Are You and Your Husband Living Like Roommates? Then Maybe It Is Time for 'Romance Rehab: 10 Steps to Rescue Your Relationship'
Dr. Jan Hoistad, author and psychologist, shares her 10-step program for couples who want to repair and reignite their romance!
Dr. Jan Hoistad, author of Romance Rehab: 10 Steps to Rescue Your Relationship has advice on creating a list of positive interactions that can make a marriage more satisfying and joyful. She also has tips on creating a Big Picture partnership where both partner's needs are satisfied.
Commitment: What are some of the patterns and behaviors that contribute to an unhappy marriage? What are some of the negative "relationship dances" couples typically do that leads to dissatisfaction within the relationship?
Dr. Jan Hoistad: In my 30 years of working with couples, most of them would point to specific issues such as disagreements over household chores, schedules, how to raise the kids, different sexual rhythms, money management or spending disputes as eroding their love.
Much relationship advice attempts to fix these individual issues. This is like putting a Band-Aid on the problem. Typically the disagreements will continue to resurface.
In Romance Rehab: 10 Steps To Rescue Your Relationship I teach couples an approach - called the Big Picture Partnering style of relating. The Big Picture partnering style takes some of the confusion out of long-term relationships.
Romance Rehab educates couples and gives them the Big Picture tools so they can resolve and prevent problems going forward.
Common problematic patterns emerge when couples:
• Stop making their relationship a priority. They have not created a balance between kids, schedules, household chores and couple time and courtship.
• See differences as a problem rather than as an asset. They start to blame one another rather than seeing their issues as something to work on together.
• Don't have a common way to resolve conflict so the disagreements go under the rug where they trip on them over and over again.
Romance Rehab addresses the underlying ways in which couples relate and offers them real solutions. It educates them and gives them the tools so they can resolve and prevent problems going forward.
Commitment: Can you explain the four relationship styles, and what are some of the problems within the styles?
Dr. Hoistad: Romance Rehab starts by offering couples an overview of 3 common relationship styles (a traditional, merged, or roommate style) they may unconsciously fall into. These styles are often dissatisfying over time. Couples may exhibit on or a combination of all three styles which can be confusing to them.
• The Traditional style is one in which one person makes most of the decisions, either by choice or default. Sometimes a couple will exchange the dominant decision-maker role in the outside world and at home.
• In the Merged style, couples are not developing or expressing their full individuality. They blend their needs, wants and desires so they act as one, in a co-dependent or care taking way.
• The Roommate style is a common complaint of many couples. Decision-making in this couple is unilateral with each member bending to the other person’s decisions or choices. This often works until one person wants more, or until some major life decision is upon them (such as having a baby, a major move, a professional change, etc.) At that point Roommate couples lack the tools to work together.
Presenting the background of these three common relationship styles, Romance Rehab then gives couples a framework or a blueprint for a Big Picture partnering style of relationship.
When couples desire an equal partnership and learn the tools to partnering they can
• Consciously work in-sync with one another
• Support both individual and couple needs and goals
• Manage both daily details and big picture dreams
When I work with couples in coaching, counseling or workshops, the Big Picture partnering style is what couples tell me they want - though they may not know this language, nor do they know how to get there. I give them the framework and 10 basic steps they can use over the course of a lifetime - to develop and keep their partnership vibrant, connected and thriving.
Romance Rehab is for couples at all stages of relationship. It's not only for couples in trouble, but also for couples who want to prevent problems in the future or who want to put some spark back into their relationship now.
Commitment: What are the initial steps that lead to a Big Picture style relationship? Can you elaborate a bit on these initial steps?
Dr. Hoistad: I always tell people, “If you do nothing else, start with these basic steps and continue to do them always.”
• Before learning a new approach I ask all couples to discontinue any negative behaviors they have been doing while they practice a new way of relating. I ask them to sign a Do Not Fight Pact that says they agree to stop fighting for now while they learn a new way of thinking about their relationship and a new way of communicating. When they begin to feel better about one another and more successful in their communications, old issues are easier to discuss in an effective way.
• Once couples stop fighting, they need to refresh the positive interactions between them. These are the little things they used to do during their courtship that made one another feel special and cared about. They need to increase the ratio of positive-negative interactions so that for one negative they are doing at least 5 or more positive to keep the emotional savings account high. This is called the 5-to-1 positive-to-negative ratio.
• Then they practice regular talking and listening to develop an on-going thread of communication about things that are important to each of them. When life is busy and they do not have much time to talk, at least they have small, consistent and quality time of talking and listening that keeps them connected.
• To replace old conflict, in Big Picture partnering, couples agree to put everything "on the table" rather than between them where they blame one another. If couples see everything as a partnering issue, they can begin to work on them together, become more creative in how they problem solve together, put both of their uniqueness to work on resolving problems together. They begin to smooth out the daily details together, so they can also regain their Big Picture dreams together.
Commitment: You mention to “5-1 Ratio.” What is it and how does the "5-1 Ratio" can make a partnership rock solid?
Dr. Hoistad: The 5-1 Ratio comes out of 30+ years research done by Dr. John Gottman. His study of thousands of couples can predict the behaviors couples do or do not do that lead to long-term marriage or lead to divorce. One of the predictive behaviors I use in the Big Picture partnering style is keeping these positives high.
Gottman finds that for every one negative interaction you need five or more positives to offset it. This becomes the emotional savings account so when difficult times happen your cup is half full, not half empty.
Commitment: How can creating a list of pleasing actions help one another feel more loved in a marriage?
Dr. Hoistad: To help couples rediscover the positive interactions in their relationship, I ask them to make lists of some of the nice things they do for one another, or they did for one another during their courtship.
After couples are together for a while, they often take one another for granted, forgetting to do the nice things that attracted and brought them together in the first place. These are the behaviors that made them feel loved and want to be with that person.
Commitment: Shouldn't our partner automatically know what pleases us and makes us feel loved? Does it mean they don't love us if they haven't paid attention to what we like and don't like?
Dr. Hoistad: People often think that if their partner truly loved them they would “just know” what they wanted. Actually this is called “mind reading” and it is found to be detrimental to couple longevity. Mind reading can actually lead to misunderstanding and assumptions.
People want to know how to please their partner when they are in a long-term relationship. It is so much easier when partners simply ask for what they desire. Of course there is always the complaint, “But I’ve told him a hundred times…..” which is common. In Big Picture partnering, however, both parties are agreeing to listen to one another and work toward making both individuals happy, so they do not have to ask 100 times!
Commitment: Can you give us some examples of positive interactions that can make a partnership more solid and happy?
Dr. Hoistad: People often think of the “hearts and flowers” or Valentine level of interactions when this question comes up. All of that can enhance a relationship, however, it’s usually the little things that go a long way. Small acts of kindness are key.
Here are some examples:
• Please and Thank you
• Good morning and Good night
• A kiss or pat on the back
• Laugh at least once a day – together
• Pick up the dog poop
• Take out the garbage without being asked
• Take care of the kids so one of you can sleep in or have a nap
• Offer a foot rub or back rub
• Clean up when your partner has made the meal
• Do the grocery shopping or make a meal
• Take time to cuddle
• Turn off the TV and listen without interrupting
These are just a few. Think of how you’d treat a friend or a colleague. Most people automatically acknowledge they listen more closely, act more respectfully and attentively, and behave more cheerfully, etc. around colleagues and friends.
Long-term intimate relationships that prosper have a solid foundation of friendship that sustains them. Think kindness and friendship– then add the spice once in awhile.
Commitment: You mention that the children can be included in increasing the positives within the family. What can a couple do to include their children?
Dr. Hoistad: Children love to be included in making their family life more content! I encourage couples to plan a simple family meeting. These are usually sometime on a Sunday. Then ask everyone to contribute their ideas to making a list of positive behaviors or do’s and don’ts everyone can follow - including their parents! I call these Household Agreements.
Rather than approaching them as drudgery or punishment, approach the agreements as something positive that will benefit everyone in the family. Including the pets can also be something the kids enjoy. Post them on the refrigerator where all can see.
Again, on this list would go please and thank you, good morning and good night, lots of I love you’s, participation in household chores and activities, etc. – whatever that family wants to put on the list, but these are some of the basics.
I worked with one family who experienced the Sunday blah’s and everyone ended up getting irritable on this day. They decided to come up with a list of family agreements to help them make this a special day rather than a difficult one. Three young boys, mom and dad met every Thursday to plan a Sunday activity that would follow their tradition of going to church and out for muffins. The boys got to help choose not only the restaurant for muffins, but also contributed ideas for the activities. On top of that, this family had a monthly activity budget and the entire family got to help decide if they spent it all on a large activity once a month and then did free things, or if they spread out the budget over the course of the month.
This proved to be such an enjoyable and successful process for this family that they continue to do it even as the kids approach their teen years. Sunday is no longer a drudgery, they are connected as a family, the couple is happier with one another and feel more connected, it is great role modeling for the kids to learn how to put things on the table and become creative together meeting everyone’s needs, and so on.
Commitment: What prevents a lot of couples from creating a life that feels right and good to both of them?
Dr. Hoistad: Most couples want to do this. Two things get in the way.
First, they get bogged down in the daily details of life. These are the schedules, household chores and other life management aspects we all have to deal with every day.
If couples do not have an agreed upon way of dealing with these life aspects, they are going to get in the way of pursuing other more exciting, fun aspects.
