Starting Soft

When you’re upset with your partner and feel a heated discussion coming on the
last thing on your mind is approaching them with kid gloves. However, that’s exactly what John and Julie Gottman tells us we should be doing. The Gottmans are world-renowned researchers who are famous for their work studying couples.

When you’re irritated or angry with your partner and know that you will be
addressing a sensitive topic, try taking a step back and approaching the
conversation with a “soft startup.” This simply means starting the sensitive
conversation in a kind and gentle way. The idea is that the tone at the onset of the
conversation will make a big difference in how the conversation plays out.

The Gottmans discovered that when you start off a conversation with accusations or
critical language, your partner is less likely to be receptive to what you’re saying.
The conversation will likely end as tense as it started. Makes sense, right? So, if
you’re feeling angry with your partner, try taking a long walk, take some deep
breaths and allow yourself to consider the soft startup before going into attack

Some other tips for acing those tense conversations:

  1. Start with the good – Voice appreciation. Take a moment to notice what your
    partner is doing right.
  2. “I” is better than “you” – When you start sentences with “I” you are less
    likely to seem critical, which will immediately put your partner on the
    defensive. Take ownership of how you’re feeling, instead of being critical and
    nasty to your partner. For example, you might say “I don’t feel like you are
    listening right now,” instead of “You never listen to me!” Put the focus on how
    you are feeling.
  3. Complain, don’t blame – Even if you are feeling that this is all your partner’s
    fault, being critical of your partner’s character will get you nowhere fast.
  4. Be polite – Try using phrases like “I would appreciate if…” or “It would mean
    a lot to me if…”
  5. Describe what is happening; try not to place judgment. – Describe your
    perspective on what is happening without placing blame or judgment. For
    example – “I have noticed that I’ve done the dishes every night this week“
    instead of “You’re lazy, you never clean up or do the dishes.”

Next time, try using the soft startup and see how it makes a difference in
communicating with your partner.

This blog post was written by Katie Golem, LSW, one of the couples counselors on staff at Artemis Counseling.

How Did We Get Here?

tense couple

Have you ever started a conversation with your partner only to realize 30 minutes later that you are in a big-blow out fight? I bet you wonder how you got there. When did the conversation go off the rails? As couples counselors we spend a lot of time dissecting a fight to see how a couple could have handled that conversation differently. There are a number of things that can cause a conversation to get out of hand.

Read more How Did We Get Here?

Are you and your partner teammates or opponents?


When we are young, we spend a lot of time thinking about our needs and how to get them met. Teachers ask us what we want to be when we grow up, and parents ask us what we want to eat for lunch and what we want to wear to school that day. As a result, we become really good at understanding our needs and getting them met.

Then, one glorious day, we meet someone great who we can’t wait to share our time with. We start learning all about them and telling them all about ourselves. If we are lucky, we fall in love and create a relationship with this person. This amazing person who will meet all our needs… Read more Are you and your partner teammates or opponents?

Focus on Changing Yourself Rather than Changing your Partner


When the new relationship glow wears off, you might be surprised to find yourself in a relationship with a person with flaws, a person who has a slightly (or sometimes completely) different view of the world from you. It can be tough to accept that your partner isn’t the perfect creature you saw when you met. But you must resist the urge to try to change all of your partner to match your expectations. Read more Focus on Changing Yourself Rather than Changing your Partner

4 ways to put a spark back in your relationship this Valentines Day

Do you remember what it felt like when you first fell in love with your partner? You couldn’t sleep, you couldn’t eat and all you could do was think about them? Chances are you don’t feel that way anymore. Sure your love has grown deeper and more secure, but there isn’t that excitement like you felt in the beginning.

Well, I have good news for you! That rush in the beginning stages is caused by hormones and neurotransmitters firing in your brain. They are responding to the excitement of something new, different and novel. So, to put spark those feelings again. we can fake it by doing exciting, new, and novel things with our partners. Here are just a few ideas to help you put that spark back into your relationship:

Read more 4 ways to put a spark back in your relationship this Valentines Day

Accept the Fact That Happily Ever After Is a Myth


Boy meets girl. Boy dates girl. Boy and girl wed. They live happily ever after. This is the fantasy girls and boys alike grow up believing in. But this story is an inaccurate representation of the work that actually goes into making a successful relationship.
Read more Accept the Fact That Happily Ever After Is a Myth