How To Talk To Your Spouse About Improvement

Let’s face it conflict in any relationship is inevitable. In this blog post I’ll be discussing ways on how to talk to your spouse or loved ones about improvement in a healthy way using Dr. Gottman State of the Union (meeting) tool.

The purpose of this meeting is to ensure that both partners feel heard and understood before problem solving together. Research shows when couples meet once a week for an hour, it drastically improves their relationship because it gives the relationship space to have constructive conflict and the partners an opportunity to get on the same team.

In Dr. Gottman’s research, he discovered that partners cannot compromise or solve the problem until each of you say, “Yes! You understand me. That’s exactly how I’m feeling.” Doing so opens up both of you to understanding each other’s perspective and to working together to create an opportunity where all parties win.

Once you decide as a couple what night of the week works best for you. Write out five things that week that your spouse or loved one did that you appreciated.

Why is this important you ask?

Research shows that happy healthy couples maintain the 5 to 1 ratio. A fellow counselor that I work with just had this conversation with me last week. It made me reflect on an unhealthy relationship that I was in. It was hard to receive his feedback as constructive criticism because I never heard any good things, making it hard to listen. So, I agree with this personally and professionally.

Also don’t forget to acknowledge the positive feedback, it may seem reductant for me to say this but you would be surprise how many people don’t say thank you after being affirmed or roll their eyes etc. So, accept your affirmations with a good attitude.

After the affirmations, agree on an area of tension to talk about and work together to decide who will start as the speaker and who will start as the listener. The speaker will share their perspective of the event for a few minutes without interruption as the listener takes notes on a notepad about what the speaker is saying.

When working with couples I notice how hard it is initially for them to make this mindset shift from criticizing to wishes. This technique is vital to establishing a healthy relationship. Let me share some examples:

You are always going out with your friends and neglecting me. Instead of saying I have been feeling lonely in our relationship and I really wish we could dedicate more time alone to spend together.

Or ugh you always have an attitude problem versus I really wish you would share more about what is causing you to be upset.

The problem with expressing needs in a negative way is it comes off like criticism. Despite what some people say, there is no such thing as constructive criticism. Criticism triggers a person to become defensive and protect themselves from an attack, which blocks the resolution of a conflict. Instead in order for conflict conversations to be successful you have to state your feelings as neutrally as possible and transform any complaint about your partner into a positive need. I know from personal experience with the couples and even children that I have taught is it allows them to hear and recognize a need that feels attainable and almost every time they will rise to the occasion.

So, I know what some of you may be thinking…. if it is so easy then why aren’t most couples doing this. Good I’m glad you asked.

Blaming our partner or hiding our feelings by criticizing is easy. Speaking our feelings and fears requires a willingness to be vulnerable. So often people mistake vulnerability as a sign of weakness, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Vulnerability is brave. It’s a willingness to drop your guard and expose all of your real feelings rather that be doubt, fears or insecurities within yourself or the relationship.  

I recently watched married at first sight and Brianna shared a very vulnerable moment when she discussed her fear surrounding giving birth. She let her partner Vincent know that she would love to have kids but due to her health issues she wasn’t sure how carrying a baby would work. One more couple had a similar conversation as well. Instead of them saying I don’t want to have a child, stop bringing it up, I said what I said, you don’t listen. They opened up in a very vulnerable manner and their husbands were able to receive it.

I hope this blog post was helpful, and if you are looking for a relationship or dating coach please feel free to reach out to me, I would love to get you in alignment with your relational goals.

As Always Readers,

Happy Dating,


Your Sista on the Sofa,