Keeping Love Alive

Key Marriage Tips to thrive in your relationship.

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From a human needs’ perspective, we all have a need for 6 primary needs:

Love and connection







Typically, we each have 2 human needs which are our 2 primary ones and often access to one of the human needs is a function of meeting the one which grounds us. What that means is that for many of us, accessing love and connection and experiencing that flow within us is a function of having our certainty needs met. We need to feel secure and stable and grounded before love and connection flows. Alternatively accessing love and connection could be a function of having enough uncertainty or variety in our life. We need to feel a sense of variety and adventure for love and connection to flow. OR perhaps we need to feel a sense of significance/ appreciation and praise for love and contribution to flow or growth or connection. Within lockdown and social distancing rules in place, it’s challenging to create opportunities for stability, variety, significance, growth or contribution SO as a result love and connection doesn’t flow as easily.

It’s our responsibility as partners to think about the other and their needs getting met…


Harsh startup – This is when every conversation starts up in a harsh way. When Oliver brings up housework or something about the kids and Julie always responds with sarcasm and contempt. The bottom line is whenever a conversation starts off badly – it will end off badly

Body Language – when a couple turn away from each other. Everyone has seen those photographs of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in the months before their divorce. Their body language could not have communicated more clearly how much disdain they had for each other. We see it in therapy, when couples sit on the same couch and put a cushion in front of them or between each other.

The 4 horsemen:

  • Criticism – when you and your partner fall into the bad habit of criticising each other in almost everything you say where you say things nastily and with a personal put-down. EG: there is no gas in the car. “Why can’t you do anything right? I told you 1000 times to do it and you never do”
  • Contempt – nastiness like sarcasm, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, hostile humour. EG: well you never help me with anything anyway. BTW: couples who have contempt for each other get illnesses OFTEN (colds, flu etc)
  • Defensiveness – when someone has a partner who is constantly nasty then the other partner is constantly on the defensive and constantly explaining their actions. EG: I was busy yesterday with an all-day meeting so I wasn’t able to help you
  • Stonewalling – when one of the partners withdraw from the relationship and go into their cave for hours or days

Flooding – this is when you literally FLOOD conversations with a barrage of negativity like when someone doesn’t stop with their endless contempt or criticisms. The ‘he said/she said’ type conversation. This changes the atmosphere of the relationship to one where it’s no longer the safe haven for a couple to retreat together – it’s just full of negativity and yucky feelings. It is easy for us and our brains to take over and go to the negative, or what we don’t want. It is so much better when you retrain your ‘reaction’ to ‘respond’ and flood with what you DO want.

Failed repair attempts – when you feel like everything you have tried in the past has failed miserably. The reality is once the 4 horsemen have arrived – there is little one can do to repair things without first removing the 4 horsemen

Accumulation of Bad memories – this is when the net experience of the relationship is negative. The sum of memories in the past year have been bad ones so the environment to try to fix things in has become TOXIC.


PRINCIPLE 1: Remove distractions and find ways to spend more time ALONE together discussing your LOVE MAPs. Put the kids in front of the iPad or tv babysitter, put your phones away, put the television away and talk to your partner

Acknowledge that life gets challenging

Apologise if you have been scratchy with them and commit to being less scratchy in future Ask them to play a game with you. John Gottman from the Marriage Institute calls it the
‘Love Maps’ game

You develop a detailed inventory of everything about your partner. Have this discussion:

Their best friends, the stresses they are facing, the people currently irritating them, their life dreams, their philosophy on life, politics and religion, the relatives they like the least, their favourite music, favourite movies, the 3 most special times in their life, stressful things that happened to them as a child, their aspirations for their life, their current worries, what they would do if they suddenly won the lottery, my first impressions of my partner when we first met, how their world is right now, favourite magazines, flower, favourite weekend activities etc. If you want the full questionnaire, please email me
Play this game with the spirit of lightness and fun. The more knowledgeable you are about your partner – the more they feel you are in their world during this uncertain time

Learn all about your partner
by creating their Love MAPS

PRINCIPLE 2: Nurture your Fondness and Admiration for each other. By simply reminding yourselves of the positive qualities of your partner, you can prevent a happy marriage from deteriorating

Discuss the story of how you met. Tell your partner what stood out about them and why you thought they were so wonderful. Talk about your wedding, your first year and all the happy times. Once you are in that good space, do a Relationship Stocktake:


  • What do we like about our relationship?
  • What do we love about our relationship?
  • Where can we do better?
  • How can we have fun as a couple/family?
  • What new goals can we set?
  • What are our desires?
  • What’s a vision we have for ourselves and family?What can we stop doing?

Spend time each day doing the following:-

  • Say I love you and mean it – every day. It’s not just said for show, or ‘just because’, but really said so it’s coming from the heart.
  • Kiss each other passionately for no good reason at all. Not just when they want to have sex. Couples grab one another and have a passionate kiss. These kisses last for at least 6 seconds, it’s a real kiss
  • Give one another surprise romantic gifts
  • Compliment each other regularly
  • Keep playing and having fun together. Often fun is compromised
  • Cuddle often and lots. Cuddling is a gateway to great sex, just like kissing is. You can even read about the science of kissing and how people live longer. There’s also a science behind cuddling and the feel good hormones that are released in the body.
  • Make sex a priority. Not the last thing to do on a long list. It’s not something you ‘try’ to do when you are exhausted. You make time for it – even a quickie if you have little to no time
  • Focus on complimenting your partner EVERY SINGLE DAY. Resist the temptation to criticise and compliment/ praise your partner instead

‘There isn’t any formula or method. You learn to love by loving.’

