This past weekend I made some killer ribs on the grill. It wasn’t the first time I have grilled up a rack of baby backs, but it was the first time they turned out “fall off the bone” awesome. However, it took me four Google searches and seven YouTube videos to get the simple steps to making great ribs. There was a ton of advice out there, but most of it was complicated, too wordy, or filled with distracting ads. It was really frustrating!

Have you ever felt this type of frustration? You have a problem you need to solve, and you can’t find a simple answer!

Maybe that is why you landed on my blog today. You want some help with your relationship but don’t want a complicated answer. You just want to know what to do, today, to start moving in the right direction.

So, I am going to give you what I was looking for and also, the same advice I give to couples when they first come to see me in my office. Here are Two Simple Changes you can make today that will move your relationship in a better direction:

Simple Change One

Focus on the positive. This is where I want you to start right now. Don’t start listing why this sounds dumb, or overrated, or doesn’t sound like enough. That is you resisting change.

Now, do this, please:

Pull out a piece of paper or your phone and immediately write down THREE things that are positive about your partner or your relationship. Don’t over think this. They can be simple actions or traits. What comes to your mind first —write it down.

Now be specific, tell yourself out loud “I am choosing to feel positive about _____________, _______________, and ______________ in my relationship today.”

You just started your first change, congratulations! You are going to write down THREE positive things about your partner or your relationship EVERY DAY for the next THREE WEEKS.

Why are you going to do this? For three reasons:

  1. Problems are saturated with negative thinking. When you are challenged or unsatisfied with your relationship, that is considered a problem. When we have problems, we tend to focus on what is bad in an effort to find solutions. This type of thinking crowds out positive, good feelings about your partner and relationship making you feel worse and creating bigger problems.
  2. Continuous negative thinking sinks relationships. Dr. John Gottman’s research on couple relationships confirms that when relationships end, they are full of negativity. This creates an inaccurate and distorted “all bad” view that the relationship—which is not true, or the relationship would have never started in the first place.
  3. You control your thoughts. Working with your brain is not complicated. Your brain will follow your most familiar thoughts. So this exercise is helping you to make the negative unfamiliar and the positive familiar. This will change what you think and in turn, change how you feel.

Fights happen in all relationships. Discover what type of fighter you are by taking my quiz.

Simple Change Two

EXCHANGE NO & BUT for YES, AND. The second change you are going to start making today is dropping the words No and But in response to your partner. These are isolating and distancing words when used to disagree. No shuts the conversation down immediately. And when you say “yes, but” you are really just saying No. These close you off. Instead, you are going to substitute these words with Yes, And. When you respond with Yes, And you join your partner in a conversation or idea. This simple shift opens you up to collaboration and cooperation.

Now, do this, please:

Your first step is awareness. Starting right now I want you to become conscious of using the words No and the phrase Yes, But when you respond to people, especially your partner. Just see how often these words come out in conversation.

Your second step is substitution. Now that you are growing your awareness, you are going to start to change your language. When you start to say No or Yes, But in disagreement, I want you to say instead YES, AND. See if you can rephrase your response in an accepting way.

Here are a couple of examples:

Your partner says: “Would you like to go out for dinner with me?”

You could say: “NO” or “YES, BUT I am not going to that place you like tonight.”

INSTEAD try: “YES, I would like to go to dinner with you AND, do you think we could try that new place down the street?”

Your partner says: “Why are you so late?”

You could say: “NO, I am not late” or  “YES, I am late, BUT you don’t understand the day I had.”

INSTEAD try: “YES, I am sorry I am late AND can I tell you about my day, it has been really rough. I need a friend today.”

The goal is to change your interactions from defensive and negative to accepting and positive. Just give it a try, as many times as you can. You will get it!

Why are you going to do this? For two reasons:

  1. Defensive and negative reactions make bad relationships. You have two choices with your partner, to go at them hard or soft. No, and But are hard replies that push you apart and make you feel crappy about each other. Yes, And is soft. It allows you to lean into each other. It creates good feelings and makes you want each other to win. It is so simple to choose a soft reaction.
  2. You and your partner will like each other more. Yes, And is the language of success and the foundation of friendship. Think about how good you feel when someone says Yes to you, when they accept you, your thoughts, your desires. Then, when they take it a step further and add to your idea, expand on your desire, join in your thoughts, these are the people worth your time and energy. Be that person for your partner, and you both will win!

So there you go, Two Simple Changes you can make today! Whether it is ribs or relationships—we are all just looking for what to do to make things great.

(Hey, if you liked this post I think you will like my new book Relationship Reset and the Relationship Reset online experience. They are both full of these types of simple actions and insights that help couples.)

Until we meet again—Love each other well

Jen Elmquist