Switch therapy may be the relationship remedy of the future, but a new mate isn’t the only fix for a faltering love life.
Seven Year Switch expert Dr. Jessica Griffin confirms that switching dysfunctional thinking and communication patterns can be just as effective as switching partners. “You don’t need an experimental spouse to see if the grass is truly greener,” she says. “Water your own damn grass.” Here’s how, with three Switch Therapy lessons you can apply in your own backyard.
Take a Break
Take a few days away from your spouse to get some clarity. While it’s tempting to binge on romantic comedies and margaritas during rare spells of “me” time, Dr. Griffin suggests more fruitful pursuits: journaling about the relationship or practicing self-care, like exercise, meditation and talking through your situation with people you trust. The goal is to reflect on what’s missing from your marriage without the usual distractions.
One word of caution: Agree on the number of days away before you set off on individual retreats. Says Dr. Griffin, “You don’t want three nights to turn into three weeks.”
Complaints are like a tub of popcorn: once you start, you can’t stop. Dr. Griffin admits that the best way to prevent overdoing it is to not do it at all.
“Try a day of no complaining,” the expert explains. Stop narrating your spouse’s shortcomings not only to them, but also to friends, family and colleagues.
“It’s actually quite challenging, but it’s a highly effective way to break out of the negative thinking patterns we’ve established for ourselves and our partner.”
If you survive a complaint-free day, Dr. Griffin advises aiming for a week. Just as focusing on the negative can make you and your spouse resentful of each other, looking at the positive can make you both more appreciative. “You’ll be amazed at what a remarkable impact one minor tweak can have on your relationship,” says Dr. Griffin. “Your spouse will feel more loved and will likely reciprocate with what you feel you’re missing, whether it’s physical affection or kind words.”
Believe it or not, intense conversation isn’t the answer to every relationship woe. Dr. Griffin prescribes meditation to most of her clients and colleagues. As we tune in to a challenging situation, we’re often filled with less anxiety and anger, and our relationships improve. “Along with mindfulness, it can actually retrain and rewire our brains to be calmer, more aware, more loving and happier people,” she says.
And no, a yoga degree isn’t required — you just need 10 minutes a day and an app that can offer gentle meditation guidance (there are dozens in any smartphone or tablet app store). “Although I’m a huge proponent of ‘talking it out,’ there are some instances where we need to shut up,” Dr. Griffin acknowledges. “Silence is powerful, and meditation teaches us that in this moment, regardless of what happened yesterday, we are okay.”