Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Myth vs. Reality: Debunking Relationship Dos and Dont's

In Monday’s post, we introduced you to the “Magic Five and a Half Hours a Week” that you can dedicate to your relationship in order to easily break down any barriers that may exist between you and your partner, and to feel that much closer to each other. Though it’s incredible that spending so little time can go such a long way, what you do with those hours, and the kinds of notions you hold about strengthening your relationship, are equally important. 

There is a great variety of theories out there regarding activities and beliefs that are a blessing or a curse to your relationship. Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the barrage of quick relationship fixes offered to couples on a daily basis by the army of bloggers, talk show hosts, and freelance theorists out there? Though it is no doubt presented for the most part with perfectly good intent, much of this advice is terribly contradictory. Much like quick fix weight loss programs, this type of relationship advice abandons any attempt to support hypotheses with research, basing guidance instead on personal opinion and anecdotal evidence. So much for science. 

In today’s post, we’d like to separate the fact from the fiction, using Dr. Gottman’s research to demystify some of the most common myths about relationship do’s and don’ts. In The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work, John Gottman illuminates the truth behind common misconceptions for techniques in strengthening your relationship:

MYTH: Communicating using active listening skills in attempting to reach conflict resolution will save your relationship.

REALITY: While active listening is certainly a useful skill, it alone cannot save your relationship. As Dr. Gottman points out, “even happily married couples can have screaming matches – loud arguments don’t necessarily harm a marriage.” We all have our disagreements, in a variety of different ways. So go ahead, break all those active listening rules! Keeping in mind your affection and love for each other, and remember that ending your arguments on a positive note can override natural variations in argumentative style.

MYTH: Neuroses or personality problems ruin marriage.

REALITY: Everyone is different, and often our little differences make us fall even deeper in love each other. If we were all the same, imagine how horribly uninteresting our conversations would be! Talking at the dinner table would be reduced to constant nodding and, between variations of “Honey, pass the salmon,” periodic declarations of agreement with your partner. The key in navigating conflicts arising from the natural differences you and your partner may have lies in being able to learn more deeply about our partner by asking questions when disagreements do occur. Discussing your partner’s fears, hopes, wishes, and desires beneath what on the surface may seem irrational can actually bring you closer together than ever.

MYTH: Common interests keep you together.

REALITY: You can see it now: you and your partner are walking hand in hand into your favorite used book store, smelling that old book smell, coffee in hand, headed for the Literature section. Romance is in the air. But wait! Just around the corner in Politics, a couple seems to be having a spat! Books are flying and tempers are flaring: “You idiot! Obama will never get enough electoral votes!” Clearly, enjoying the same activities can create incredibly strong connections between you and your partner, but these activities can also be a source of tension, depending on how you interact while pursuing your common interests.

MYTH: You scratch my back and…

REALITY: You may have seen those popular books, Porn for Women, filled with scandalous photographs of men doing household chores. The common portrayal of men as fundamentally incapable or unwilling to help out around the house is not only rather insulting, but not particularly true in most happy marriages. It seems to make sense that deals should be made in order to maintain a sense of fairness and balance in chores, and that in romance a kiss should meet a kiss and a smile should meet a smile. In reality, deal making and contracts, quid pro quo, mostly operate in unhappy marriages. Don’t keep score. Build connection and strengthen your relationship by freely offering each other positive overtures and support.

MYTH: Avoiding conflict will ruin your marriage. 

REALITY: Everyone has different methods of dealing with disagreements. A constant barrage of honest criticism, for example, may not be the best policy. Take Sam and Maggie for example. When Sam heads to the living room to watch the game, rather than getting in a tiff with him about the noise and constant TV watching, Maggie goes for a run, and comes back feeling better. When Sam is upset with Maggie, he goes into the backyard to play catch with their daughter. Each finds a way to self-soothe, and they go on as if nothing happened. Finding a middle ground that you both can agree on can allow you to talk things out when you really need to, while avoiding clashes over every trivial matter.

MYTH: Affairs are the root cause of divorce.

REALITY: This is actually nonsense. In the Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John Gottman cites research by Lynn Gigy, PhD., and Joan Kelly, Ph.D., from the Divorce Meditation Project in Corte Madera, California, who found that 80% of divorced me and women cited growing apart and loss of a sense of closeness to their partner as reason for divorce, as opposed to only 20 to 27% blaming their separation on an extramarital affair. The truth is that most affairs are not begun in an attempt to quench unfulfilled sexual desire, but rather in effort to find friendship, support, attention, caring, concern, and respect outside of a relationship that feels lacking in these qualities.

MYTH: Men are not biologically “built” for marriage.

