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    Eight Ways to Fortify Your Long-term Relationship

    By Dr. Frankie Bashan–

    Considered experts in couples’ therapy, marriage and divorce, John Gottman and Julie Schwartz-Gottman have been studying relationships for over 25 years. The Gottmans have discovered that each relationship, broadly speaking, exists in a state of Positive Sentiment Override (PSO) or Negative Sentiment Override (NSO).

    A healthy relationship in a state of PSO is one where positive comments and behaviors outweigh negative ones about 20 to 1. It’s almost as if there is a positive filter that alters how couples remember past events and view new issues.

    Following the below eight tips will help you to achieve PSO.

    1. Create a love map.

    A “love map” refers to knowing your partner’s world and showing an interest in her life whether it be work, family or self. Love maps are especially important to learn in times of little or no conflict in the relationship. Fortify your ship in calm waters for future rough seas. Some dating TV shows reflect this concept by quizzing the couples on how well they know his/her partner. The more intimate your knowledge of each other is, the more defined your love map will be.

    2. Promote fondness and admiration.

    A couple that is affectionate and clear about what they value and admire in each other increases PSO. Many recommend a daily “thankfulness” journal to list attributes of your partner or elements of your life that you appreciate. A key here is also sharing what you appreciate about your partner. If you’re single, then write about what you want in a partner. This will help you to gauge what you value in others and to better identify those traits once you meet that special someone.

    3. Reduce physiological arousal.

    Avoid getting emotionally heated by maintaining a soothed physiology during arguments. This means that when conflict occurs, you should try to address it in a way that does not promote a rapid heart rate, raised voice or the development of a fiery red face. Speak calmly, avoid name-calling, and take a break (address the issue later) if things are getting too emotionally driven.

    4. Be diplomatic.

    Do your best to try and approach a problem diplomatically. When there is ample time, properly address it. Don’t initiate a conversation about a heated topic ten minutes before your in-laws arrive for dinner. This is also referred to as a “softened startup.” An example of this would be: “You mean a lot to me and I was wondering what you think about (whatever the issue is); I think (opinion about the issue).”

    5. Accept desires and wishes.

    Learn what your partner wants and help her to obtain it. Ladies, we may be in luck as women are typically nurturers and better at giving in this department. Think of these as “acts of love.”

    6. De-escalate “hot” emotions.

    Hot emotions occur when you feel an increase in physiological arousal. Breathing slowly—deep in your belly—and creating a “serene face” where you relax your facial muscles and create a neutral to slight smile will help to reduce this state. De-escalation techniques and efforts to compromise also mean admitting to the “seed of truth” in what your partner is saying.

    7. Bid for affection.

    Bidding for affection means connecting through a shared joke, wink, kiss or a mutually shared smile. Think of this as self-esteem for a relationship. Making a point to connect in even these simple, but meaningful, ways greatly increases positive feelings towards each other.

    8. Really address issues.

    Find out the underlying reason for the conflict and how to meet both your and your partner’s needs. The goal here is to avoid gridlock when addressing problems. During conflict resolution, it is crucial to understand your partner’s goal in the matter. We commonly make assumptions about what our partner wants and why she wants it, often missing what she really wants and the reasons for it.

    Remember, it is not advised to confront Negative Sentiment Override directly. Instead, you have to build the infrastructure for Positive Sentiment Override first, and slowly shift to building it further. The idea is to replace the negative with positive acts over time.

    I hope these tips find you well and that you can keep them in the forefront of your mind while enjoying time with your partner or when thinking of a new potential partner.

    Dr. Frankie Bashan is a psychologist, matchmaker and relationship guru who has been using her psychology background combined with technology and personalized algorithms to successfully match lesbian couples nationwide. As the founder of Little Gay Book, the only exclusively lesbian/bi matchmaking agency in the U.S., she helps women in every state to find authentic, healthy, righteous, full-blown love and she knows what makes relationships tick. For more info: