In the course of 30 years of studying marriages and working withcouples, Dr. John Gottman recognizes that creating and maintaining a foundation of love by means of friendship is a preventative tool in decreasing the intensity of marital conflict. In his work with couples, Dr. Gottman promotes the necessity of maintaining emotionally healthy marriages in order to decrease and/or prevent the probability of divorce. In his effort to inform couples and with the hope of sparing the emotional turmoil that can lead to divorce, he sheds light on the six predictors of divorce:
1st sign: Harsh Start up during arguments: According to Gottman, arguments begin and end on
the same note. A harsh start up contributes to an unproductive argument that ends with
one or both spouses feeling attacked and blamed.
2nd sign: The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse: 1)Criticism; 2)Contempt;3)Defensiveness; 4)Stonewalling
3rd sign: Flooding: Spouse is shell shocked by negativity and exhibits emotional and physiological
4th sign: Body Language
5th sign: Failed Repair Attempts during argument
6th sign: Bad Memories – spouse(s) rewrite their past with lense of negativity
Keeping in mind these six predictors of divorce, Gottman offers hope for creating an emotionally sound marriage – the following, according to Gottman, are Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work:
1. Building Love Maps: This foundational step requires that spouses pay attention to detail in each other’s lives. This is an exercise to foster emotional intimacy and to allow each spouse to feel known and understood. This can be as simple as sitting down at designated time each day and asking each other questions about likes/dislikes, thoughts, ideas, feelings. It is an exercise devoted to “checking in”.
2. Nurture Fondness and Admiration: Gottman has identified fondness and admiration as the two most crucial elements in a rewarding and long lasting romance. A primary reason for this is that the more a spouse is in touch with deep seated positive feelings towards their spouse, the less contempt there is within the marriage. This principle is focused upon the power of positive thought and Gottman states that if a couple has fondness and admiration within their marriage, the marriage is salvageable.
3. Turn Towards Spouse instead of Away: Partners make “bids” for attention, affection, support and if the other spouse can be aware of these bids and turn towards their partner the couple builds the basis for a strong emotional connection.
4. Let Yourself be Influenced by your Partner: Gottman states that accepting influence is an attitude and skill and he encourages each spouse to respect the other and be emotionally responsible for oneself while making decisions and while experiencing conflict.
5. Solve Solvable Problems: Couples must learn new approaches to solve conflicts and this can be done in such ways as: soft start up (no criticism/contempt, direct complaints), compromise (accept influence) and be tolerant of other’s faults. Gottman encourages couples to treat one’s spouse as you would a guest in your home, to be sensitive to others feelings, especially when attempting to solve a solvable problem.
6. Overcome Gridlock: The goal here is not to solve the problem but to move into true dialogue with each other. This means seeking to understand the cause of the perpetual conflict and recognize the one or both partners are not having certain dreams met.
7. Create Shared Meaning: In creating shared meaning couples create an inner life together – they blend their sense of meaning and create rituals, roles and personal goals within their marriage in order to live out the day to day tasks with a deeper meaning, rooted in honoring each other’s dreams.
The Refuge Center for Counseling not only offers individual and family therapy, but therapy structured specifically for couples. If you are in need of pre-marital counseling, at a crossroads in your marriage or in need of someone to journey with you and your spouse as you rediscover your commitment, please call 615-591-5262 or visit www.refugecenter.org for more information about our services.
Information taken from the book: The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman.