The Awful-to-Awesome 3-Step System for Couples

Dear Tamara,

My husband and I are drifting apart. I feel confident that there’s no-one else in the picture. However, I miss the fun, play and communication we used to have. I want to open a dialogue with him to get to the root of our issues, but I don’t even know where or how to start. Help!

Signed: Scared-of-Becoming-a-Divorce-Statistic

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Dear Scared-of-Becoming-a-Divorce-Statistic:

For the past 25 years I’ve been advising couples on how to navigate the choppy waters of love and relationships. As a result, I developed a highly effective system that helps struggling partners to re-connect in a respectful, joyful and loving way. I call this process From Awful-to-Awesome 3-Step System for Couples. This method is designed to assist you in getting to the root of what’s really going on in your relationship and to successfully communicate this to one another. Not only will you understand your own perspectives, needs and wishes but also those of your partner. For powerful results, please follow the three steps outlined below.

The Awful-to-Awesome 3-Step System for Couples

Step 1 – Thoughtfully and Thoroughly Answer the Following Questions

This step is designed to help you unearth your thoughts, feelings and behaviors that you’ve been operating from in this relationship. Each partner should have their own copy of this questionnaire and answer them separately. Please give yourself all the time needed to answer them authentically and honestly.

  1. Three things that you love/appreciate/admire about your partner.
  2. Three reasons why this relationship is in the condition that it’s in.
  3. Three things/issues you are willing to negotiate and possibly compromise on.
  4. Three things/behaviors about the other you wish would change.
  5. Three things/behaviors about yourself you wish would change.
  6. Three things/ behaviors that you are determined to change to improve yourself and/or this relationship.
  7. Three things that you’ve learned about yourself since being in this relationship.
  8. Three things that you are going through at this stage in your life.
  9. Three things that you believe your partner is going through at this stage in their life.
  10. Three things that just don’t work in this relationship any longer.
  11. Three things that would improve this relationship.
  12. The three most significant ways that you show love/care toward your partner.
  13. Three ways in which you desire to be loved/cared for by your partner.

Step 2 – Sharing Your Answers

This step is designed to help you achieve a healthy way to communicate what you’ve discovered from Step 1. Follow the bullet points below.

  • Create a quiet space for the next 20 minutes. Take care of any distractions, such as children (make sure they are settled or in bed), obligations and/or devices (turn off cell phones, TV’s, radio, etc.).
  • Sit facing one another. If giving eye contact is too uncomfortable for one or both of you, it’s okay to sit side-by-side or back-to-back so that there is no eye contact.
  • Choose who will communicate first and who is will listen by flipping a coin.
  • Set the timer for 10-minutes. The person who is to talk first reads question #1 and shares their answers along with any significant details and examples. If your 10 minutes are not up yet, then move onto the next question and answers. IMPORTANT: Please remember to be thoughtful and compassionate and stay away from language that is blaming, accusatory, unkind or punitive. **
  • The partner who is listening is not to talk or respond, but rather listen with your full and undivided attention, interest and even curiosity. If you are distracted, tell your partner that you will give him/her your undivided attention and energy at a certain time. IMPORTANT: Please hold back from commenting, giving your opinion or arguing about what’s being shared. You will have your turn to communicate. **
  • When the 10-minutes are up, switch roles of communicator and listener and follow the same process as above.

**If either one of you notice that you tend to be negative, pessimistic, critical, defensive, or withholding, I strongly recommend that you do Step 2 in the presence of a marriage counselor or a relationship coach.

Step 3 – Continue Healthy Communication

The goal of the communication exercise in Step 2 is to talk and listen one at a time. If you both have a sense that you can calmly continue to discuss your discoveries, then by all means, please do. Set aside time each week to do this healthy way of communicating by scheduling it in your calendars. With practice, you will find that communicating becomes easier and less awkward. In time, you may want to extend the 10-minutes each to 15-20 minutes each.

Congratulations! You’ve done a great job!!


Want free relationship advice right away? Take advantage of Tamara’s free 45-minute guidance session where you will finally get clarity and relief from your dating or relationship struggles. Whether you are single or are experiencing relationship upset, by clicking here, you no longer have to figure this out alone anymore. Yay!

XOXO Tamara

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