100: Attraction - How to Sustain It and How to Revive It - with John Gottman and Sue Johnson

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How do you sustain attraction in your relationship over the long term? What can you do if you no longer feel “the spark” with your partner? And, what can you do if your partner no longer feels attracted to you? In today’s episode, we’re going to cover the mysterious force that brings us together when it’s there (and sometimes tears us apart when it’s not there): Attraction. And to celebrate the 100th episode of the Relationship Alive podcast, we are joined by two very special guests: John Gottman AND Sue Johnson. John Gottman and Sue Johnson have both been with us here on the podcast before, and our conversation today will reveal to you some surprising, well-researched truths about what fuels the spark in your relationship.

The good news: While most relationships go through difficult times in which one or both partners can feel disconnected, the good news is that desire and connection can be rebuilt. This is almost always the case, even after a major betrayal. That said, while most couples can go from disinterest and disengagement to passion, it is difficult to find desire from a place of disgust. When a person is repulsed by another’s appearance, taste or smell, there is no a lot you can do. If, however, it is just that the attraction has waned then there is much to rediscover and rekindle!

Not quite feeling it? Are you experiencing a lack of desire in your relationship? Does it seem like the spark is dim? Research shows that when desire is missing it is due to the fact that one is not being responsive to their partner. It is not, as many assume, caused by a deficiency in your partner but rather in yourself. In some ways it is like the old mother’s quip about “if you are bored it is because you are boring”. So much of what we experience in relationships is a reality of our own making. While this realization can feel daunting and humbling, it is also the key to feeling empowered and remembering we are agents of change.

Unpack low desire and understand where the shutdown is coming from: A decrease in attraction to your partner should be viewed as a symptom, rather than a cause. You have to unpack the symptom of not being a attracted and look at the anatomy of it. What is at the core root of this? What might be causing this reaction? Often it has to do with responsiveness and the following trio of relationship dimensions:

The Trio: Responsiveness is the key to rekindling passion and connection in a relationship. Responsiveness can be broken down into the following trio of key relationship dimensions:


Building Trust: Trust is built through attunement and transparency. There should be no hidden agendas or secrets. You must take care to see each other and to truly listen. Tune in and receive each other and each other’s words with openness. Listen reflectively, with compassion versus defensiveness. Building Commitment: The key to building commitment is to make positive comparisons to real or imagined alternatives. You can build commitment by cherishing your partner and what you have and by nurturing gratitude for what you have together. When, instead you do the opposite and make negative comparisons to real or imagined alternatives you begin on a pathway of nurturing resentment for what is missing in the relationship and you begin on the pathway towards betrayal. Come back often to gratitude and appreciation for what is. Building Physiological Calm: Building physiological calm is a complex thing, however it is the crucial third leg of the stool that makes relationships solid, satisfying, and sustainable. Find mutual ways of relating to each other that are soothing and non-arousing. Through collaboration and togetherness you can create an experience of co-regulation in which you can feel calm, playful, and open.  

Respond to your partner: This trio of attunement, commitment, and calm must be constantly tended to. Be sure you are noticing and responding to your partner’s needs and emotions. This tuning in will in fact increase your attraction and your sense of closeness. By actively cherishing your partner you actively build passion! So don’t wait for moments to emerge to notice each other- build these moments into your everyday.

Post-betrayal growth: Growth and reconnection are possible even after the most difficult of experiences. In the case, however, of trauma - which many affairs can create - trust will not be rekindled unless the symptoms and effects of PTSD are addressed. PTSD- which involves a constellation of symptoms and emotions, is a natural reaction that occurs when someone is faced with an experience that overwhelms their ability to manage in a regulated way. To address PTSD for partners who have been betrayed due to an affair there must be a supportive process that involves the following 3 phases:

Atonement- The person who had the affair needs to listen openly and compassionately to their hurt partner and begin
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