Monday, July 9, 2007

Marriage Monday

In his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Gottman says "happily married couples aren’t smarter, richer or more psychologically astute from others, but keep their negative feelings from overwhelming the positive ones."

After many years of marital research, Gottman states that he is able to predict the outcome of a marriage by noting the presence or absence of destructive behaviors. "I can make the prediction after listening to a couple interact for as little as five minutes." Couples who present with the following four behaviors will, Gottman believes, have unsuccessful marriages: criticism, contempt, defensiveness or stonewalling.

Criticism is different from complaining, according to Gottman. A complaint is bringing a difference of opinion or need to a spouse for discussion whereas a criticism involves making that complaint demeaning. "I wish you wouldn't drop your clothes on the floor," vs "you are such a jerk, I'm not your maid!"

Contempt in relationships can be seen through sarcasm, cynicism, hostile humor, mockery, eye-rolling or name-calling. Gottman views contempt as a way to convey disgust and when feelings of disgust are present, chances of reconciliation decrease. Stonewalling is easy to recognize. Reading the paper, watching TV, putting on a "stone face" in order to avoid conflict are all signs of stonewalling. In essence the individual is saying "I don't care." Defensiveness quickly and quietly erodes a marriage. When partners are defensive, they blame each other without taking responsibility for their own actions.

His research suggests verbal fights are not harmful to marriages as long as contempt, withdrawal, defensiveness and criticism are absent. These are a sign of a marriage in trouble.

Gottman's first book, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail gives detailed explanations of his marriage research and the behaviors present in failing marriages. In The Seven Prinicples for making marriage work, Dr. Gottman has put together seven principles essential to the success of any marriage.

  1. Maintain a love map.

  2. Foster fondness and admiration.

  3. Turn toward instead of away.

  4. Accept influence.

  5. Solve solvable conflicts.

  6. Cope with conflicts you can't resolve.

  7. Create shared meaning

Dr. Gottman's unique questionnaires and exercises will guide you on the road to revitalizing your marriage, or making a strong one even better.