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The one thing any couple can do for a better connection

Ask what is true about your partner today—not five years ago.

The one thing any couple can do for a better connection

If love were enough, all couples would be happy. The simple truth is relationships take work.


Most of us are willing to spend hours perfecting a skill or talent, yet we expect ourselves to be Masters of Relationships with little effort.

I had the honor of teaching the Gottman Method through a research study that was created to help low-income married couples with children. During that time, I witnessed how John and Julie Gottman’s work can help any couple, regardless of who they are or where they’re at in their relationship.

One of the first things I ask my clients is whether or not they’re willing to do the work to improve their relationship with their partner. Almost anything is possible when both people are committed to change.

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My favorite tool in the Gottman toolkit is a simple exercise that rekindles the romance and connection necessary to get a marriage back on track.

This exercise worked wonders for Sandra and David. When they first came to see me, their number one complaint was feeling like “they didn’t know each other anymore.”

After being married for 10 years and having three children, their marriage had undergone some serious changes. Their lives were hectic. David worked long hours and Sandra, who stayed at home with the children, was exhausted at the end of the day. There was little time or energy left for their marriage. Over the years they grew apart.

They felt like strangers, not lovers.

In our first session I explained Dr. Gottman’s concept of building “Love Maps.” Simply put, a Love Map is the map we create in our own head of our partner’s inner world–their dreams, hopes, fears, likes, dislikes and everything else we can gather.

If you’ve ever used Google Maps, you know that having a GPS system is really helpful when navigating a city. In the same vein, we also know that cities are constantly under construction. Try returning to your hometown 10 years later and you’ll discover that the roads have changed and your favorite corner store or restaurant is gone.

Just like a good GPS system must be constantly updated to work properly, we must also update our Love Maps of our partner if we want to continue to feel connected throughout the course of our relationship. In fact, Dr. John Gottman’s research shows that couples with detailed Love Maps have stronger relationships.

How to build a Love Map of your partner

To enhance your Love Maps, first make a list of some facts you know about your partner. I don’t mean age, height or weight, but the meatier stuff: their hopes, dreams, likes and dislikes.

These could be facts such as:

  • I know the names of my partner’s best friends.
  • I know what stresses my partner is currently facing.
  • I know my partner’s basic philosophy on life.

Take the Love Map Questionnaire to get an idea of how well you know your partner’s inner world.

From that list, create a list of questions you don’t know about your partner. Ask your partner to do the same.

When you’re both finished, talk about your Love Maps.

  • How up-to-date are they?
  • What’s changed?
  • Are there any surprises?
  • Be sure to ask and answer the questions on both your lists. Remember: no judgment. The purpose of this exercise is to reestablish a connection, not to blame your partner for what he/she doesn’t know.

In my work with Sandra and David, building Love Maps helped them learn new information about each other that brought them closer together. Once reconnected, they were able to more easily understand each other. When they both felt heard, understood and loved, their issues no longer seemed so difficult to deal with and were soon resolved.

If building a Love Map seems like taking the long way toward resolving your relationship issues, consider this: when we’re stuck in traffic and the most direct route isn’t working, taking the back roads is usually faster, more scenic, and ultimately gets us where we want to go.

With a little work and a willingness to learn a new skill, Sandra and David put their relationship back on track. You can do it, too.

Original story by Luis Congdon for The Gottman Institute.

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This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.



Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Chrissy Teigen/Instagram

When Chrissy Teigen announced her third pregnancy earlier this year we were so happy for her and now our hearts are with her as she is going through a pain that is unimaginable for many, but one that so many other mothers know.

Halfway through a high-risk pregnancy complicated by placenta issues, Teigen announced late Wednesday that she has suffered a pregnancy loss.

Our deepest condolences go out to Chrissy and her husband, John Legend (who has been by her side in the hospital for several days now).

In a social media post, Teigen explained she named this baby Jack.

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"We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we've never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn't enough," she wrote.

She continued: "We never decide on our babies' names until the last possible moment after they're born, just before we leave the hospital. But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack. So he will always be Jack to us. Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever."

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