Timothy J. McCarthy, PhD, LP, LMFT
Welcome to this journey of self-exploration into how to have an extraordinary relationship-marriage. Here are the 14 key areas to rate individually and explore with your partner. Actually, all but the first 4 rating areas are common relationship-communication secrets to achieving triple success in: (1.) leadership, (2.) romantic relationships-marriage, and (3.) parenting. So if you focus first on improving these skills in your relationship with your partner and then also apply them at work as well as in parenting, you can achieve triple success!
The purpose of this process is to engage in open, honest discussion for discovering what areas you want to improve in your relationship. The ultimate goal is to deepen your level of love and closeness. First, you and partner should each complete the self–evaluation independently and then sit together to discuss and share differences as well as similarities in perception about each of these relationship areas.
The ratings you make with your partner will be subjective—this is not a “scientific test” for normative comparison to other couples, it is meant only to promote the necessary open dialogue to stimulate new ideas to enhance your relationship. Here is a summary of the four vital areas that you will explore with the goal of having an extraordinary relationship:
- The Four Types of Closeness
- Communication Effectiveness
- Managing Conflict
- Positive Love-Building Skills
Please download this form. Rate how well you and your partner function in each of these key relationship areas using the “Rating Guide” below. Each area often has multiple aspects to it, so please just give an overall “average” rating for the area and make liberal written comments regarding specifics within it needing improvement. Also please make notes about what new actions you might want to take to help achieve your vision for an extraordinary relationship. Then sit with your partner and start an open discussion. Brainstorm to decide which areas you want to make improvements in and what you will do to make it happen. See Dr. McCarthy’s book for detailed specific action steps, tools, and love deepening practices for how to make transformations in each of Note: Couples with very severe problems who are unable to communicate without conflict even over minor issues should not attempt to engage in sharing their self-evaluations of the relationship with one another without the assistance of a marriage.
Four Types of Relationship Closeness
1. Conversational Intimacy: _______
Taking time every day for a minimum of 5-10 minutes (preferrably more) to talk about your day and to also have other conversations about family, friends, current events, or other interesting tidbits of information. Part of this time is ideally one–to–one with full attention but it may also need to be “in motion” when busy doing other things (for example cooking, taking care of kids. etc.).
2. Shared Activities/Interests: _______
Engaging in shared interests/activities frequently throughout the course of the week. This may include watching favorite TV shows together, going for walks, date nights, etc. For parents with kids it includes all the shared activities involved in raising the children together as a team and developing the kids.
3. Physical Affection (Non-Sexual): _________
Nurturing the relationship with frequent physical touch and affection. This includes not just the expected goodbye and returning home kiss but other physical touch such as holding hands, putting your arm around your partner, snuggling, etc. Most important, the form of physical affection should be in the way one’s partner desires it according to their unique expressed love needs.
4. Sexual intimacy: _______
Taking time for a loving, mutually satisfying sexual relationship. This means that the needs of each partner and any differences between you have been openly discussed. Both seek to mutually understand one another’s sexual and emotional needs for closeness that may need to be fulfilled for a satisfying sexual relationship. Both explore and recognize differences that may need to be respected.
5. Listening Skill: _______
Pay attention and suspend one’s own personal bias; have good eye contact while being fully present and focused on your partner speaking to you and not try to “fix” the problem (common problem for men). Find the merit to your partner’s opinions and express it to him or her.
6. Empathy: _______
Ability to truly listen to the feelings of one another and help each other feel understood and appreciated for what one is going through.
7. Nondefensiveness: _________
The ability to remain nondefensive during difficult or conflictual conversations; refraining from too quickly becoming angry, upset, or emotionally reactive.
8. Non-Interrupting: _______
Allowing one another to speak without interrupting, especially in stressful or challenging
9. Remaining Calm in Conflict: _______
Staying calm, making the effort to both talk respectfully and de-escalate from angry
10. Avoiding Verbally Aggressive Voice Tone and Words _______
Making conscious efforts to avoid accusatory, blaming, sarcastic, or verbally aggressive voice tone, as well as inflammatory language during conflict situations.
11. Refraining From Negative Generalizations/Assumptions_________
Being careful to avoid making negative generalizations—you always, you never—or make assumptions about malicious intent—you were trying to hurt me—during difficult or conflictual conversations. Focus only on specific behavior, not assumptions.
12. Giving Positives and Appreciation: _______
Giving complements and appreciation to each other: you look beautiful/handsome today, that’s a nice shirt/blouse you’re wearing, thank you for cooking the dinner, cleaning the house, etc. Research shows the most successful marriages have a higher frequency of positives to negatives (ratio of 5:1).
13. Random Acts of Kindness _______
Going out of your way to do some small kindness or something special for each other (back or foot rub, offer to cook dinner/cleanup, etc.).
14. Love Affirmations: _________
Go beyond the simple I love you by taking the time to make a more profound expression of something special about partner or how you feel about each other—I’m so happy that I married you; I love the wonderful talks we have; I really am so happy sharing my life with you!
Please look over all of your above ratings/comments and indicate the areas that are, in your opinion, of greatest, most critical importance to improving your relationship. Please be as specific and as detailed as possible. In other words, what are the highest priority areas in need of development for achieving your vision for an extraordinary relationship?
After identifying these areas, make note of them below. Then begin the process of designing your plan for how to make your desired changes (see Dr. McCarthy’s book for a menu of new skills, tools, and action steps to help you each of these areas).
© All rights reserved by Timothy J. McCarthy, Ph.D., 2016