Valentine’s Day is this weekend and the best gift you can give your partner is not a fancy dinner or a piece of jewelry. The greatest gift is to turn towards each other.
I have attended lectures by Dr. John Gottman (a professor emeritus in psychology known for his work on marital stability and relationship analysis through scientific direct observations) and he uses the term “turn toward” a lot. I wasn’t always sure what he meant by that, so I did a little research. Gottman says every day we are given countless opportunities to turn towards, turn away, or turn against a partner’s bid for attention. The act of turning toward instead of away during these small moments will help you to learn to recognize your partner’s needs. These small acts will add points to your emotional bank account (deposits) and over time will have a big impact on your relationship (Gottman, Bringing Baby Home. 2010).
I use the same analogies in my parenting workshop on building an emotional bank account with your children so that, when you have to make a withdrawal, the bank is full. When you have to make a withdrawal and the emotional bank is empty, it typically doesn’t go well (you have no leverage). Gottman’s research has determined that couples who interact with five positive interactions to every one negative interaction have better relationships. So how do I fill the emotional bank (or turn towards)?
- It starts by noticing. You need to be present and notice the good things in your partner. Slowing down and taking the time to express your appreciation fills that bank.
- It needs to be specific. A general “good job” is okay, but to get the biggest bang for your buck, give specific praise.
This Valentine’s Day, committing to remembering to take time in even the smallest of moments and turn towards can lead to a more satisfying relationship. Forego the presents and dinner, and practice those positive interactions. Your children will thank you.
But, sweetie, if you already bought me something in a blue box with a white bow…..don’t take it back!
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!