Dr. John M. Gottman has trained many marital counselors from Calgary and around the world. I have met a good number of them and they all praise his work. Gottman is described as North America’s most knowledgeable researcher in the area of successful marriage. Yet, I suggest you consider his concepts as described here to be useful in a broader context as in relationships in general. In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert, he describes his finding after following over 700 couples in seven different studies.
Gottman’s groundbreaking work was first published in 2000. Don’t let the year dissuade you. If you want to improve an intimate relationship his insights have proven to be reliable and impactful! By the way, my copy of the book is filled with highlights and scribbles. My sweetie, Les and I filled in the blanks and circled the Yes/No questions. Gottman’s work deserves praise for its fresh, well researched and accessible information and processes.
Gottman created The Love Lab. Here he discovered that he could predict with 91% accuracy which marriages will succeed and which will fail. He could predict this after watching how couples spoke and related. Sometimes, he could predict within 5 minutes!
He calls the indicators of a troubled relationship The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. These are a cluster of destructive behaviors. He also developed principles to build a solid and healthy couple-ship.
The Four Horsemen:
These behaviors signal trouble in the couple.
- Criticism is the act of finding fault. It has the intent of making yourself right and your partner wrong. Troublesome criticism includes judging your partner’s character.
- Contempt shows up in disrespectful words and body language. Negative comments include insults, name calling, caustic humor, sarcasm or mockery. Contemptuous body language includes sneering and eye rolling.
- Defensiveness is positioning yourself as a victim of an attack. When partners are defensive and do not take responsibility for their part of the conflict, they are not open to change. They also are not able to access their underlying and vulnerable feelings.
- Stonewalling is withdrawing from the relationship to avoid conflict. You may think you are acting in a neutral way. But when you withdraw you convey disapproval, distance and/or smugness. Some typical stonewall responses are stony silence, changing the subject or leaving.
Gottman’s principles provide a framework for the repair and building of a relationship. They take commitment to put into practice. But he provides practical exercises to complete and share with your beloved. All the building blocks are given to you.
- Enhance Your Love Maps: This means deeply knowing the other. It can include knowing his or her challenges, dreams, friends, beliefs, favorites of all kinds, and childhood experiences
- Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration: This means expressing appreciation, acknowledgment, pride, care, admiration, and adoration.
- Turn Toward Each Other: This means being, sharing and doing with one another. Build in everyday activities together. Gottman provides a comprehensive list of activities from shopping and cooking to paying the bills and listening to music.
- Let Your Partner Influence You: Here Gottman focuses on men who continue to expect traditional sex roles to be adhered to. He encourages men to engage in family life, better adapt to our culture of equality and allow themselves to be influenced by their wives.
- Solve Your Solvable Problems: This means to have respectful conversations about your complaints using plain good manners. Gottman provides guidelines to a soft and soothing approach to discussing problems. He also provides guidance for classic problems such as in-laws, money, sex, housework, and parenting.
- Overcome Gridlock: This means you did not find a solution to a significant disagreement. Gottman provides a system to help you move into acknowledging one another’s dreams.
- Create Shared Meaning: This means that together you can create a life filled with meaningful rituals, goals, and memories.
John Gottman Quotes:
- “People who stay married live four years longer than people who don’t.”
- “A peaceful divorce is better than a warlike marriage.”
- “Happy marriages are based on a deep friendship. By this I mean a mutual respect for the enjoyment of each other’s company.”
- “Couples who are contemptuous of each other are more likely to suffer from infections illness (colds, flu, and so on) than other people.”
- “It’s a biological fact; Men are more easily overwhelmed by marital conflict than are their wives.”
- “Couples often ignore each other’s emotional needs out of mindlessness, not malice.”
- “When a man is not willing to share power with his partner, there is an 81 percent chance that his marriage will self-destruct.”
- “The emotionally intelligent husband is the next step in social evolution.”
- “You don’t have to resolve your major marital conflicts for your marriage to thrive.”
- “Before you ask your partner to change the way he or she drives, eats, or makes love, you must make your partner feel that you are understanding.”
- “Scheduling formal griping sessions can prevent the spillover of everyday stress into your marriage.”
- “Acknowledging and respecting each other’s deepest, most personal hopes and dreams is the key to saving and enriching your marriage.”
Please check out these related posts:
How Emotional Coaching can Fix Your Relationship
Not Feeling the Love? How the Five Love Languages Can Help
Coupleship on the Rocks? How to Decide to Stay or Leave
Tried and True Relationship Advice That Sticks
Patricia Morgan MA CCC helps her readers, clients, and audiences lighten their load, brighten their outlook, and strengthen their resilience. To go from woe to WOW call 403.242.7796 or email a request.
If you enjoyed or benefited from this blog, please leave a COMMENT below and subscribe to my eNewsletter, Your Uplift.