Gottman’s Sound Relationship House, Part 7

gottman 7This is the final installment of our series on John Gottman’s research-proven principals of marriage. The final level of Gottman’s Sound Relationship House is Create Shared Meaning.

Creating shared meaning means that both partners have the same vision for their life together. They agree–for the most part–on everything from parenting techniques to how they want to spend their retirement years. They agree on how chores are divided and how to spend their money.

It may sound like creating shared meaning is a “pie in the sky” goal if your marriage is on rocky ground. And it is true, you can’t get from rocky ground to shared meaning overnight. This is the top level of the relationship house because it is built on the foundation of all the other levels.

After you have done the hard work of creating love maps, expressing fondness and admiration, learned to turn toward each other, learned to accept influence from your partner, and overcome conflict, then creating shared meaning together becomes the icing on the cake.

Close, functional couples often talk about the big stuff and the little stuff. If they don’t agree that retiring in an RV is a great idea, they find a way to compromise so that they are both supporting each others’ dreams. They respectfully discuss parenting techniques and support each other even while having differences.

Again, I highly recommend The Seven Principals for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman.

Resolving to Look Up

Looking Up

Looking Up

Hmmm, has anyone else noticed that the gym isn’t quit as full as it was 2 months ago? People’s social media status posts are much less motivational and overall I don’t hear anyone talking about resolutions.  Everyone was so excited in January to make life long changes but how many of us maintain the consistency needed to see these things through.  I started today by examining my own personal new year’s resolution which is to live life fully and with no regrets.

 It sounds good but have I really been living a no regrets life I questioned.  The answer is for the past couple of weeks I must honestly say that I have not been living life fully.  When faced with various financial and personal challenges I fell off.  I allowed my problems to become bigger than my goal, bigger than my vision and purpose.  Here in lies the problem for many people.  We get so wrapped up in the day to day issues of life we lose sight of the bigger picture.

 Psalms 121: 1 states “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?”  Instead of looking down at the problem, look up today.  Look to the almighty Creator who is our source and our help. Today as I refocus myself I encourage you to do the same.  Go grab that journal and revisit the goals you set for this year.  Pray and spend time with God, seek Him to help you stay focused.  Don’t allow temporary problems to become permanent obstacles to your life long goals.

Spring Break Ideas



Spring Break IdeasSpring break is upon us….kids love the time off, but parents may be wondering what to do that won’t break the bank! If taking a family vacation is out of the question, don’t worry. There are plenty of fun activities that will keep kids engaged and parents happy!! Spring break can be a time of renewing, head-clearing goodness that resets brainpower, allowing a return to school or work refreshed and ready to go forward.

Instead of going out town, try saving money on gas and airfare by booking a room at a local hotel. Let the kids swim in the hotel pool in the evenings, and become tourists in your own town during the day. Make a list of all the free local attractions you can visit, and search Groupon and other deal sites to score deep discounts on lodging, meals and destinations. A visit at the park with lunch and duck feeding is always good. Where I live they had a miniature train ride that goes for 3 or 4 dollars and last about 45 minutes to an hour.  Try planning a couple of movie nights, complete with pizza and popcorn? If there’s something good playing at the Cineplex you can make an outing of it. You might also check out some inexpensive attractions like local museums and art galleries. Weather permitting; try to get outdoors as much as possible. Take the kids to the park and throw the Frisbee around. Plan a picnic.  It’s important to find ways to counteract the effects of cabin fever as the end of winter approaches, and you don’t have to break the bank to do it.

One inexpensive way to spend spring break with your family is to camp out. Camping can be a real family bonding time, perhaps the only time the family is face-to-face for the longest time. It’s a good idea to keep the iPad and iPhone away, tucked inside the bag for good measure, while you enjoy roasting smores and hot-dogs around the fire. Consider packing not only clothes and emergency kit, but loads of stories to keep your kids around the fire.

Another way is to volunteer; what better way to teach the kids the values they will carry with them throughout life than bring them on a volunteer break. It can be just around the neighborhood or across the country. The exposure you will get from doing the good work is worth even more than the best leisure trip. A volunteer break can involve the whole family or just the kids looking for ways to make a difference. For example, volunteering at a national park can be hard work, but with it comes family time and good vales learned, in addition to an unforgettable experience.

