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Individual and Couples Counselling in Calgary

  • Writer's pictureRovena Magidin

Relationships tools - Write it Down


woman writing in a journal

I’ve been sharing some of my favourite relationship tools here, the tools that I’ve used many a time myself, the tools I love sharing with couples I work with. Today is different, today I came across a new tool that I haven’t used yet, but I really want to try.


My husband, Rick, read it and thought - there’s no way anyone can really use this.

So I’m very curious - give it a read and tell me, would you use it with your partner? What do you think would happen?


This tool is called “Write it down”.

It comes from Dr. Gottman. I’m a big fan of Dr. John Gottman. The man is brilliant and funny. And real. He spent over 40 years researching couples and figuring out what works. If anyone knows anything about how relationships work - it’s him.


So here’s the idea:


When we get defensive, when conversation starts becoming overwhelming, when things escalate quickly - we gonna start focusing on ourselves. We'll focus on our thoughts, what we want to say, how uncomfortable/stressed/confused/attacked etc we are feeling.


We are going to have a hard time listening to what our partner is saying. But by focusing on ourselves we are only going to trigger them more. If your partner is not feeling heard, like most of us, they are just going to get louder, try to explain things in a different way (often adding to overwhelm) or storm out feeling frustrated or defeated.


So what can we do instead? We focus on our partner and we write down what they are saying.


You say: "Let’s slow down here, I really want to understand what you are saying, what’s important for you. Let me write it down".


“When I feel defensive, I try to write down everything my wife says. I remind myself that I care about her and she’s in a lot of discomfort, unhappiness, or pain. I am feeling defensive, but I will get my turn to talk.” What Makes Love Last? Dr. John and Julie Gottman.


What it does - it helps to slow things down. It helps your partner know that you care and care deeply. You care enough to put your own agenda on the back burner and to figure out what is that they are really saying. It gives you time to compose your thoughts. It gives you a chance to focus on what’s most important and not be lost in details


If you focus on them, and focus on them sincerely, you’ll be less reactive. You’ll be less likely to make that sarcastic remark, or turn the tables on them and blame them.


Remember you don’t have to agree with everything they are saying. By writing it down you are not signing a contract. All you are doing is trying to understand.


It has a chance to de-escalate a conflict, to slow things down enough for the two of you so you can talk about it and figure it out, instead of fighting.


But you see how it can backfire if you are already in a fight mode. Your partner is probably going to think you are mocking them. Or they might be so triggered they’d want you to write down everything they think is wrong with you. And it’s not about that.

If you are already in a fight state, do whatever you need to do to stop the fight. Maybe use Red light/Yellow light tool and come back to it later, when you are calm. Maybe then you can write it down?


In business, if there's a problem, someone would probably sooner or later get a notepad, or get to a whiteboard and try to map things out, to understand the problem, to have a visual representation. We have many tools that help us problem solve. In relationship, we are often stuck in the same fight over and over again, often for many years.


So, even if this practice sounds strange, I think it could be a beginning of something powerful. I see it like this - let's map out the vicious cycle we are in. The pattern of our conflict. Piece of paper, vertical line in the middle. My side of the street, your side of the street. Thoughts, feelings, triggers. Boundaries. Goals, needs, wants and longings. Past hurts. What do we have in common, what do we agree about. What do we understand about each other, what is it that we don't understand? Where exactly are we getting stuck? What can we do differently? What is our common goal, a desired outcome?


I think that would be pretty useful. What do you think?


Give it a try, let me know what you think, and as always, if you feel you could use some more help with your relationship - let’s see if I can support you. We are not meant to do this alone.

Book your free consultation here. I’d be happy to talk to you and answer your questions. I offer Couples and Individual Counselling in Calgary, and online around the world.


Gottman’s book “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” is fantastic and offers many tools that you can start trying right away



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