I consider myself a low-maintenance love partner. (I hope my beloved agrees.) That’s because I don’t think relationship problems have to be a big deal. We talk about issues that come up, figure them out, and move on. I like to stay sunny and optimistic. If love isn’t fun and easy, then what’s the point of being in a relationship?
That’s why I was gratified to read the new advice book by couples’ therapist and bestselling author Elliott Connie, called The Solution Focused Marriage: 5 Simple Habits that Will Bring Out the Best in Your Relationship. Like me, Connie takes a decidedly upbeat approach to resolving relationship issues. The big idea of the book is this: when couples focus on the progress they’re making, rather than the problems, issues and conflicts get resolved quickly and easily.
Connie is a psychotherapist and the founder of the Solution Focused Training Institute in Dallas. He travels the world speaking at conferences and training clinicians interested in using Solution Focused Therapy in their work with couples and families.
The Solution Focused Marriage is not long — you can read it in about an hour — but it’s pithy. It lays out five straightforward behaviors to try with your partner. And that last part is key. If you go through these steps with your partner, the two of you will see immediate and significant changes in the relationship. Connie has used this approach with thousands of clients and claims it has profound effects–especially when these five behaviors become habitual.
For each of the following steps, Connie includes a simple exercise or activity to do together that makes the concepts immediately concrete.
In step one, you and your partner need to set a goal for the relationship. Connie encourages you both to develop a clear picture of what you want the relationship to look like — with at least 50 items in your list.
Second, have frequent discussions and share stories about your honeymoon phase. Recall what made each of you happy, and take a credit now for your past success.
Third, talk about the progress you’ve made. Discuss what’s best about your partner, yourself, and the relationship. Talk about positive outcomes, rather than problems.
Fourth, continue to date (each other, that is!). Make your romantic relationship a high priority, and find ways to make your partner happy.
And the fifth step is to function as a partnership. Connie says couples often take on roles that are gender-defined, rather than doing the things they are best at. He advises couples to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, and assign chores and responsibilities based on who does it best. He says this is the most efficient way to handle children, money, and household tasks with the least amount of conflict.
In every chapter, Connie brings the ideas to life with a story or example, and the exercises he includes are simple, straightforward, and fun.
If you’ve been thinking that your love relationship could use a tune-up, but you’re not up for couples’ therapy or, heaven forbid, a weekend workshop, read this book and work through Connie’s five steps.
Like me, he believes that love relationships don’t have to be a lot of work. If you focus on finding solutions, the problems won’t seem so daunting. Then you can get back to the fun and easy part of love.