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|In Consultation - Page 2|
To begin to institute a new, more positive pattern of daily habits, I ask couples to make the following plan part of their everyday ritual. Doing these three things takes less than five minutes a day.
(1) Gestures. Make some brief, nonverbal acknowledgement of your partner's importance to him or her at the four major transitional times in the day: before getting out of bed in the morning, before leaving the house, the first thing when you come into the house, and the last thing at night. (Behaviors done at major transitional times tend to have more carryover throughout the day.) This should be a gesture, like a brief touch, gentle eye contact, or just reaching out your hand. You should notice within a few weeks that affirming your partner's importance first thing in the morning and last thing at night is one of the pleasanter ways to improve over-all health and well-being.
(2) Hugs. Hug your partner, in a full-body embrace, six times a day, holding each hug for at least six seconds. Hugs are usually the first thing to go when a chain of resentment binds a relationship. The less you touch, the more resentful you get. The 6 x 6 formula isn't arbitrary. You probably don't hug more than once a day now. Increasing that to at least six times a day increases the chances of raising your level of oxytocin, the bonding hormone. The six-second minimum for each hug recognizes the fact that in the beginning, some of the hugs will feel forced and awkward. It's all right if they start out that way, as long as they become genuine at about the fifth or sixth second—which is likely to happen if you're still attached. You'll eventually find that it's easier to put your heart into the embrace than to resist it.
(3) Thoughts. Set aside five seconds for a positive thought about your partner at least five times a day. How you think about your partner when you're apart largely determines how you behave when you're together. Think of assets she or he brings to your relationship and how he or she makes your life better.
The Fire-Extinguisher Effect
Fire extinguishers don't just put out fires, they prevent them: homes with fire extinguishers have fewer fires! Of course, the presence of a fire extinguisher doesn't directly prevent fires, but making the effort to get one and then seeing it in your daily environment reminds you to be careful.
Try to come up with a "fire extinguisher" that clients can keep visible in their homes to remind them of the skills and insights they've learned. I use a CD called Argument-Sulk Reminder. It's just a few minutes in which I remind them that sulking is violating their deeper values, and they really want to be compassionate in their negotiations, rather than combative and critical. According to client reports at follow-up, few of them listen to it, but most keep it visible as a reminder of what they achieved in treatment. Another option would be a page or two of the salient points of your therapy with a picture of a fire extinguisher on the cover.