and share the deeper desires, hopes, and dreams underlying your own position. Reaching out to each other with care and fondness will help you to better understand what moves each of you in this area of conflict, and to become closer to each other in general.
  • Talk to your partner about the good times you’ve had together, about activities they enjoy sharing with you, and the activities they prefer to engage in on their own. Share your own preferences as well! Coming to a mutual understanding of each other’s needs will allow you to avoid unnecessary tensions and increase mutual enjoyment of each other’s company.
  • Remember that avoiding some small conflicts will not ruin your marriage. If you feel tension building between the two of you, take a break and do something enjoyable and relaxing for yourself. Go on a run, take the kids down to the park, or start a new book. 
  • Marriage should not be a chore or an economic exchange. Think about the times your partner has really been there for you, and about the times you’ve enjoyed the most in your relationship. Talk to your partner about the things each of you enjoy giving one another, and free your relationship of quid pro quo. If your partner loves massages, show your affection by surprising them with a massage when they come home complaining about a frustrating day at work. Play around and be creative! 

These exercises are designed to help you to build a trusting and loving relationship by strengthening your friendship with your partner. Again, these conversations are not meant to lead to conclusive resolution. A marriage is a work in progress! For more exercises like these, check out our Love Map Card Deck!

Gottman, John, and Julie Gottman. “The Art and Science of Love: A Weekend Workshopfor Couples” Workbook. Seattle: The Gottman Institute, Inc., 2000-2011. 86. Print.

Image source.

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Love Map Building: Weekend Homework Assignment

Ellie Lisitsa

Ellie Lisitsa is a staff writer at The Gottman Institute and a regular contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog. Ellie is pursuing her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on Cognitive Dissonance at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

Homework Page
Tools for growth and communication

The purpose of the journal exercises below is to help you tune in to your inner
world and to identify your emotions, thoughts, beliefs and decisions that are
"running" in the background of your life. Only by identifying and labeling your
emotions do you have a basis in which to communicate yourself with another
and to release unwanted emotions that are holding you back from the life you
want. Additionally, the exercises will assist you in placing your feelings and
emotions within the appropriate context. Sometimes we "carry" unfinished
emotions from one area of our life to another or from a previous time in our lives
to the present. When you can see clearly where certain emotions originate, you
will be less likely  to act them out in other contexts and you will be more focused
in dealing with them within the appropriate context.

The exercises are tools to assist you in the process of "looking within" and
focusing on your feelings. By addressing your own feelings and taking
responsibility for them you place yourself in charge of your life and happiness.
You are also creating a foundation for true communication which is based on
awareness and responsibility for your experience. Based on our sessions
together, I may suggest a particular journal exercise for the week but it is
strongly recommended that you do as many as possible in the order outlined
below. By doing the homework, you will facilitate and accelerate the progress
that you make in therapy. You will also be developing a skill which you can use
to further your personal growth for the rest of your life. Journal writing is a kind
of meditative exercise where you are developing your ability to observe what is.
The paradox of change is that when you can accept what is, change and growth
happen by itself.

I would suggest getting a folder or notebook in which to keep the exercises as
you will be referring back to some of the earlier exercises as we go along.

The exercises are grouped into two main categories one for couples and the
other for individuals. The exercises in GOLD are communication tools for
couples. It will be helpful for you to download all of the communication exercises
and read them as soon as you can. These exercises form the core of our work
together. When you learn to master them you will have a tool that you can use
for life that will help create and sustain true intimacy in your relationship.

Parents of Teens

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