Aldous Huxley

PRINCIPLE 3: Let your partner influence you. Ask for their advice and take their advice. Let their suggestions become what you do, thank them for their ideas and suggestions and Let them feel like their ideas/ advice and suggestions are being implemented and taken on board

  • You know how most women need to feel desired to feel turned on? Most men need to feel WELCOMED to feel turned on.
  • It’s hard for a man to see a woman unhappy. He feels like he is the source of her disappointment or unhappiness

PRINCIPLE 4: Turn towards each other instead of away from each other

  • Keep in mind everyday how much time you spend connecting with your partner. Think of it like a Love Bank Account and every day you want to deposit some money into the account.
  • Read the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. In the book he talks about 5 ways we give and receive love. If you are not in synch with your partner then take the test to see what their love language is so you learnt to express love in their language + make deposits each day – whether that be physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gift giving or acts of service. It is so simple once you know and so simple to keep doing it, daily.
  • Have a Stress Reducing Conversation. One where you take turns in ‘downloading’. Then pause, take in what they’ve said. Offer zero advice. Be with them, have presence with one another. Then show your understanding with empathy in what they are saying. Repeat back what you heard and be their biggest fan, take their side. You are a team through this. Then show some affection and validate how they feel (without making it about you).
  • Then play a fun game together to release the stress. In therapy we use the term BUCKETING where you take turns releasing your stress into an imaginary bucket. Imagine pulling all the stress out of you, off your back, or wherever you feel it in your body. Make it fun. Then stomp on the stress. And Imagine putting it in the bin, literally go out to the bin and pretend it is in there, walk back into the house and be free from the stress.

PRINCIPLE 5: Adopt Better Communication approaches with SOFTER STARTUPS

I was coaching a couple last week and this is how it went:

Another Saturday and once again I am picking up after you Richard because you never do anything to help me… This approach really doesn’t help. What we want to do is soften the approach with a sandwiching technique. GOOD FEEDBACK/ EXPLANATION OF WHY


So lately we have both been under a lot of pressure and the house has been getting a bit crazy

But I end up feeling very upset and alone when I do the cleaning by myself on a Saturday (I STATEMENT THAT FOCUSES ON FEELINGS vs. CRITICISMS)

Can we find a way to do this together? (TEAM)

Can you do some vacuuming next time? (SPECIFIC REQUEST)


Master the art of the Softer Start Ups by remembering that how you start a conversation determines how it will go…


When you partner is attempting to repair something, don’t make it hard for them. Make it easy for them to repair by accepting their olive branch with great appreciation.


  • Ask your partner what soothes them – like giving each other a massage, having a bit of a chat, going for a walk etc.
  • You want to avoid barrages of criticisms and flooding so focusing on soothing is a better way to start a conversation
  • Suffering always occurs in the past or future. In the present all is good. So focus on spending nice times together. Plan date nights in. Plan movie nights in with the family as if you were going out.
  • This can be started with simple self-care rituals you begin in the day from meditation, writing, reading, sitting in the sun or outside, playing with a pet.

PRINCIPLE 8: Be Tolerant of each other’s faults

It takes practice to not home in on your partner’s faults when you are irritated or frustrated. It seems like an ideal time to laser in on them being incapable of mastering things on the computer or that they fart a lot or snore a lot etc.

The bottom line is no one is perfect, focusing on their faults just leads to a negative environment of criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.

PRINCIPLE 9: COMPROMISE and LOWER your expectations

Trading your expectations for appreciations’. Right now, that sentiment, with good intentions is great, may not seem possible. Most couples I’d imagine have invisible expectations within the relationship at most times. I.e. who puts bins out, does the washing, shopping, cooks dinner etc.

Make a list of each activity and look at what is happening vs. the Ideal of what should happen. Challenge each item to see what is reasonable within these circumstances. It’s often not worth the battle to have a big fight over who is doing the laundry — PICK YOUR BATTLES AND LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS

Some days it will work, others it won’t. Be the soft space for each other to land on.

‘This too shall pass’ comes to mind…..

PRINCIPLE 10: Create Family Rituals

We spend too much time being full of heaviness in a relationship. What we need to be focused on is spending nice times together doing fun things/ goofy things.

Discuss with your partner some family rituals you can create to bring joy, lightness and fun into your life, including:

  • Pub Quizzes
  • Sunday Roast
  • Saturday brunch dance routine
  • Beagle Boogie with the dog
  • Celebrate ALL successes
  • Have drinks and dancing at home on Fridays
  • Have a ritual around parting – always big kiss
  • Have a ritual around greetings – always a big kiss
  • Find time for admiration and appreciation each day
  • Being affectionate – cuddles on the couch
  • Weekly dates

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