Embracing Connection

Turning Toward Each Other

Turning toward each other is a principle that is more than a mere suggestion; it is a footer of the foundation in the architecture of a solid and sound relationship house. By embracing this principle, couples can navigate the ebbs and flows of marital life with grace and strength.

Hollywood has dramatically distorted our notions of romance and what makes passion burn. Watching Humphrey Bogart gather teary-eyed Ingrid Bergman into his arms may make your heart pound, but real-life romance is fueled by a far more humdrum approach to staying connected. It is kept alive each time you let your spouse know he or she is valued during the grind of everyday life.

Comical as it may sound, romance actually grows when a couple are in the supermarket and the wife says, “Are we out of bleach?” and the husband says, “I don’t know. Let me go get some just in case,” instead of shrugging apathetically. It grows when you know your spouse is having a bad day at work and you take sixty seconds out of your own workday to leave words of encouragement on his voice mail.

It grows when your wife tells you one morning, “I had the worst nightmare last night,” and you say, “I’m in a big hurry, but tell me about it now so we can talk about it tonight,” instead of “I don’t have time.” In all of these instances husband and wife are making a choice to turn toward each other rather than away In marriage people periodically make what I call “bids” for their partner’s attention, affection, humor, or support. People either turn toward one another after these bids or they turn away. Turning toward is the basis of emotional connection, romance, passion, and a good sex life.

Gottman, 1999

Understanding the Principle

Turning toward each other, in essence, means engaging positively with your partner’s bids for emotional connection. A ‘bid’ can be any attempt from one partner to another for attention, affirmation, affection, or any other form of positive connection. These bids can be as simple as a smile or as complex as a request for a conversation about feelings.

Gottman refers to times when couples turn toward each other as investing in the couple’s emotional bank account. Partners who characteristically turn toward each other rather than away are putting money in the bank. They are building up emotional savings that can serve as a cushion when times get rough, when they’re faced with a major life stress or conflict. Because they have stored up all of this goodwill, they are better able to make allowances for each other when a conflict arises. They can maintain a positive sense of each other and their marriage even during hard times.

The biggest payoff from this emotional bank account isn’t the cushion it offers when the couple are stressed. As I said, turning toward your spouse in the little ways is also the key to long-lasting romance. Many people think that the secret to reconnecting with their partner is a candlelit dinner or a by-the-sea vacation. But the real secret is to turn toward each other in little ways every day. A romantic night out really turns up the heat only when a couple has kept the pilot light burning by staying in touch in the little ways. It’s easy to imagine Justine and Michael, the couple who recalled their wedding and courtship with such delight, at a candlelit restaurant. But sit Peter and Cynthia, the couple who couldn’t agree on car washing or much of anything else, in the same chairs, and the evening would most likely be a fiasco, filled with accusations, recriminations, or awkward silences.

Gottman, 1999

The Research Behind Turning Toward

Gottman’s research, spanning decades, included the observation of thousands of couples and identified the habit of turning toward as a key element distinguishing happy, long-lasting relationships from those that flounder. Couples who regularly turn toward each other maintain a higher level of connection and are better prepared to handle conflicts constructively.

The Effects of Turning Away

Conversely, turning away from your partner’s bids, either through ignoring or reacting negatively, can lead to feelings of rejection and loneliness, and over time, build a wall of resentment that can be difficult to dismantle.

Implementing the Principle

To implement this principle, couples need to cultivate awareness of their partner’s bids and consciously choose to respond in a manner that conveys interest and care. It’s about being present, attentive, and responsive.

Practical Strategies for Turning Toward Each Other

  • Notice the Small Things: Pay attention to the little details and the routine interactions. A gentle touch, a knowing glance, or a question about your partner’s day can be an opportunity to connect.
  • Express Appreciation: Regularly express gratitude and appreciation for your partner. Acknowledging the good they do reinforces your bond.
  • Communicate Openly: Encourage open dialogue about each other’s needs and desires. This transparency fosters trust and deeper understanding.
  • Develop Rituals of Connection: Establish daily or weekly rituals that ensure you spend quality time together, such as morning coffee or evening walks.
  • Be Mindful of Body Language: Non-verbal cues often speak louder than words. Maintain open body language to signal your willingness to connect.
  • Practice Active Listening: When your partner speaks, listen attentively. Reflect back what you’ve heard to show you understand.
  • Show Empathy: Strive to see things from your partner’s perspective. Empathy builds a bridge between differing viewpoints.
  • Prioritize Your Relationship: In the hustle of daily life, make your relationship a priority. This means consciously choosing to turn toward your partner, even when it’s challenging.

