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by Erin Falvey, PhD, LMFT and Tammy Fletcher, M.A., LMFT

In our clinical experience, we have noticed that couples tend to overfocus on areas in which they are dissatisfied, and neglect areas where they are interacting in exactly the way they want to be.  Sometimes in relationships we fall into the habit of focusing on the negative. Couples come to therapy to work on problem areas in their relationships. Part of our work is to help identify and strengthen the areas that are working, and build from there.

How do you go about identifying strengths in your relationship? We suggest a collaborative approach with your partner. What do the two of you agree are your top five strengths together as a couple? Some ideas include:

    * Making plans for leisure time together

    * Sharing your spiritual values and activities

    * Putting money away for your next vacation

    * Supporting one another's fitness goals

    * Dividing up chores around the house

    * Adding a pet to the family

    * Enjoying a favorite television show together each week

    * Asking your partner for pointers on using a computer program

Take some time with your partner to talk about what is working for you. Come up with your top five areas where you are on the same page. Now ask yourselves – how do you approach those positive aspects of your relationship? For example, perhaps you enjoy sitting down together and planning out your budget for the month. Why do you think that particular activity works well for you? Take some time to explore your preferred ways of being together, areas in which things flow easily between you.  How do you feel during those times? Less guarded? More trusting? Generally, during positive interactions there will be an increased sense of mutual trust, safety, acceptance, respect, and understanding.

What are your top five areas of positive interaction with your partner? Share them with each other and comment below, if you like!

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