There's a science to having healthy relationships...
Combining the knowledge and wisdom of nearly forty years of studies and clinical practice, Gottman Method Couples Therapy helps couples break through barriers to achieve greater understanding, connection and intimacy in their relationships. Through research-based interventions and exercises, it is a structured, goal-oriented, scientifically-based therapy. Intervention strategies are based upon empirical data from Dr. Gottman’s study of more than 3,000 couples. This research shows what actually works to help couples achieve a long-term healthy relationship.
Research shows that to make a relationship last, couples must become better friends, learn to manage conflict, and create ways to support each other’s hopes for the future. Drs. John and Julie Gottman have shown how couples can accomplish this by paying attention to what they call the Sound Relationship House, or the nine components of healthy relationships as well as avoiding what they call the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse.
The Gottman Method for Building Healthy Relationships:
1. Build Love Maps: How well do you know your partner’s inner psychological world, his or her history, worries, stresses, joys, and hopes?
2. Share Fondness and Admiration: The antidote for contempt, this level focuses on the amount of affection and respect within a relationship. (To strengthen fondness and admiration, express appreciation and respect.)
3. Turn Towards: State your needs, be aware of bids for connection and respond to (turn towards) your partner. The small moments of everyday life are actually the building blocks of relationships.
4. The Positive Perspective: The presence of a positive approach to problem solving and the success of repair attempts.
5. Manage Conflict: We say “manage” conflict rather than “resolve” conflict, because relationship conflict is natural and has functional, positive aspects. Understand that there is a critical difference in handling perpetual problems and solvable problems.
6. Make Life Dreams Come True: Create an atmosphere that encourages each person to talk honestly about his or her hopes, values, convictions and aspirations.
7. Create Shared Meaning: Understand important visions, narratives, myths, and metaphors about your relationship.
8. Trust: This is the state that occurs when a person knows that his or her partner acts and thinks to maximize that person’s best interests and benefits, not just the partner’s own interests and benefits. In other words, this means, “my partner has my back and is there for me.”
9. Commitment: This means believing (and acting on the belief) that your relationship with this person is completely your lifelong journey, for better or for worse (meaning that if it gets worse you will both work to improve it). It implies cherishing your partner’s positive qualities and nurturing gratitude by comparing the partner favorably with real or imagined others, rather than trashing your partner by magnifying negative qualities, and nurturing resentment by comparing unfavorably with real or imagined others.
The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse are what the Gottman's call "Divorce Predictors."
The Four Divorce Predictors And How To Avoid Them
These following are known as the most corrosive communication styles within a relationship. Here's a short clip that illustrates exactly what The Four Horseman look, sound and feel like.
When you criticize your partner you are basically implying that there is something wrong with who they are as a person. You have taken a problem between the two of you and put it inside your partner’s body. Using the words: “You always” or “you never” are the most common ways to criticize. Your partner is most likely to feel attacked and to respond defensively. This is a dangerous pattern to get into because neither person feels heard and both may begin to feel bad about themselves in the presence of the other. The antidote to criticism is to make a direct complaint (without blame) that is not a global attack on your partner’s personality.
When you attempt to defend yourself from a real or perceived verbal attack with a counter complaint, you are being defensive. Another way to be defensive is to whine like an innocent victim. Unfortunately, defensiveness keeps partners from taking responsibility for problems and escalates negative communication. Even if your partner is criticizing you, defensiveness is not the way to go and it will only fuel a worsening exchange. The antidote to defensiveness is to try to hear your partner’s complaint and to take some responsibility for the problem – owning even a tiny piece of it can be helpful.
Contempt is any statement or nonverbal behavior that puts yourself on a higher ground than your partner. Mocking your partner, calling them names, rolling your eyes and sneering in disgust are all examples of contempt. Of all the horsemen, contempt is the most destructive. Couples have to realize that these types of put downs will destroy the fondness and admiration between them and ultimately kill the friendship. The antidote to contempt is to lower your tolerance for contemptuous statements and behaviors and to actively work on building a culture of appreciation in the relationship. Is it easy? No. Can it be done? Yes. In Gottman therapy, there are many exercises to help you learn to reduce, repair and even eliminate contemptuous interactions.
Stonewalling happens when the listener withdraws from the conversation, purposefully. The stonewaller might actually physically leave or they might just stop participating in the conversation and appear to shut down. The stonewaller may look like he or she doesn’t care (80% are men) but that usually isn’t the case. Typically, they are overwhelmed and are trying to calm themselves internally. Unfortunately, this seldom works because the partner, especially if a woman, is likely to assume they don’t care enough about the problem to talk about it, and begin to escalate quickly. It can be a vicious circle with one person demanding to talk and the other looking for escape. The antidote is to learn to identify the signs that you or your partner is starting to feel emotionally overwhelmed (i.e. flooded) and to agree together to take a break. If the problem still needs to be discussed, then agree to readdress the issue when both partners are calmer.
Gottman Repair Checklist: The Magical Phrases That Every Couple Needs to Know
When the Four Horseman are present in your relationship or any conflict for that matter, it's important that you know how to repair or get back on track. A repair attempt is any statement or action - silly or otherwise - that prevents negativity from escalating out of control. So, have fun brainstorming what will and won't work for you and your partner by using the list below.