The Impact on Health and Wellness

Emotionally fulfilling relationships are a cornerstone of mental health and overall well-being. Turning toward each other fosters emotional intimacy and mutual support, which contribute to lower stress levels, improved mood, and better health outcomes. Is your relationship primed for romance? To get a good sense of how your relationship is faring (or is likely to fare in the future) in the romance department, answer the following questions. Read each statement and choose true or false.

  • We enjoy doing small things together (folding laundry, watching TV)
  • I look forward to spending my free time with my partner.
  • At the end of the day my partner is glad to see me.
  • My partner is usually interested in hearing my views.
  • I really enjoy discussing things with my partner.
  • My partner is one of my best friends.
  • I think my partner would consider me a very close friend.
  • We just love talking to each other.
  • When we go out together, the time goes very quickly.
  • We always have a lot to say to each other.
  • We have a lot of fun together.
  • We are spiritually very compatible.
  • We tend to share the same basic values.
  • We like to spend time together in similar ways.
  • We really have a lot of common interests.
  • We have many of the same dreams and goals.
  • We like to do a lot of the same things.
  • Even though our interests are somewhat different, I enjoy my partner’s interests.
  • Whatever we do together, we usually tend to have a good time.
  • My partner tells me when he or she has had a bad day.

Scoring: Give yourself one point for each “true” answer.

10 or above: Congratulations! This is an area of strength in your marriage. Because you are so often “there” for each other during the minor events in your lives, you have built up a hefty emotional bank account that will support you over any rough patches in your marriage (and keep many at bay). It’s those little moments that you rarely think about—when you’re shopping at the supermarket, folding laundry, or having a quickie catch up call while you’re both still at work–that make up the heart and soul of a marriage. Having a surplus in your emotional bank account is what makes romance last and gets you through hard times, bad moods, and major life changes.

Below 10: Your marriage could stand some improvement in this area. By learning to turn toward each other more during the minor moments in your day, you will make your marriage not only more stable but more romantic. Every time you make the effort to listen and respond to what your spouse says, to help him or her, you make your marriage a little better.

Couples often ignore each other’s emotional needs out of mindlessness, not malice.

The first step in turning toward each other more is simply to be aware of how crucial these mundane moments are, not only to your marriage’s stability, but to its ongoing sense of romance. For many couples, just realizing that they shouldn’t take their everyday interactions for granted makes an enormous difference in their relationship, Remind yourself that being helpful to each other will do far more for the strength and passion of your marriage than a two week Bahamas getaway.The following exercises will also help you make turning toward each other an easy, natural part of your lives together.

Exercise 1: Keep an Emotional Bank Account

Keeping an account in your head of how much you’re connecting with your spouse emotionally in little ways can greatly benefit your marriage. But for some couples the concept works best if they make their emotional bank account “real.”You can do this by drawing a simple ledger and giving yourself one point each time you’ve turned toward your spouse during the course of the day. You probably wouldn’t want to document every encouraging nod you gave while your spouse was talking. But you would include entries for such events as “Called J at work to see how meeting went” and “Took his van to car wash.”

Be careful not to turn this into a competition or a quid pro quo where you track each other’s account “balance” and keep tabs on who has done what for whom. That approach defeats the purpose of this exercise. The goal is to focus on what you can do to improve your marriage–not on what your spouse should be doing but isn’t. That means, for example, trying to turn toward your spouse even when you feel he or she is being difficult or hostile.

You can tally your daily or weekly balance by adding up your deposits and subtracting any withdrawals (“Forgot to get film for M’s camera,” “Was late getting home”). For this exercise to work it’s important to be ruthlessly honest with yourself when you are negligent and turn away from your spouse. The more in the black your account is, the more likely you are to see your marriage improve. Don’t be surprised if positive changes don’t occur overnight, however. If you’ve gotten out of the habit of turning toward each other, it may take some time to see the benefits of this exercise. One of the challenges is to notice when your partner does turn toward you and vice versa. In one research study in which couples were closely observed in their own homes, happily married couples noticed almost all of the positive things the researchers observed their partners do for them. However, unhappily married couples underestimated their partners’ loving intentions by 50 percent!

Although you don’t want your ledgers to become the focus of a competition, it makes sense to get each other’s input about which areas of your lives could benefit most from more emotional connection. That way you can focus your efforts on where they’ll have the greatest impact. Below is a long list of activities that some couples do together–everything from washing dishes to going bowling. Choose the three that you most wish your partner would do with you. You can also pick an item if you and your spouse already do it jointly but you wish you did so more frequently or that your spouse was more “there” emotionally during the activity. For example, if you currently read the newspaper together every morning but wish your spouse would discuss the news with you more instead of just reading silently, you can pick that item.

  • Reunite at the end of the day and talk about how it went.
  • Shop for groceries. Make up the shopping list.
  • Cook dinner, bake.
  • Clean house, do laundry.
  • Shop together for gifts or clothes (for self, kids, or friends)
  • Go out (no kids) for brunch or dinner, or to your favorite haunt or bar.
  • Read the morning paper together.
  • Help each other with a self-improvement plan (e.g.” a new class, weight loss, exercise, a new career)
  • Plan and host a dinner party.
  • Call and or think about each other during the workday.
  • Stay overnight at a romantic hideaway.
  • Eat breakfast together during the work week.
  • Go to a church, mosque, or synagogue together.
  • Do yard work, shovel the walk, do home repairs, car maintenance, and washing.
  • Perform committee work in the community (e.g.” volunteering).
  • Exercise together.
  • Go on weekend outings (e.g.” picnic, drives).
  • Spend “everyday” time with kids-bedtimes, baths, homework.
  • Take the kids on outings (e.g.” zoo, museum, dinner).
  • Attend school functions (e.g.” teacher conferences)
  • Stay in touch with/ spend time with kin (parents, in-laws, siblings)
  • Entertain out-of-town guests.
  • Travel together (plane, bus, train, car), 24. Watch TV or videos.
  • Order take out.Double-date with friends.
  • Attend sporting events.
  • Engage in a favorite activity (e.g.” bowl, go to amusement park, bicycle, hike, jog, horseback ride, camp, canoe, sail, water-ski, swim).
  • Talk or read together by an open fire.
  • Listen to music,
  • Go dancing or attend a concert, nightclub, jazz club, or theater.
  • Host your child’s birthday party.
  • Take your child to lessons.
  • Attend your child’s sporting events or performance (recital, play, etc.).
  • Pay bills.
  • Write letters or cards.
  • Deal with family medical events (take kids to the doctor, dentist, or emergency room).
  • Work at home, but still be together in some way.
  • Go to a community event (e.g.” church auction).
  • Go to a party.
  • Drive to or from work together.
  • Celebrate milestones in your children’s lives (confirmation, graduation).
  • Celebrate other milestones in your lives (e.g.” promotion, retirement).
  • Play computer games, surf the Internet.
  • Supervise your children’s play dates.
  • Plan vacations.
  • Plan your future together. Dream.
  • Walk the dog.
  • Read out loud together, 50. Play a board game or a card game.
  • Put on plays or skits together, do errands together on a weekend.
  • Engage in hobbies; e.g.” painting, sculpting, making music.
  • Talk over drinks (alcohol, coffee, or tea).
  • Find time to just talk without interruptions–find time for spouse to really listen to you.
  • Philosophize.
  • Gossip (talk about other people).
  • Attend a funeral.
  • Help out other people.
  • Hunt for a new house or apartment.
  • Test-drive new cars.
  • Other_______________.

Now, share your top three choices with each other so you both know how best to turn toward each other and accrue points. Warning: Sometimes this exercise generates conflict when we do it as part of our workshop. For example, Dick may say he wants Renee to be there more when it comes to making weekend plans, but Renee claims she already does most of the weekend planning. To avoid this, remember that this exercise is really a way to flatter each other. What you’re really telling your spouse is “I love you so much that I want more of you,” So be sure to talk about your requests in that spirit. Rather than being critical of what your partner has not done in the past, focus on what you would like to have happen now.

That means saying “I’d like it if you stayed with me most of the time at parties” instead of “You always abandon me.” The real benefit of this exercise comes when you both look at the three items your partner chose and follow through by committing to do one of them. This should be a firm agreement–in the workshops we actually call it a contract. Some couples find it helpful to put these contracts in writing, such as “I, Wendy, agree to join Bill in walking the dog every Monday and Thursday.” This may sound stiff and formal, but an official agreement usually has the opposite effect: because it conveys respect for your request, you feel relieved and excited that your spouse is willing to give this to you. No wonder this exercise intensifies the sense of romance!

Exercise 2: The Stress-Reducing Conversation

Although you can earn points in your emotional bank account during just about any everyday activity listed above, we have found the first one, “Reunite at the end of the day and talk about how it went,” to be the most effective. What this “How was your day, dear?” conversation does (or ought to do) is to help each of you manage the stress in your life that is not caused by your marriage. Learning to do this is crucial to a marriage’s long term health, according to research by my colleague Neil Jacobson, Ph.D., of the University of Washington. He has found that one of the key variables in relapse after his own approach to marital therapy is whether stress from other areas of your lives spills over into your relationship. Couples who are overrun by this stress see their marriages relapse, while those who can help each other cope with it keep their marriages strong.

Many couples automatically have this sort of calming-down conversation, perhaps at the dinner table or after the kids fall asleep. But too often this discussion does not have the desired effect–it increases your stress levels because you end up feeling frustrated with your spouse for not listening to you, whether you’re the one venting or the one who’s offering advice. If that’s the case, you need to change your approach to these catch up conversations to make sure they help you calm down.

For starters, think about the timing of the chat. Some people want to unburden themselves when they’re barely through the door. But others need to decompress on their own for a while before they’re ready to interact. So wait until you both want to talk.

On a typical day, spend twenty to thirty minutes on this conversation. The cardinal rule is that you talk about whatever is on your mind outside of your marriage. This is not the time to discuss any conflicts between you. It’s an opportunity to support each other emotionally concerning other areas in your lives.

This exercise takes active listening, that classic technique of standard marital therapy, and stands it on its head. The goal of active listening is to hear your spouse’s perspective with empathy and without judging him or her. That’s all well and good. But this approach usually fails because couples are asked to use it when they are airing their gripes with each other. This is difficult to do and often about as painless as an IRS audit. It’s virtually impossible not to feel frightened, hurt, or mad as hell when your spouse is blasting you.

But I have found that this same listening technique can be extremely beneficial if you use it during discussions where you are not your spouse’s target. In this context, you’ll feel far freer to be readily supportive and understanding of your spouse and vice versa. This can only heighten the love and trust you feel.

Here are detailed instructions for having this discussion:

Take turns. Each partner gets to be the complainer for fifteen minutes.

Don’t give unsolicited advice. If you quickly suggest a solution to your partner’s dilemma, he or she is likely to feel that you are trivializing or dismissing the problem, which backfires. In effect you’re saying, “That’s not such a big issue. Why don’t you just. ..?” So the cardinal rule when helping your partner de-stress is that understanding must precede odwce. You have to let your partner know that you fully understand and empathize with the dilemma before you suggest a solution. Often times your spouse isn’t asking you to come up with a solution at all–just to be a good listener, or offer a ready shoulder to cry on.

I have found a significant gender difference when it comes to this rule. Women are more sensitive to advice-giving than are men. In other words, when a wife tells her husband her troubles, she usually reacts very negatively if he tries to give her advice right away. Instead she wants to hear that he understands and feels compassion. Men are far more tolerant of immediate attempts to problem-solve, so a wife can probably “get away” with some gentle words of wisdom. Still, a man who emotes to his wife about his work troubles would probably prefer that she offer him sympathy rather than a solution.

In the workshops, when I tell couples that their role is not to solve each other’s problems but to offer support, their relief is almost palpable. Men especially get caught up in thinking that when their wives are upset, their role is to take care of the problem. A huge burden is lifted once they realize that this is not their responsibility and is usually the opposite of what their wives want. It seems almost too good to be true that you earn points by not trying to solve your partner’s problems, but that is the case.

  • Show genuine interest. Don’t let your mind or eyes wander. Stay focused on your spouse. Ask questions. Make eye contact. Nod, say “uh-huh,” and so on.
  • Communicate your understanding. Let your spouse know that you empathize: “What a bummer! Id be stressed out, too. I can see why you feel that way.”
  • Take your spouse’s side. This means being supportive, even if you think his or her perspective is unreasonable. Don’t side with the opposition–this will make your spouse resentful or dejected. If your wife’s boss chewed her out for being five minutes late, don’t say, “Oh, well, maybe Bob was just having a bad day,” And certainly don’t say, “Well, you shouldn’t have been late.” Instead, say “That’s so unfair!” The point isn’t to be dishonest. It’s just that timing is everything. When your partner comes to you for emotional support (rather than for advice), your job is not to cast moral judgment or to tell him or her what to do. Your job is to say “poor baby”
  • Express a “we against others” attitude. If your mate is feeling all alone in facing some difficulty, express solidarity. Let him or her know that the two of you are in this together.
  • Express affection. Hold your mate, put an arm on his or her shoulder, say “I love you.”
  • Validate emotions. Let your partner know that his or her feelings make sense to you. Phrases that do this include “Yeah, that is really so sad. That would have me worried, too. I can see why you’d be annoyed about that.”

Here are two brief examples of a stress-reducing conversation to give you an idea of what to do–and what not to.

Don’t do it this way:

  • Hank: I had another terrible meeting with Ethel today. She keeps challenging my knowledge, and she has been going to the boss telling him that she doubts my competence. I hate her.
  • Wanda: I think this is another example of you flying off the handle and overreacting. (Criticizing) I have seen her be very constructive and reasonable. Maybe you are just not being sensitive to her concerns. (Siding with the enemy)
  • Hank: The woman is out to get me.
  • Wanda: That’s your paranoid streak coming out. You’ve got to try to control that. (Criticizing)
  • Hank: Oh, forget it.

Consider doing it this way instead:

  • Hank: I had another terrible meeting with Ethel today She keeps challenging my knowledge, and she has been going to the boss telling him that she doubts my competence. I hate her.
  • Wanda: I can’t believe that woman! She is the meanest fighter and a terrible gossip. (We against others) What did you say? (Showing genuine interest)
  • Hank: I told her she is just out to get me. And that she’s not going to succeed.
  • Wanda: She can make anyone become paranoid. I’m sorry she’s putting you through this. (Expressing affection) I’d like to get even with her. (We against others)
  • Hank: So would I, but I think it’d be better to just forget it. Just ignore her.
  • Wanda: Your boss knows what she’s like. Everyone does.
  • Hank: That’s true. He doesn’t share her opinions of me, and she goes around saying everyone is incompetent but her.
  • Wanda: That’s bound to backfire.
  • Hank: I hope so, or she’ll give me an ulcer.
  • Wanda: This is really stressing you out! I can understand why (Validating emotions) you know, she’s given her husband one.
  • Hank: He has an ulcer?
  • Wanda: I just heard about it.
  • Hank: Good Lord!

Below are some sample scenarios to help you practice being supportive during your partner’s ventting session.

  1. Your wife’s sister yelled at her for not yet repaying money she loaned her two months ago. Your wife is feeling outraged and hurt by her sister’s attitude. (She does owe her sister the money.) You say:
  2. Your husband got a speeding ticket on his way home. “It was a speed trap!” he yells. “Everyone was going 80 mph. Why do I have to be the one who gets pulled over?” You say:
  3. Your wife was late getting to a big job interview. Now she’s worried she won’t get the job. “I can’t believe how stupid I was,” she moans. You say:
  4. Your partner asked their boss for a raise and was turned down. They got angry and stormed out of their boss’s office. Now they’re worried that their boss will hold this against them. You say:

One last note: No one knows you better than your spouse. Sometimes advice may be just what you’re looking for. The best strategy is to talk about what you’d each like from the other when you’re feeling stressed. If your spouse is ranting about the promotion he didn’t get, you can say something like “You’re obviously really upset about this. How can I help you? Do you need me just to listen, or do you want me to help you brainstorm what to do next?” If you have this sort of conversation every day, it can’t help but
benefit your marriage. You’ll come away with the conviction that your partner is on your side, and that’s one of the foundations of a long-lasting friendship. Once your marriage gets set at a more positive level,
it will be harder to knock it off course.

As beneficial as turning toward each other can be, it can feel hurtful and rejecting when your spouse does the opposite. Often couples turn away from each other not out of malice but out of mindlessness. They get distracted and start taking each other for granted. Realizing the importance of the little moments and paying more attention to them is enough to solve the problem in many cases. But sometimes there are deeper reasons why couples keep missing each other. For example, when one partner rebuffs the other, it could be a sign of hostility over some festering conflict. But I have found that when one spouse regularly feels the other just doesn’t connect enough, often the cause is a disparity between their respective needs for intimacy and independence.

Marriage is something of a dance. There are times when you feel drawn to your loved one and times when you feel the need to pull back and replenish your sense of autonomy. There’s a wide spectrum of “normal” needs in this area–some people have a greater and more frequent need for connection, others for independence. A marriage can work even if people fall on opposite ends of this spectrum–as long as they are able to understand the reason for their feelings and respect their differences. If they don’t, however, hurt feelings are likely to develop.