REALITY: Certain theorists call upon natural evolutionary differences between men and women to argue that men have always been predisposed to have as many offspring as possible and follow successful reproduction with one female with a quick sprint to the next available, while women are inclined to nurture their young and attempt to keep the father close for protection; The conclusion they draw is that men are simply biologically more likely to have affairs. This is, in the modern world, not a particularly useful or accurate observation. It turns out that affairs have to do with availability of potential partners. As women enter the workplace in enormous numbers, they are now more likely to engage in extramarital affairs than men.

MYTH: Men and women are from different planets.

REALITY: We’ve all heard that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. This particular notion we may dispose of easily. We’ll do the math for you: Dr. Gottman states that “the determining factor in whether wives feel satisfied with the sex, romance, and passion in their marriage is, by 70%, the quality of the couples friendship… and for men, the determining factor is, by 70%, the quality of the couple’s friendship… so men and women come from the same planet after all.”

Dr. Gottman’s research has shown that relationships that go swimmingly differ from those which flounder according to their relative strengths and weaknesses along parameters he describes as the Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. On Friday, we will show you how you can apply those principles to your relationship in conjunction with your new insight into the shattering of these common misconceptions. We hope that the clarification of these relationship myths has been helpful. Apply this new perspective to your relationship every day, and watch it flourish and grow!

All for now,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Gottman, John, and Julie Gottman. "The Art and Science of Love: A Weekend Workshop for Couples" Workbook. Seattle: The Gottman Institute, Inc., 2000-2011. 84-86. Print.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Magic Five Hours a Week

Happy Memorial Day! Before we begin today's posting, we would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of all of us at the Gottman Institute, to say thank you to all those service men and women in our military who have defended this country courageously and valiantly, with a special remembrance to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice protecting our country. Thank you for all you do!

After observing couples who had attended a couples' workshop and continued to make gains in their relationship, Dr. John Gottman created the Magic Five Hours a Week to show couples how to reconstruct their week in a way that allows them to continually make positive connections and strengthen their relationship. We know that nearly every couple has a million excuses for why they don't spend enough time working on their relationship. Between work, chores, and family commitments, working on your relationship often falls somewhere near the bottom on the list of your priorities. When it only takes five hours per week to make your relationship a priority, there is really no excuse for not doing so!

The more you participate in these rituals, the more they will become a part of your everyday life. Some parts may seem awkward to you and your partner at first, especially if you are unused to showing affection, spending time together, or really sharing your lives with each other. Once you break down the initial barrier, your relationship will be opened up to a multitude of possibilities, allowing you and your partner to grow and to become closer.

The following is how Dr. John Gottman proposes that you organize your week with your partner:

Partings: Don't part in the morning without knowing one interesting thing that will happen in your partner's day that you can ask them about when you next see them. You can go your separate ways after a six-second kiss and an "I love you." 
This only take 2 minutes a day for 5 working days. In total that's only 10 minutes of your time a week!

Reunions: Reunite with a six-second kiss, followed by a stress-reducing conversation in which each of you share your frustrations, anxieties, and a brief recap of what happened in your day. Remember, this is a time for you and your partner to engage in active listening and provide emotional support. Rule: Understanding must precede advice! 
Spend 20 minutes a day for 5 days on reunions. Total is 1 hour and 40 minutes of your week.

Admiration and Appreciation: Find some way every day to genuinely communicate affection and appreciation toward your partner.
Dedicate 5 minutes a day to this for 7 days. Total of 35 minutes.

Affection: Kiss, hold, grab, touch! Playing together is a good thing, so don't forget to do it! Make sure to kiss each other before going to sleep and follow the admonition in Ephesians, "Do not let the sun set on your wrath." Let it set on affection instead! 
Spend 5 minutes of your day for 7 days on giving affection to your partner. This comes to a total of 35 minutes a week.

Love Maps: Make sure to update your love maps and use them to create opportunities to turn toward one another. Set aside time for a date with your partner to catch up on their life, resolve issues, and to just enjoy each other's company.
Spend a total of 2 hours a week having this quality time together.

As we've said before, even the smallest of changes can have huge positive impacts on your relationship. It only takes five and a half hours per week to connect with your partner, to be involved in their life, and to move your relationship forward. There is no reason not to make your relationship a priority, so start the Magic Five Hours this week and watch where it takes you!

Have a good week,
K. Peterson
TGI Staff

Gottman, John, and Julie Gottman. "The Art and Science of Love: A Weekend Workshop for Couples" Workbook. Seattle: The Gottman Institute, Inc., 2000-2011. 78. Print.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Gottman Institute in the News

Happy Friday! By working together with your partner this week to make your life goals and dreams come true, you have made it through the fifth week of the Sound Relationship House Series. Congratulations!

With that said, we have been very active in the media since the Sound Relationship House Series began in April and we would like to take this opportunity to recap The Gottman Institute in the news.

