Improving Your Relationship


Improving Your Relationship

John Gottman, a professor at the University of Washington, wrote a most interesting book in 1994, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail? Most previous books on relationships were written by therapists based upon their experience with a limited number of couples. Couples they worked with in their practices. Doctor Gottman's book is a summary of his research based upon data collected in laboratory type conditions. The data was gleaned from audio and video tapes of interactions of hundreds of couples. Below is a summary of the key points of that book.

    • Try to be empathetic: Understand that you’re both going through difficult times. Your partner is as upset as you are. Perhaps more so.

    • Try to focus on your mate’s positive qualities…the reasons why you were attracted to them at the start of your relationship. In this way, you can reduce the likelihood that damaging contempt will enter your relationship. Insults, name-calling, hostile humor, mockery, and inappropriate body language have no place in a relationship.

    • Try not to be defensive: Avoid denying responsibility, making excuses, negative mind reading (e.g., “I know she/he does not want to be with me”), cross-complaining, “rubber man/rubber woman” comments, yes-butting, repeating yourself, whining, body language. Try to accept your partner’s anger. Remember that anger is your partner’s way of getting your attention. Anger is a cover feeling. Underneath anger are hurt feelings

    • Try not to stonewall: Be open, willing to talk and discuss issues in your relationship. Carve out time, several days a week, to discuss your relationship. Stonewalling creates a negative marital environment that can be deadly to a marriage.

    • Try to give each other time to deal with emotions: Some of us need to talk a lot about how we feel in order to come to terms with our feelings, others need to go off and be alone to do that. Try to be accepting of the ways that the other deals with his or her feelings.

    • Try to give your partner positive attention: Remember that a ratio of 5 positive interactions (e.g., fun times out, pleasant conversations, good sex, etc.) for each negative interaction is necessary for maintaining a satisfying relationship.

    • Try to validate: Let your partner know that you understand him or her. An example of a validating statement is "I understand how you might be upset by…"

    Keep trying: The above are all skills, and skills get better with practice.