A State of the Union Meeting is an intervention created by John and Julie Gottman from the Gottman Institute to help couples reflect on what is going well in the relationship and what needs more attention.
It’s the most popular intervention for couples to maintain close connection and work through conflict.
It’s a time to focus on each other without any distractions from the outside world. I see it as ritual instead of a chore, as a ritual has meaning and is ceremonial.
A weekly one-hour meeting is suggested but couples can be creative in working out the rest of the details such as, do we add nourishment, a beverage, do we meet in a quiet space in the house or somewhere else? If there are children, how do we meet without interruption? It’s important to see these meetings as a ritual and a priority. The goal is to make sure that each partner feels heard and seen so put down your phone, tablet, or laptop!
To begin the discussion:
Express appreciation and fondness: Take turns expressing five things that you appreciate about each other. These can be attributes that you noticed in the past week: “I love how you made me laugh this past week, you have a great sense of humor” or “Thanks for picking up all the dog poop this week!”
Expressing gratitude for the minor things will make the conversation go smoother as both partners start from a place of feeling appreciated.
Point out an example of how you worked well together as a team:
How did you work together managing external stress? Couples face stress daily with family relationships, making plans, figuring out the holidays, raising a family, and jobs. Express what went well in managing the stressful incident.
Process what didn’t go well:
To help couples process conflicts, Dr. John Gottman created an acronym, ATTUNE:
Ending the State of the Union meeting:
You can end your State of the Union discussion by sharing one thing your partner can do to help you feel connected in the coming week. For example, “I have been feeling disconnected and I need a romantic evening together“ or “When your family is visiting next week, I need you to be supportive.”
Here are some of my favorite quotes from John Gottman about relationships:
"Admit when you’re wrong. Shut up when you’re right."
"Behind every complaint there is a deep, personal longing."
"Every relationship is a cross-cultural experience."
For more information on building connection in relationships check out the Gottman Institute at www.gottman.com
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