Want your partner to work on your relationship as much as you do? Listen to this marriage therapist

After a while in a relationship, we tend to get comfortable; sometimes a little too comfortable. Weekly dates can fall by the wayside, check-ins can go forgotten, and even anniversaries — once a celebration of a life created together — can become just a another day in a month full of busy ones.

But it can be difficult to make the changes we and our partner need to to get back on track. Even if we acknowledge we’ve become lackadaisical about nurturing our relationship like we used to, it can take a lot of effort, and we’re all busy with kids, jobs, and friends. Books, magazines, and tools like the Emi Couple app can help with relationship tips and reminders, but what if we’re more invested in using these resources than our partner? I asked Emi Couple’s marriage therapist, Dr. Dominique Samuels, PsyD, about what to do when a partner is less than enthusiastic about using Emi Couple and other relationship tools.

Q: How do you suggest bringing up a relationship builder like Emi Couple to a partner who’s expressed hesitance about things like it in the past?

A: The first thing to understand if a partner is hesitant about Emi or other relationship building ideas is why. Ask your partner at a time that everything is calm, not in the middle of a fight or when things are tense. For many, the issue is either around hopelessness around efficacy, lack of time, or fear of disappointing their partner. Try to tackle whatever the concern is head-on. For example, tell them that Emi is a very low commitment and takes very little time. Remind them that just trying it out for a few days to see if they like it would mean a lot to you. If it feels worthy, keep it going. It is important to tell them that they don’t need to respond to Emi every day to have it be effective. Just a few times a week can change the dynamic between you.

Q: Are there particular tactics you suggest someone use in a conversation with a partner about why they think their relationship needs the help that something like Emi provides?

A: Whenever talking about something with a partner when you worry s/he may get defensive, use a lot of “I” and feeling statements. Take ownership of some of the problems or concerns you have and take responsibility of your part. That makes it feel less like a criticism or blame. And it is usually true! It takes two. For example, “I have been noticing that I have been taking you for granted. I’d really like to try to be more mindful of how wonderful you are. I’ve found a bot that will help me. I wonder if you would be willing to try it too?”

Q: What if a partner agrees to put the effort into something like Emi but then doesn’t use it? How can the effort to use Emi be more evenly disbursed between a couple?

A: Often, couples using tools like Emi do not do so with equal quantity of responses. But remember that effort can look different with each person. For example, it may be fairly easy for Alex to come up with a response to Emi’s reminder to “thank Charlie for something today” whereas it may be difficult for Charlie to reciprocate. This likely has nothing to do with Charlie’s gratitude. It could be because Charlie was not able to think clearly at the moment the Emi text came in. Or maybe Charlie was just busy! Look out for a different moment in the day when Charlie may be more thankful, just not in the text medium. My best advice is that the Emi app can work when only one member of the partnership is a highly active user. The concept is still getting “in there.” Take some time, relax, and let it take effect.

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