If you feel like your spouse gives you the cold shoulder in little ways throughout the day, or if your spouse’s concept of closeness feels more like suffocation to you, the best thing you can do for your marriage is to talk it out. Looking at these moments together will give you greater insight into each other and help you both learn how to give each other what you need.

Exercise 3: What to Do When Your Spouse Doesn’t Turn toward You

If one of you is feeling rebuffed by the other lately, or overwhelmed by your spouse’s need for closeness, you should both fill out the form below and then share your answers. There is no answer key for these questions, they are merely a point of departure for discussions with your spouse. The bottom line of this approach is that there isn’t one reality when a couple misses each other in little ways. There are two equally legitimate perspectives. Once you understand and acknowledge this, you’ll find that reconnecting just comes naturally.

During this week I felt:

  • Defensive
  • Hurt
  • Angry
  • Sad
  • Misunderstood
  • Criticized
  • Worried
  • Righteously indignant
  • Unappreciated
  • Unattractive
  • Disgusted
  • Disapproving
  • Like leaving
  • Like my opinions didn’t matter
  • I had no idea what I was feeling
  • Lonely

What triggered these feelings?

  • I felt excluded
  • I was not important to my partner
  • I felt cold toward my partner
  • I definitely felt rejected
  • I was criticized
  • I felt no affection toward my partner
  • I felt that my partner was not attracted to me
  • My sense of dignity was being compromised.
  • My partner was being domineering.
  • I could not persuade my partner at all.

Now that you know what triggered this episode, it’s time to see whether your emotional reaction is rooted in your past. Look over your answers to the “Who Am I?” exercise. See if you can find connections there between earlier traumas or behavior and the current situation. Use the following checklist to facilitate this search for links between the past and present.

These recent feelings about my relationship with my partner come from: (choose all that apply)

  • The way I was treated in my family growing up
  • A previous relationship
  • Past injuries, hard times, or traumas I’ve suffered
  • My basic fears and insecurities
  • Things and events have not yet resolved or put aside
  • Unrealized hopes I have
  • Ways other people treated me in the past
  • Things I have always thought about myself
  • Old “nightmares” or “catastrophes” I have worried about

After you’ve read each other’s answers above, you will, I hope, come to see that many of your differences are really not matters of “fact.” We are all complicated creatures whose actions and reactions are governed by a wide array of perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and memories. In other words, reality is subjective, which is why your partner’s perspective on the past week may be different from yours without either of you being right or wrong about what really happened. In your notebook, write out a short description of your point of view, and then do the same for your partner’s perspective.

It’s natural to make the fundamental error of assuming that distance and loneliness are all your partner’s fault. In truth they’re nobody’s fault. In order to break the pattern, you both need to admit playing some role (however slight at first) in creating the problem. To do that, read the following list and choose all that apply to you and that may have contributed to the turning away or the feelings of being swamped and smothered recently.

(Do not try to do this until you have calmed down physiologically. Follow the steps for self-soothing and then let go of thoughts that maintain the distress, thoughts of feeling misunderstood, righteous indignation, or innocent victimhood.)

  • I have been very stressed and irritable
  • I have not expressed much appreciation toward my spouse
  • I have been overly sensitive
  • I have been overly critical
  • I have not shared very much of my inner world
  • I have been depressed
  • I would say that I have a chip on my shoulder
  • I have not been very affectionate
  • I have not been a very good listener
  • I have been feeling a bit like my contribution to this mess was:
  • How can I make this better in the future?
  • What one thing could my partner do next time to ovoid this problem?

As you practice the lessons and skills you learned in the exercises above, you’re likely to become more adept at turning toward each other regularly, and the bond of camaraderie with your partner will deepen. This more profound friendship will be a powerful shield against conflict. It may not forestall every argument, but it can prevent your differences of opinion from overwhelming your relationship. One of the ways friendship does this is by helping to balance the power between partners.

When you honor and respect each other, you’re usually able to appreciate each other’s point of view, even if you don’t agree with it. When there’s an imbalance of power, there’s almost inevitably a great
deal of marital distress.

In the next course lesson, the marriage principle focuses on what can happen if one person in the relationship is unwilling to share power with the other and how to overcome this difficulty. Although power-mongering is more common in husbands, there are wives who have just as hard a time acceding to their partner’s wishes, so the fourth principle really applies to everybody.