Anderson Cooper
On April 18th, Dr. Gottman sat down with Anderson Cooper on national television to discuss the “Four Horsemen” – the four negative patterns in a relationship that can predict divorce. You can watch clips from the broadcast here. After the show, Anderson had this to say about Dr. Gottman:

KUOW 94.9 FM 
On May 3rd, Dr. Gottman was featured on KUOW 94.9 “The Conversation with Ross Reynolds” and spoke about the science of relationships. Click here to hear the conversation on love, marriage, and sex, as well as Dr. Gottman’s answers to questions from callers. 

The Huffington Post
Dr. Gottman’s appearance on Anderson Cooper was featured on The Huffington Post. Click here to see what they had to say about the television broadcast.

On May 12th, CNN ran a mother’s day article featuring Dr. Gottman’s 5:1 magic ratio for positive to negative comments in a relationship. Click here to read the article. 

On May 17th, Dr. Gottman and his research were featured on The Chart, which is a CNN blog written by Ian Kerner. Click here to read the article, which explains what straight couples can learn from same sex relationships. 

The Wall Street Journal
On May 15th, Dr. Gottman’s 5:1 magic ratio was featured in an article written by Elizabeth Bernstein of The Wall Street Journal. Click here to read the article, which looks at “why we are whining more these days and the need to cut it out.”

The Washington Post
On May 10th, Jennifer Kogan of the Washington Post ran this article on "how to feel closer to your partner while raising a family." The article reveals that according to Dr. Gottman's research, 67% of couples express marital satisfaction during the first three years of their baby's life.
On May 18th, Laura Schaefer of ran this article about Dr. Gottman’s 5:1 ratio, explaining that “healthy couples make a minimum of five positive comments or gestures to each other for every negative one.” 

Men's Health
On May 11th, Men’s Health ran this article on the “five signs your relationship is over” featuring Dr. Gottman’s research. It quotes Katie Ramsburgh, marriage and family therapist with The Gottman Institute.

The Herald Sun
On April 21st, the Herald Sun, an Australian newspaper, ran this article entitled “How To Make a Marriage Work.” It emphasizes Dr. Gottman’s philosophy that while conflict causes unhappy relationships, it is how you handle it that matters.

We are excited about the recent, increased attention that the Gottman Institute has been getting in the media and we owe it all to your continued following and support. Thank you! Remember, you can follow us on Twitter (@GottmanInst) and Facebook. Look forward to new and exciting products, services, and events from the Gottman Institute in the upcoming months.

Have a great weekend!
Michael Fulwiler
TGI Staff

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Make Life Dreams Come True: How to Support Your Partner

Your involvement in your partner’s life dreams can come in many different forms. Sometimes just listening to your partner’s dreams can be enough, but often it takes more involvement with your partner to help make their life dreams come true. Remember that this is a mutual process, with you and your partner each discussing and taking action together in pursuit of both of your dreams. Once you and your partner have come to understand what it is that you each desire and why these desires are important to you, you can begin to discuss how you can help each other achieve your dreams or to come to a compromise that you both can be satisfied with. 

In today's post, we will be helping you to brainstorm some different ways to support your partner’s dreams. In order to develop plans that work for the both of you, make sure that you explore all of your options and that the needs of both you and your partner are met.

Financially supporting your partner. If you feel uncomfortable participating in your partner’s life goal, or feel that their dreams are something that they need to accomplish on their own, you still may be in a position to provide monetary funds so that your partner can live out their dream. When having a conversation that includes this possibility, make sure that you realistically discuss how this will work, if anything will have to be sacrificed, and how you can come to an agreement where you both feel comfortable with the outcomes.

Providing moral or emotional support for your partner. Your partner’s life dream could be very personal, and the only kind of support you can really give is by being there for them, listening to them, and being a stable and loving presence in their life. A dream requiring this kind of support may be a spiritual journey, a goal to emotionally recover from past hurts, or a reflection on their life in order to reprioritize what is most important to them.

Joining your partner in their life dream. The opportunity to be an active participant in your partner’s life dreams is a truly amazing opportunity to foster connections, find shared meaning, and create memories of trust, fondness, and appreciation. It is important that you and your partner live out dreams together as a team, providing support and love for each other in the significant moments of your lives.

Providing logistical support for your partner. Another way that you can help your partner live out their dreams is to be their number one support system. This means contributing more to household chores, childcare, groceries, running errands, and helping with transportation. Often what is holding your partner back from living out their dreams are all of the commitments and responsibilities that take up their time. Relieving some of those duties, even the smallest of time commitments, can make an immense impact in their abilities to accomplish their life goals.

Achieving your life dreams can be much more feasible with help of your partner. Often the process of pursuing your dreams with your partner will be more rewarding than the actual outcome. By working together, you will create memories along the way that will deepen the emotional connection in your relationship in ways you never thought possible. It is a very special thing to be able to make your partner’s dreams come true. Good luck!

Have a good week,
K. Peterson
TGI Staff