Here at The One Thing, we talk a lot about our key relationships. These special relationships are what enable us to lead a productive, full and happy life. In other words, they’re super important!
For many of us, our most important relationship is the one we share with our partner. Ever heard the phrase “happy wife happy life”? Remember it – it’s important. If the people we love aren’t happy and our relationships with them have become stale, our happiness and wellbeing may be jeopardized.
So, let’s get a fresh focus on that special someone this year.
Set a time with your partner to reflect on the current state of your relationship. We recommend reading The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman, Ph. D. The seven principles set forth in his book are based off of his research from studying couples for decades (Talk about third wheelin’!), and are at the core of the exercise we recommend below. Do not be misled by the title. This book is not just for married people, this book is for all of us who have a key relationship that we need to tune up every once and a while.
The 7 Principle Gap Analysis
Set aside an hour or two of alone time, print out our Gap Analysis, and sit down with your partner. In each piece of the pie, write down one of the following 7 principles from Gottman’s research: love map, fondness and admiration, turn toward each other, influence, solve arguments, gridlock, and shared meaning. As you move through each principle, assess how well you are doing in each area. (We’ve gone into detail about what each one means below.) Assign a number from one to ten for each principle and shade in each piece of the pie accordingly. When you are done, the pie will be a visual representation that will tell you if you are nailing your relationship.
1. Surveying Your Love Map
What it is: Your love map is all of the information you’ve gathered over the years on what makes your partner tick. It’s not a physical map, rather, it’s a mental account of all of their worries, hopes, quirks, insecurities and pet peeves. Having a complete love map of your partner shows your commitment to understanding them.
Question to consider: What’s your partner’s biggest concern? Do you know your partner’s lifelong dream? What makes your partner tick? What sets him or her off?
2. Nurturing Fondness and Admiration
What it is: This is principle is all about the things that make you admire your partner. It’s all about understanding the things that make you say “wow I’m the luckiest person in the world” when it comes to your significant other.
Questions to consider: Can you name what you admire about your partner without even having to think about it? Are those qualities on the forefront of your mind or are they stuffed somewhere in the back?
3. Turning Toward Each Other
What it is: Relationships are two-way streets. In order to get anything out of them, you have to put something in. That’s why it’s fundamental that we continue to rely on one another when needed. When we turn to each other, we’re not just looking for help, we’re exercising our partnership.
Questions to consider: When your partner says something to you, do you find yourself ignoring them? Can you think of a time when you wish your partner would have supported you better?
4. Accepting Your Partner’s Influence
What it is: Relationships have the power to change us for better or worse. It’s important to understand just how our relationships are influencing us and our decisions. By taking a hard look at this principle, we’re given a clear look at whether we’re a positive or negative influence and what we can do to support our partners better.
Questions to consider: Is your partner a positive influence in your life? Is one person always taking the lead and making the decisions? Do you each take the others’ opinions and feelings into account before you act?
5. Solving Problems and Arguments
What it is: All couples fight — that’s the nature of the beast. But, how you fight matters. Finding ways to resolve conflict is necessary for any relationship. Letting things linger always has a way of coming back in unwelcome and unexpected ways.
Questions to consider: Do you work toward compromise? Do you both make and respond to efforts to deescalate fights? Do you approach conflict in an accusatory way?
6. Overcoming Gridlock
What it is: Gridlock is a nasty creature. It occurs when conflict causes causalities beyond just the argument. It happens when we feel rejected or demeaned by our partner or when we continue to reach the same insurmountable roadblock in our life.
Questions to consider: Are you stubborn toward your partner more than other people in your life? Do you exercise any tools that help you break gridlock?
7. Creating Shared Meaning
What it is: “Partner” isn’t a pet name. It has a deeper meaning than that. If we want a healthy relationships, we have to be willing to invest our lives in our better half. It’s not enough to skate by, living two separate lives under one roof.
Questions to consider: Do you share a home or just a house? Do your futures and presents run intertwined or just parallel? Do you have a shared sense of meaning that bonds you closer than all your other relationships could?
Once you shade in your gap analysis, take note of how your pie looks. No relationship is perfect, and if you scored a perfect 10 in each of these areas, then you definitely deserve an award. You’ll likely find that you’re strong in some areas and weak in others. Instead of looking at these as points of failure, look at them as opportunities to grow and set goals for improvement.
Setting Goals with Your Loved One
We recently conducted The ONE Thing Goal Setting Retreat where ONE Thing co-author Jay Papasan and ONE Thing mega-mind Geoff Woods taught attendees how to plan their personal and professional year together with their partner.
First, find a time and a place where the two of you can just focus on each other. Get rid of any distractions—that means turning off all your electronics—and commit to putting everything else to the side until you set your goals.
Next, with your shared calendar in hand, plan out the logistics. Figure out the days the kids will be on summer vacation, when your next, big out-of-town conference is and when the in-laws will be visiting. Next, discuss your big plans — your hopes, dreams, priorities, and desires for the year ahead. If you are feeling ambitious, make a three and five year plan as well! Find a time for each one and mark it on the calendar. Not only does this activity help you both get aligned for the year to come, but it is a great way to show your partner just how much you care about their aspirations. Go ahead and ask your partner how you can help them make this the best year yet.
With all of those things to the side, find some time to work on your relationship. Whether it’s a quick, weekend retreat, or an afternoon without the kids. Plan some time in the middle of the year to give you and your relationship a checkup. Run through the gap analysis exercise again and correct your course if needed. If you have your game face on and want to take it a step further, check out our Kick Ass Guide to Accountability to keep you and your partner accountable to each other.
Here’s to this year being the year of you and your significant other!