When I work with couples, this is often one of the first questions I ask when trying to assess who I have in the room. This question has also been the driving force that has brought many couples into therapy, as they too have been asking themselves about who this person is and how different they seem now from when they first met or since the baby was born or even since the affair. You see, life has a way of giving couples the opportunity to experience parts of their partner they never knew existed. And while some of these parts may lead to a more exciting and more intimate relationship, other parts may leave individuals feeling betrayed, misunderstood, and even questioning their own self worth.

Part of the work I do with couples is around understanding who they are now and supporting them while they unpack their personal histories. Getting a better sense of our partner’s life experience growing up and how they were able to cope with life’s curveballs can give us a glimpse of how they cope with stress and where they can use more support.

Luckily, through years of research and trial and error, couples therapists are able to identify ways couples can have intimate conversations and grow in ways that protects the relationship from further discord.

Dr. John Gottman, a psychological researcher and clinician who has done extensive work over four decades on divorce prediction and marital stability, talks about a few things that couples can do to enhance conversations and re-establish a healthy connection.

According to Gottman, to rebuild a bond we must be able to start with developing the following skills:

  1.  Increasing and building a culture of appreciation. This can be done physically, emotionally and verbally through physical affection, validation, and by doing small things for your partner, thus making them feel appreciated and respected.

  2. Expressing our feelings and emotions through words. Connecting through conversation and being vulnerable about how you feel can give your partner insight and make a conversation feel deeper and more intimate.

  3. Increasing understanding by expressing empathy. By communicating that you understand your partner’s experience, even if you don’t necessarily agree, you will be able to validate your partner’s feelings and help them feel seen and understood.

So no matter where you are in your relationship, know that there will always be more opportunities and tools you can use to get to know your partner and experience a deeper connection. If you’re struggling to connect or simply want more tools in your relationship tool belt, don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule an appointment with a qualified couples therapist. We can help!