Do you sometimes feel like you are having the same argument over and over with your partner? Does arguing with your partner feel like you are just going through the motions of something you have done many times before?
You are not alone; research shows that couples tend to have just 3 types of arguments that they repeat and repeat.
Break the cycle and put the SPARK back in your relationship by using the SPARK model developed by Laura Heck and Zach Brittle based on Gottman research.
What is the SPARK Model?
We know that novelty is important in relationships so you can keep your relationship fresh by surprising your partner from time to time. Whilst having a certain amount of predictability in life is useful; for our relationships, we want to spice things up occasionally to keep life interesting. I am not suggesting you change useful routines such as bedtime, waking time, shopping days, gym sessions etc. but where routines can get boring, some novelty can help SPARK things back up.
A surprise could be a quick kiss as you pass each other in the kitchen, it might be changing up your music playlist, or you could take your partner on a mystery date.
Do you find you are always having dinner in the same seats? Try sitting somewhere different to change things and surprise your partner.
It doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking – just try and swing the pendulum from predictability to novelty as little or as much as you would like.
Play is just about having fun together and is something that is important for adults as well as children!
Together with your partner, try brainstorming ideas for things you would like to do together to have fun. You can separate ideas into free ideas and ideas with a monetary limit and begin to build play into your relationship in small ways. Keep a chessboard or backgammon board out to play or connect together on Words with Friends.
Remember with play, it’s not about winning- you want to keep the ball in play and don’t keep beating your partner. Play should be fun for both of you and ignite that SPARK back into your relationship.
How often do you take the time to ask your partner questions about themselves? Beyond ‘honey, what do you feel like for dinner tonight?’ Knowing your partner and understanding their world (or love maps as we say in Gottman speak) and how their life is changing, is important to the health and happiness of your relationship. Remember in the early days of your relationship you probably spoke for hours at a time? Then life got in the way, and over time we stop asking the curious questions thinking we know all about our partner.
Here are some starter questions for you to ask this weekend to put the SPARK back into your relationship:
- What would make your weekend really special?
- How have you changed?
- You’ve been given money to start a museum. What sort of museum would you start?
- Who are your closest friends?
- Who are your support people?
- Who would you call in an emergency?
You can download the Gottman card deck app for free and use the love map questions in the app to keep up to date with what is happening in your partner’s world. And you can be intentional and set a time/date for you and your partner to ask questions of each other.
Rituals are predictable moments or habits that provide a sense of peace in the busyness of life. For example, you might have a standing date night on Thursday nights and so it’s something you have to look forward to during a stressful week; it’s a predictable habit that is unique to your relationship or family and helps you create a shared meaning together.
If you don’t have any Rituals as yet, think about the things you do that bring you joy and help mark time together- it might be a Tuesday taco night or a lie-in and pancakes together on a Sunday morning. It might be giving each other a goodbye kiss whenever you say goodbye.
As life gets busy and stressful, these rituals can give you time to catch-up and connect with each other and even put a little SPARK back into your relationship. The Gottman card deck app includes a Rituals of Connection card deck to give you ideas for rituals to explore for your relationship.
You may have heard a “six second kiss is a kiss worth coming home to.” So says Dr John Gottman award winning researcher, author and expert on relationships. What does he really mean by that?
Kissing releases a cascade of feel-good chemicals throughout our bodies that helps us feel rather wonderful and also bond with our kissing partner. Kissing releases Oxytocin which helps us feel close and connected when we kiss. Kissing also releases dopamine, which triggers the same part of your brain that is stimulated by cocaine and links to craving and desire. Epinephrine and norepinephrine are released and help increase your heart rate. This is what creates butterflies in your tummy and sends oxygenated blood to your brain. Cortisol, the stress hormone is also reduced with kissing to help you relax.
Have you tried to experiment with the 6-second kiss? At what point do you feel your body relax? You can also get similar results with a hug or eye contact – in this case, a 60-second hug or 4 minutes of eye contact.
A six second kiss also creates a ritual of connection that lets our partner know they are important to us. It’s important to let your six-second kiss (or 60-second hug) be a standalone ritual. Our partings and reunions are important moments in a relationship. Marking them with a kiss is a way of letting your partner know “you matter to me”. The kiss marks a deliberate break between home and work. It’s an opportunity to re-establish connection with our partners when we return after a busy day and keeps our bond strong. If it leads to sex, that can be great but don’t make it mean sex is guaranteed.
If you’ve gotten into the habit of a peck on the cheek as you rush out the door, can you experiment with the six-second kiss for a couple of weeks? Gottman likes to say, “A six-second kiss is a kiss with potential.” We like to say a six-second kiss can create that SPARK.
Will SPARKing stop us from arguing?
No, it’s not a magic fix and like with anything the more effort you put in, the more results you are likely to see. Gottman research shows that a key part of happy and healthy relationships is a strong friendship, so using the SPARK model can allow you to take the time to nurture your friendship with each other and be kind to each other.
If your partner doesn’t want to play, you can still create opportunities for SPARK without fanfare. Quietly introduce some of these ideas into your relationship without making a big fuss, if it works you can do more. If not, try tweak for something that will be a better fit for the two of you.
If you would like to learn more about doing couples therapy with me, you can read more information here https://kristinachallands.com.au/couples-therapy-samford-brisbane-psychology/ or call 0487 480 120 to book a call with our practice manager.