Secondly, I find that couples simply do not have the tools or the skills to work together. Much of our role modeling lacks education in the “how to” aspect of working together. I think that every individual and every couple deserves to get their Ph.D. in positive relationship! As a culture we put lots of time and energy into learning our profession, we deserve to know just as much about how to create a positive relationship that will last us a lifetime.
Commitment: What is meaningful emotional connection? How can a couple achieve it? What prevents many couples from ever experiencing it?
Dr. Hoistad: I think what you are asking about is that word we call “intimacy.” As I say in Romance Rehab, is not just a feeling of being “in love,” it’s getting to know someone who is different than you and then making space for those differences and accommodating those unique qualities within a relationship.
Intimacy is seeing differences as an asset rather than a difficulty, with each partner bringing their special talents and skills, or viewpoint and perspective to the party. Two heads can be better than one from this point of view!
Oftentimes people are seeking that initial feeling of “in-love-ness” which makes them feel oh-so-alike. We call this the Honeymoon phase of relating. Some people only want the honeymoon. True intimacy and connection that can last a lifetime requires couples to go further. They need to navigate through the differences that always arise when getting to know another person. Everyone is different. Everyone is unique. It is a false sense of security when couples think they must always agree.
Actually what is important is that they listen and are open to one another’s perspective. Most people simply want to be understood. Once there is understanding of each other’s perspective or desires, then a couple can find ways to accommodate and meet those desires or needs.
Commitment: How can a couple develop the mindset of partnering so they can accommodate each of their individual needs as well as satisfying couple needs?
Dr. Hoistad: Agreeing to become Big Picture partners is an agreement that keeps couples on the same page. It helps them to work in-sync with one another. A Big Picture partnership perspective is like an “umbrella” that protects and reminds a couple to balance all of these aspects they value. Big Picture partners balance individual and couples needs. When a couple has children, the children’s needs are also a mutual priority they work to meet together.
In Romance Rehab there is a diagram of the three “worlds” that make up a full partnership. These are Your World, My World, and Our World. Becoming Big Picture partners allows couples to balance the needs of all three worlds.
In the Big Picture partnering style couples put their unique desires and needs on a “partnering table” where they learn to resolve their differences and meet their desires by coming up with mutually satisfying solutions.
Again, we are again talking about bringing a couple’s similarities and their differences to the table where they can partner on how to meet these needs. When couples stop fighting about their needs, when they put them on the table, they are agreeing they are in this together. It is like saying,
“We put our Big Picture partnership first because when we do so everyone’s needs get met. We agree that our aim is to meet both of our needs as well as to keep our mutual relationship world vibrant and alive. By putting everything on the table – and not fighting about it our blaming one another – we can use our unique talents, come together and come up with new and creative solutions.”
Commitment: What are some of the steps Romance Rehab offers that helps a couple create a mutually satisfying Big Picture partnership meeting the husband's dreams, the wife's dreams, and their mutual goals and activities? How do they accommodate the children’s needs?
Dr. Hoistad: Once a couple has stopped the fights, increased the positives, and once they are listening and talking regularly, I ask them to make lists of the things they would each like to accomplish this year. They do this separately at first, making lists of their goals – individual goals, couple goals and family goals if they have children. Then they share their lists and make a master list of goals. An example of this is in the book. Lists of goals include categories like:
Extended family relationships
Things we want to do for the children
Things we want to do with the children
They then prioritize their goals, put the main ones on the table to brainstorm ideas on how to meet the goals. When they have arrived at Win/Win solutions they agree to experiment and explore.
In Big Picture partnering they agree to support one another’s individual needs and aspects that go into the “our world” circle – the couple and family needs - are mutually agreed upon, mutually satisfying, and Win/Win for both parties.
In summary, Romance Rehab offers couples two handfuls of tools, the 10 Steps, in how to communicate and work together to create a solid and continuously satisfying relationship for couples who are committed to one another and to creating a vibrant life – for themselves and their family.
This is not rocket science! Anyone can learn these steps. And if a partner is not willing to read the book or pursue coaching or counseling, one person in the relationship can begin to make the changes. When one person changes it impacts the entire relationship.
To purchase Romance Rehab: 10 Steps to Rescue Your Relationship click here.
Dr. Jan Hoistad has 30 years experience as a licensed psychologist, educator, and coach in private practice. She works with individuals and couples at all stages, successfully teaching them to partner—in relationship, as parents, or in preparation for a new relationship. She specializes in helping couples reach new heights of intimacy and love through personal and interpersonal creativity.
In addition to serving as a therapist and coach with clients all over the globe, Dr. Hoistad conducts workshops and teleseminars. She has appeared on numerous radio shows, local television, and in newspapers and national magazines. Dr. Hoistad lives in Minneapolis.
For more information: www.drjanhoistad.com or
contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org