Chances are you are well aware of the need for regular medical checkups. You may even already be in the habit of not only scheduling, but actually completing, an annual physical with your primary care provider or other medical specialist. The reason for this is well known: to check that all physical systems are working well and catch any problems early, while they’re still fixable.
What if your intimate relationship could use the same kind of consistent attention? A yearly check up to make sure you and your partner are still working well together and toward the same goals, and to catch any problems before they grow into real threats to your connection, is not only possible but recommended by relationship experts. Research shows that relationship therapy works to decrease conflict and improve satisfaction (Rathgeber et al., 2019), yet only about 19% of couples seek couples therapy (Johnson et al., 2002) and only about 37% of divorced couples worked with a therapist prior to divorcing (Gottman, 1994). It takes the average couple six years before seeking couple therapy. Imagine waiting six years before getting that worrisome mole looked at!
Given how important the health of our relationships is to our overall health, creating a schedule of regular relationship checkups may actually have a profound impact in our overall health and wellbeing. In Gottman Method Couples Therapy© an intimate relationship is assessed at every basic dimension of functioning: how well partners know each other, the friendship, love and passion system, conflict management styles and dynamics, how much support there is for individual goals and aspirations, and how well couples agree and work toward shared goals and dreams. After the assessment phase is complete, a customized plan of intervention is created, and treatment involving concrete, accessible, and proven skills to build or rebuild a successful relationship starts.
So, for this Valentine’s Day, I invite you to start or continue a yearly tradition of taking your relationship for an annual exam. And because a huge part of successful, long-lasting relationships is the couple’s ability to hang on to a sense of fun and play, I recommend you make it fun: make it a date, complete with treats, activities, and other opportunities for connection, and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you are investing in your physical, mental, and emotional health all at once, all while having fun with your Valentine!
Luciana C. Silva, PhD, LMFT Dr. Silva is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in working with couples and families to improve relationship satisfaction, recover from trauma and addictions, and improve individual health and wellbeing. She has completed Level 2 Gottman Method training and is pursuing certification. In addition to ongoing therapy for individuals, couples, and families, she also offers couple therapy intensives for those wishing to jumpstart the therapeutic work.
Rathgeber M., Bürkner P. C., Schiller E. M., Holling H. (2019). The efficacy of emotionally focused couples therapy and behavioral couples therapy: A meta-analysis. J. Marital Fam. Ther. 45 447–463. 10.1111/jmft.12336
Johnson, C., Stanley, S., Glenn, N., Amato, P., Nock, S., Markman, H., & Dion, M. (2002). Marriage in Oklahoma: 2001 baseline statewide survey on marriage and divorce (SO2096 OKDHS). Oklahoma City, OK: Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
Gottman, J. M. (1994). What predicts divorce? The relationship between marital processes and marital outcomes. Hillsdale, NK: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates