Back to top

Empathic Effort

In our primary relationship, we all want to be understood. We want our partners to "get" us. Whether we're upset or joyful or sad, whether we're disappointed, excited, or discouraged, we want our partner to accept and understand what it is we're feeling.

Your Bank Account

Every marriage has an invisible emotional bank account. We make deposits into the account through acts of kindness, words of admiration, gestures of support, and more. We make withdrawals from the account by moments of unkindness, harsh or unfair criticism, words or actions that trigger hurt feelings, and more.

Prompt Each Other

It's a widespread complaint of women: men don't know how to listen without rushing in to give advice and offer a solution. "I'm not looking for advice," many women say, "I just want to be heard, to get something off my chest." Through some mysterious blend of nature and nurture, guys just want to find a fix.

Women: try a prompt.

The Magic Touch

Would it surprise you to know that there are health benefits of holding hands with your partner as you walk down the street, or embracing when you return home at the end of the day? Or setting your hand atop his thigh or behind his neck when you're the passenger next to him in the car?

How Was Your Day?

Is there a more banal question than How was your day? When asked, we often treat it as a throw-away and reply with a quick and mindless "fine" or "okay," our eyes never leaving the computer or the television screen. We rarely expect it to be the start of a conversation.

Sleepless Nights = Worse Fights

We know that hunger can leave us susceptible to poorly-handled arguments with a partner (see Nibble, Then Quibble).1 So, too, can insufficient sleep.

Who hasn't at times hated a loved one?

It happens in every intimate relationship, a moment when frustration or upset or disdain grows so large that the thought crosses the mind: I hate him / I hate her. Love and hate — they aren't opposites, and it's not a zero sum game where the more of one means the less of the other. Both feelings can stir, as they inevitably do.

Your Love Map

It's the part of your brain where you store everything you know about your partner's life. Created by marriage researcher John Gottman1, the principle behind love maps is that knowing the big – and the little – things about your partner's life is part of building a foundation of connection between the two of you.

Women once sent love letters on scented stationery, hoping the fragrance would arouse the object of their affection. Those days are largely gone, but the wish to arouse a loved one still remains. Only the vehicles of communication have changed.

Tip to all heterosexual men in long-term relationships: women’s sexual desire operates differently than your own.

Although research has found that heterosexual men in the early stage of relationships typically overestimate a woman’s sexual interest, this overestimation doesn’t persist once relationships evolve into long-term. Recent studies have found that men in ongoing, romantic relationships seem to underestimate their female partner’s sexual desire.