John and Julie Gottman are experts in researching what makes marriages last. They can determine whether or not a couple will stay married in just 15 minutes, with over 85% accuracy. Having researched over 3000 couples of various ages and sexuality over 32 years, they have studied various couples and have found what makes or breaks a relationship (Gottman, Making Marriage Work, 2006). They followed some couples for 20 years. Those who stayed married were called “masters” while those who got divorced or stayed together but were miserable were called the “disasters.” After following couples for fourteen years they were able to determine if and when a couple would get divorced (Gottman, audibles, 2006).
So often we think that being angry must be avoided in relationships including anything negative. According to the Gottmans, negativity is not necessarily a bad thing. Couples are going to be mad at one another; this can be constructive and actually increase intimacy if the communication is productive.
For instance, people naturally get angry at times in a relationship. To avoid anger is unhealthy. Some of the happiest couples fight; they just fight well. Along with this, according to the Gottmans, masters are able to be more positive than negative in their relationship. For instance, for every negative in a relationship, those who are masters give five positives to counteract one negative. In the couples who ended up divorced, they had .8 positives to 1 negative; so more negative than positive.
“You don’t want to get rid of anger…”–John Gottman, 2006
While this is true, the Gottmans say that there are certain types of negativity that can break a relationship. They call these The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (2006, Audibles):
- Contempt (#1 determinant of divorce)
Criticism: This entails complaining that your partner’s personality is defective.” For instance, “You are so selfish” “What is wrong with you!”
Defensiveness: This comes out of criticism because a lot of times individuals respond to criticism by being defensive. So for instance, individuals might complain with a counter complaint: “Well if you did ….then I wouldn’t do….!” Individuals may do the opposite which is whining.
Contempt: This form of disrespect is the number one predictor of divorce, according to the Gottmans (2006, audibles). This is talking down to one’s partner via insulting them with name calling. “What a jerk.”
Stonewalling: This entails emotional withdrawal; ignoring one’s partner; not responding or shutting down (2006, audibles).
If negativity isn’t all bad, but The Four Horsemen are to be avoided, what are ways of communicating in a healthy way to cultivate lasting intimacy and a long term relationship?
- Love Maps: This entails having a foundation of friendship in one’s relationship. This is so important to having a lasting relationship. Cultivating friendship is done via Love Maps which entails asking open-ended questions in one’s relationship. For instance, “How do you see our life in 5 years” “How did you feel when….” Instead of making statements, ask questions to get to know your partners wants and dreams. Do it daily.
- Sense of Humor: Couples who build a Love Map and have friendship are more apt to use humor in conflict. Lighten up!
- Culture of Appreciation: This involves communicating affection and respect (“Thank you”; “I really liked it when…”). Instead of looking for things to criticize it is crucial to scan the environment for things you can appreciate.
- Turning Toward: This has to do with small bids for connection throughout the day. When your partner talks to you, show that you are actively engaged and interested in their conversation (put you phone down!).
- Recovery Conversation: This has to do with leaning in when the going gets tough. Take responsibility even if you only had a small part.
Not all negativity is bad; however, there are four specific forms of negativity that can ruin a relationship; The Four Horsemen. Cultivating a lasting love relationship is possible with daily practice, including the tips listed above. Intimacy, passion, and sex are also possible with these positive tips! To read more about Gottman’s work, go to www.Gottman.com.
Know that you are all beautiful beings of light and so worth your recovery, dear ones!
Free Meditation every Friday 5:30-6:15p.m. call 801-272-3500 for more info.
Starting the last Tues in January and monthly for 2017, “Intimate Connections” Class with Candice and Cari! Offered to 12 couples for the year, we will dive further into Gottman’s work, explore sexuality, fantasy, connection, consent, trust, and desire, how to enhance your intimate and sexual connection longterm!
(*this class will replace our relationship class and will be specifically geared towards couples–other program participants will attend their regular groups the last week of the month).
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