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

The Magic Ratio

Have you ever heard of the magic relationship ratio? It’s 5:1! But what does that mean? Dr. John Gottman determined that for couples in conflict, there needs to be 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction that occurs. Conflict in a relationship is inevitable and can even be helpful and productive when managed effectively. Happier, more satisfied couples tend to engage in more positive interactions than negative interactions, and are able to effectively communicate by incorporating respectfulness, fondness, and affection even during conflict. Couples who are engaging in more negative interactions than positive interactions tend to be unhappier and less fulfilled overall.

A negative interaction may include behaviors such as criticism, defensiveness, name-calling, eye-rolling, contempt, dismissiveness, or ignoring. While some negative interactions are bound to happen at times, it’s important to balance those with more positive interactions. Examples of positive interactions include active listening, showing affection, validating, empathizing, playfulness, and respectfulness. You can strengthen your ability to engage in more positive interaction by practicing mindfulness of how you are speaking and behaving with your partner. There are many ways to show care and affection to your partner, and you can practice trying out different ways to connect with them. You can also practice noticing moments where they are reaching out to engage positively with you and learn about what works for both of you.

This blog post was written by Taryn O’Neil, LPC. To learn more about the 5:1 ratio, reach out to one of our licensed counselors today here.

Enjoying Quality Time

When was your last date night? Setting aside intentional time to connect with your partner is an essential part of nourishing your relationship. With the season getting colder, quality time may start to look different. It may require some creativity to think of new, fun ways to spend time together. We shared some date night from home ideas in our post about strengthening your relationship during the pandemic, but what are some cold weather activities that you enjoy? Snuggling up together for a movie night, cooking dinner together, playing a game, planning your next vacation, and having an at-home spa night are some ideas to start.

Regardless of what activity you choose for your date night, being present and mindful can help to enhance the quality time that you spend with your partner. This may mean setting aside distractions (phones, email, etc.) so that you can really enjoy each other’s company. It’s hard to be mindful when our attention is pulled in all different directions, and your partner will appreciate your willingness to prioritize your time with them. Spending time together is also an opportunity to check in with your partner about how they are feeling and what’s going on in their world. This shows your partner that you care about how they are doing and that you want to listen, learn, and stay attuned to them.

This blog post was written by Taryn O’Neil, LPC. To learn more about enjoying quality time, reach out to one of our licensed counselors today here.

Positive Sentiment Override

Dr. John Gottman coined the idea of positive sentiment override. This idea refers to viewing your partner and overall relationship through a positive perspective. On the other hand, negative sentiment override means seeing your partner and relationship through a negative lens. This can happen when partners are focused on perceived negative experiences and qualities of their partner. There are many ways to foster positive sentiment override, and it is something you can actively work toward every day. Here are some ideas:

  1. Focus on your partner’s strengths. When resentment, frustration, anger, and other difficult emotions build up over time, this can start to cloud the way you view your partner. It’s likely that your partner has many strengths and positive qualities which helped to draw you to them in the first place. Think about some of the good qualities your partner has and try to celebrate their strengths.

  2. Empathize with your partner. There are likely many opportunities to practice empathy in your relationship. If your partner had a bad day, offer a listening ear and let your partner know that you are there for them. Try to see the world through your partner’s eyes by listening to their perspectives and asking clarifying questions when needed.

  3. Practice mindfulness. It can be helpful to practice staying present within your relationship so that you can show up for your partner in a positive way. Practicing mindfulness of your partner’s feelings, needs, and experiences can help them to feel a sense of positive regard.

  4. Show appreciation. Take time to share positive moments with your partner by acknowledging their efforts. Giving consistent positive feedback, encouragement, and appreciation can help you see your partner and relationship in a positive light.

This blog post was written by Taryn O’Neil, LPC. To learn more about fostering positive sentiment override, reach out to one of our licensed counselors today here.

Turning Towards

Do you know how your partner attempts to reach out to you for affection, care, and connection? Dr. John Gottman introduced the idea of turning towards bids for connection. This means being able to recognize when your partner is attempting to connect with you and responding to them effectively. Noticing bids can require an intentional effort and ability to attune to your partner. Bids can come in many different forms. For example, your partner may ask about your day, invite you to spend time with them, make a request of you, or ask you to help them problem-solve a stressor. Bids can also be very subtle, such as when your partner smiles at you or makes eye contact with you. You may need to practice paying close attention to see how your partner tends to make bids for connection with you.

Turning towards instead of away will help to increase intimacy, affection, fondness, and overall relationship satisfaction. Gottman found that couples who turn towards bids for connection are more likely to stay married than couples who turn away. You can think of turning towards bids for connection as a way to nourish and help grow your relationship even stronger. You can also practice getting creative with the types of bids you make to your partner, and you can even let them know when you’re making a bid. Making this a consistent practice in your relationship will help both you and your partner to feel cared for, listened to, and connected.

This blog post was written by Taryn O’Neil, LPC. To learn more about turning towards bids for connection, reach out to one of our licensed counselors today here.

Relationship Strengths

When going through a difficult time in your relationship, it can be challenging to remember all of the positive aspects of it. If you and your partner are dealing with conflict, communication issues, or other challenges, it is easy to become focused on the negatives and to overlook the strengths of the relationship. Zooming out and taking the full picture of the relationship into consideration can be helpful in refocusing on all of the things that are working as opposed to all of the things that are not working. Tuning into the strengths of your relationship can be a helpful step in getting back on track and improving overall relationship satisfaction.

What were some of the qualities that initially drew you to your partner? What helped you to feel connected to your partner in the beginning of your relationship? What are some of your most cherished memories with your partner? What do you admire most about your partner? Questions such as these can help you to remember why you are with your partner in the first place and to reestablish a sense of fondness and admiration for each other. It is common for partners to lose sight of all of these positive qualities when there is a buildup of resentment, mistrust, or negative sentiment within the relationship. By taking time to reflect on the positive aspects, you can gain a better understanding of your strengths as a couple and draw upon them to help improve your relationship in the long run. One strengths-based exercise is for each partner to spend some time reflecting on the positive qualities and then taking time to share your reflections with each other. You may be surprised by what your partner says and hearing them share their perspectives may help you to feel even more connected.

This blog post was written by Taryn O’Neil, LPC. To learn more about relationship strengths, reach out to one of our licensed counselors today here.

Should We Go to Couples Therapy?

Starting couples therapy for the first time with your partner can be a big step toward intentionally working on your relationship. Couples choose to go to therapy together for many different reasons. Perhaps you are seeking premarital counseling to talk through some important topics before taking that next step together, or maybe you are struggling in your relationship and trying to decide whether or not to stay together. Even if you are not currently struggling or having issues in your relationship, couples counseling is a chance to build new relationship skills and enhance your relationship even more. No matter what has you seeking therapy and what you’re looking to get out of the experience, couples counseling can be a place to get support with navigating your relationship.

Couples counseling is an opportunity for you and your partner to learn new ways to relate to each other, gain insight about your relationship, and address challenges you are facing together. Couples who are not fighting or facing difficulty can still benefit from going to couples counseling as it is a chance to grow your bond even stronger and proactively address challenges that could come up in the future. Your therapist will work with you to establish treatment goals that are relevant to your relationship. Some common goals of couples therapy include: improving communication, building conflict resolution skills, healing from past relationship traumas, increasing intimacy and affection, and improving relationship satisfaction. Remember that you can always let your counselor know if there are ways they can better support you with navigating your relationship concerns – feedback is a helpful part of the counseling process. Couples counseling can help to give you some new perspectives about your relationship, create a safe space to have difficult conversations, and provide you with new tools and strategies to put into practice.

This blog post was written by Taryn O’Neil, LPC. To take the first step toward starting couples therapy, reach out to one of our licensed counselors today here.

Shared Values

Have you taken time to reflect on your personal core values, as well as the values which you and your partner have in common? While there are many components to a happy, secure, and fulfilling relationship, one important aspect to consider is the shared values within your relationship. We all hold different values based upon our unique life experiences, and there are no “right” or “wrong” values. There are some values which are common to all healthy relationships, such as trust, respect, and safety. But in addition to those, what other values are important for you to have in your relationship? For example: connection, creativity, honesty, kindness, spirituality, romance, generosity, curiosity, mindfulness, reciprocity, and patience are all examples of values that you may desire to share with your partner. Sharing similar values with your partner will help to strengthen and cultivate a strong foundation for you as a couple.

After you have taken time to think about your shared values, practice taking it a step further by asking yourself how closely you are currently living by those values and what you can do to live more closely aligned with them. For example, if you and your partner both value adventure, what are some ways you can seek out new experiences together? Or maybe you value humor and would appreciate taking more time to be playful and laugh with your partner. If you both value fitness, perhaps you take exercise classes together or go for daily walks with each other. There are endless ways to practice living by your values, so don’t be afraid to get creative with this! You can also use your shared values in times of conflict to help remember the things that bring you and your partner closer together. Shared values can be thought of like a compass which you can use to gain a sense of direction for how you’d like to act on an ongoing basis within your relationship.

This blog post was written by Taryn O’Neil, LPC. To learn more about shared values in your relationship, reach out to one of our licensed counselors today here.