Whatever you do, be sure to build in some time to laugh, talk, and dream together. In family life, the best things tend to happen when you are not expecting it. So stay loose, stay open, and don’t get so uptight or over-scheduled that you can’t just sit and listen to your kids. Let them tell you what they’d like to do and how they want to spend their time away from school.

Marriage Risk Factors…That You Can Change

There are risk factors in marriage that related directly to how you treat each other, how you communicate and how you think.  Although they increase the risk that a couple won’t do well, they can all be changed with choice, thought and effort.

* Negative styles of talking and fighting with each other, such as arguments that rapidly become negative, put-downs and the silent treatment.
* Difficulty communicating well, especially when you disagree.
* Trouble handling disagreements as a team.
* Unrealistic beliefs about marriage.
* Different attitudes about important things.
* A low level of commitment to one another, reflected in such behavior as failing to protect your relationship from others you are attracted to or failing to view your marriage as a long term investment.
* Not attending church or praying together.

How to change them:

1. Be safe at home.
2. Open the doors to intimacy.
3. Do your part and be responsible.
4. Nurture security in your future together.  Build your cocoon.



Raising Awareness: Digital Abuse

digital abuse

digital abuse

When thinking of abuse in relationships the obvious forms of physical and verbal abuse are typically considered.  However in our information age driven by technology, digital abuse is a real issue.  Digital abuse is really emotional and verbal abuse perpetrated through technological means including the internet.

 It is particularly important for parents and teens to be aware of the various forms of digital abuse because it can easily be overlooked.  Check this list below of various ways digital abuse can occur.

     -Coercing partner to send sexual images or statements via phone

     -Putting partner down on social media through posts or status updates

     -Posting private pictures of partner online, particularly without consent

     -Controlling who partner can have as friends on social media

     -Sending hurtful or threatening messages through text, IM, Facebook, and other forms of media

     -Spreading rumors or gossip about partner online

     -Forcing partner to provide passwords to phone and social media accounts

     -Stalking partner through social media sites, insisting on check ins online through twitter etc…

     -Becoming angry when partner does not answer phone or respond to posts

     -Sharing messages partner sent without consent

     -Constantly texting, calling, posting etc… to keep tabs on partner

If you believe that you or someone you know may be experiencing digital abuse please seek help.  You have a right to privacy and to have your boundaries respected in a relationship.  You can seek help by contacting the counselors here at Family First or find local help in your area by visiting

Gottman Sound Relationship House, Part 6

gottman 6

The next level in Gottman’s Sound Relationship House is about managing conflict. According to Gottman, there are two types of problem: solvable problems and unsolvable problems. The difference between the two is that unsolvable problems have symbolic meaning for each partner. For example, the partners aren’t really fighting about money, they are fighting about his need for security and her need for fun.

All couples have unsolvable problems. Having them does not mean you have to get divorced or be miserable. The key to overcoming unsolvable problems to continue to have a respectful dialogue about the topic. Understand the underlying symbolic meaning that each of you have, and keep talking about it, knowing that it will never be fully resolved. Find a way to respect each other’s point of view and make compromises. Keep in mind that when you married that person, you also married his or her world view.

Solvable problems are anything that does not hold symbolic meaning for the couple. Gottman has five suggestions for how to resolve these; interestingly, none of them include “communicating better.”

1. Soften your startup. This is the age-old “you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” Everyone is more open to influence when it come out as, “honey, would you mind…” instead of “I’ve told you a thousand times…!”

2. Learn to make and recieve repair attempts. When your partner tries to smooth things over, accept it. If he doesn’t, you be the one to smooth it over.

3. Soothe yourself and each other. If your blood pressure is through the roof, you cannot cope well with a stressful situation. Take a time out. Hold your partner’s hand. Eat a piece of chocolate.

4. Compromise.

5. Be tolerant of each other’s faults. You’re not perfect either.

Read it from Gottman himself in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.