Gottman Couples Therapy: What is the State of the Union Meeting and Why is it Important?
When couples come in for therapy, one of the most important tools I like to equip them with is the Gottman State of the Union meeting. The State of the Union is a weekly meeting where couples get to reflect on the relationship. It gives them the opportunity to share their appreciation for each other, ask for their needs, and discuss conflict. The State of the Union is a way to bring attention and intention to the relationship.
1. Why is a consistent check-in important?
- Deepening intimacy - When couples come together to openly discuss their feelings, fears, desires, and dreams, they create space for vulnerability. This deepens intimacy. It allows partners to see and understand each other on a deeper level beyond the day-to-day and logistical interactions.
- Goal Setting - Individual and relationship goals evolve and change over time. Discussing these can ensure that couples stay aligned in their goals and life journey.
- Conflict Management and Prevention - Conflicts within a relationship can often stem from misunderstandings or unspoken complaints and grievances. Regular check-ins help avoid minor issues turning into major ones. The State of the Union also normalizes that issues or concerns will come up in a relationship. Relationships involve multiple people who change and grow daily. Meaning that concerns will arise, and conflict will happen. The need to iron some topics out is completely normal.
2. How to conduct a State of the Union
- Start by taking turns sharing 5 things you appreciate and admire about each other. Our lives are busy and most of us have a million responsibilities. It’s easy to forget to share appreciation for your partners. This meeting builds it in!
- Discuss what is going right in the relationship. This is a great opportunity to notice positive changes and anything that made you feel strong and connected in the past week or in general.
- Select an issue to discuss or process a fight or regrettable incident from the past week/month. Don’t let things get swept under the rug. If an incident bothered you or your partner, you both deserve the space to process it.
- Ask each other, “How can I love you this week?”
3. Some best practices for a State of the Union
- Pick a comfortable and private space
- Avoid distractions - Make it a time and space that won’t be interrupted. If possible, stay off your phones
- Regularity- Find what works best for you, but try to do this weekly or monthly.
- Listen - Bring your best listening skills to this conversation. Instead of thinking about your response, listen openly and without agenda
- Be honest
- Be empathetic
- Be kind
The State of the Union is a great way to stay connected, grounded, and attuned to each other across time. Whether you’re a premarital couple looking to build healthy habits or a couple that wants to put intention into reconnecting, the State of the Union can benefit any relationship.