Friday, August 31, 2012

An Introduction To Emotional Bids and Trust



In his research, Dr. Gottman observed that happy couples turn towards their partners approximately twenty times more than couples in distress during everyday, non-conflict discussions. In a newlywed study, newlyweds who were still married six years after their wedding had turned towards each other 86% of the time while in the lab. Those who were divorced six years later, however, had only turned towards each other 33% of the time. 

Every time you turn towards your partner’s bids for emotional connection, you are making a deposit in what Dr. Gottman calls your Emotional Bank Account. You add value to your account when you create and build on positive moments between yourself and your partner. These little moments add up, reminding the two of you of the feelings you have for one another, and of your commitment to supporting each other through all of the experiences you share. If you find yourself lost amid the everyday stresses of life, your investment in an Emotional Bank Account drastically diminishes the probability that these stresses will climax in some kind of catastrophic fight.

By keeping Dr. Gottman’s tips about bidding in mind, you and your partner can feel that you are in control and dramatically increase the stability of your relationship. Dr. Gottman describes positive responses to bids as “turning towards” your partner: being mindful, aware, and responsive to the small interactions that the two of you have. When we bid for our partner’s attention, affection, or support, their response generates a critical outcome. As we become used to receiving a pattern of acceptance or rejection of our bids, our feelings towards our partner are an enormous determinant of the success or failure of the relationship! To begin with, we ought to ask a question: What does accepting bids tell the bidder? Here is Dr. Gottman’s answer:

When you “turn towards” bids, the bidder hears:
  • I’m interested in you.
  • I hear you.
  • I understand you (or would like to).
  • I’m on your side.
  • I’d like to help you (whether I can or not).
  • I’d like to be with you (whether I can or not).
  • I accept you (even if I don’t accept all your behavior). 

In our next few blog entries, we will offer you some of his research-based methods for improving your ability to receive bids in ways that strengthen the trust in your relationship! For now, practice the skills we taught you in our most recent blog posts on Dr. Gottman’s Four Steps of Emotional Attunement & Intimate Conversation with your partner, and start feeling the trust you share grow. If you’ve found our discussions of trust helpful, look forward to the release of Dr. Gottman’s new book What Makes Love Last?: How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal

All for now,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What Makes Love Last: Expressing Compassion & Empathy Part II



As we promised, in today's posting we will give you examples of how to apply Dr. Gottman’s skills for bringing compassion and empathy into your intimate conversations. As we mentioned before, while the concepts are pretty straightforward, they can be a challenge to practice in real life. If you find yourself realizing that implementing a change in your approach to such conversations feels difficult, don’t get discouraged! Just remember Dr. Gottman’s advice: No opinions or problem solving until you’ve gone through the four steps of attunement. Immediate advice may sound glib and insulting to people. They may think to themselves, “Does this person think I’m so dumb I can’t come up with my own solution?” This probably rings bells - the irritating bells of indignation.

Here is an illustration of two possible conversations between Cheyenne and Will, a young couple walking home from dinner with their mutual friend, Abby. The first example is a failed attempt at expressing compassion and empathy in a bid for intimate conversation:

Cheyenne: I couldn’t believe how Abby reacted when I brought up the elections. What a crude attempt at changing the subject! Who does she think she is? Just shutting me down like that…
Will: Abby just doesn’t like political conversations. You know she’s Republican. Next time, you shouldn’t bring it up, it makes everything so awkward.
Cheyenne: You’re such a pushover, why can’t you stand up for me? You’re voting for Obama too, I don’t see why we can’t have a discussion with her.
Will: Come on, we’ve talked about this. Let’s go get some coffee or something. On the way, I can show you that art gallery I thought you’d like.
Cheyenne: No, whatever. It’s fine, let’s just go home.

In this scenario, Will reacts without considering Cheyenne’s need for support from him when she is upset. He immediately rushes to offer an explanation, even defending the person his girlfriend feels attacked by. He refuses to engage with her on an emotional level and attempts to distract her instead. She is left feeling disappointed and even more frustrated than before. She expected his empathy, and instead received advice she didn’t ask for and criticism she certainly didn’t expect to hear. Here is a way that Will could apply Dr. Gottman’s skills for intimate conversation to the same scenario, increasing his and Cheyenne’s attunement and trust in each other:

Cheyenne: I couldn’t believe how Abby reacted when I brought up the elections. What a crude attempt at changing the subject! Who does she think she is? Just shutting me down…
Will: I’m sorry, I understand how that would make you upset – I know how interested you are in current events, and she never wants to go there.
Cheyenne: I like Abby… It’s just so frustrating that I have to walk on eggshells around her. It’s exhausting.
Will: That makes sense. I hate it when I have to censor myself in social situations. I just want to relax, too.
Cheyenne: Yeah. You know what? Let’s go see that gallery you’ve been talking about, the one you said I’d like…

Try these techniques in your own relationship. The results may surprise you. Because engaging in supportive intimate conversations with your partner leaves the two of you feeling closer than ever, you build trust in each other. As Dr. Gottman explains in his upcoming book, which will be released in six days, trust is the most important ingredient in a healthy, happy relationship.


Happy Wednesday,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Monday, August 27, 2012

What Makes Love Last: Expressing Compassion and Empathy



According to Dr. Gottman, the fourth and final key to maintaining intimacy in conversations with your partner is to express compassion and empathy when he or she is upset. Though this may seem like a no-brainer, it is simple only on first impression. Don’t be fooled by the intuitive nature of the words “expressing compassion and empathy.” Dr. Gottman’s description of this concept reveals its complexity (and its power)!  Until we understand what it really entails, the idea is often difficult to apply in real life. Look forward to a complete explanation of this subject in Dr. Gottman's upcoming book, What Makes Love Last? For now, we will offer you a basic introduction to expressing compassion and empathy in your relationships:

If you look back on your past conversations with your partner, you may find that in many situations you have felt that they were upset for illogical reasons, that they were overreacting, or that they should have had a different emotional response. You offer your opinion and suggestions, try to play the “voice of reason,” and unconsciously botch the entire attempt at helping them. You will also likely remember many, many cases in which you have been the recipient of such “help,” and been left more frustrated and upset than you were in the first place.

Luckily, Dr. Gottman has simple suggestions for ways in which you can change your approach to such conversations, dramatically improving not only their outcomes, but strengthening and deepening your bonds with your mate and other loved ones.

Dr. Gottman reminds us of Ginott’s motto: “Understanding must precede advice.” We all have subjective experiences of situations we experience. Everyone’s emotions are valid. Most of the time, when your mate (or anyone!) comes to you with an issue that has made them upset, they don’t immediately ask for advice, for you to problem solve, or even ask your opinion on the matter. Most of the time they are silently asking for your understanding and compassion. They want to feel that you are on a team – that you are on their side. When your partner comes to you and says that their boss has criticized their work recently, complaining that they have been treated unfairly, the last thing they want to hear is that they have been tired and overstressed and that potentially the solution is to sleep more and have a better attitude. They want to hear you say, “That sounds so frustrating! I can understand why you are so upset.”

In a recent blog entry on this subject, we described the mutually exclusive nature of intimacy and fear. When we feel that we are being judged by our partners for our emotional reactions - that they feel that our responses to upsetting situations are unjustified - we come away shattered. Already emotionally vulnerable, we are further hurt because we feel that we have been criticized by someone we trusted. Our ability to make the right judgments has been questioned and the very cause or validity of our suffering has been rejected as illogical. We are offered simple, quick-fix solutions (that we don't want to hear!) instead of compassion and empathy. We wonder why we even tried talking about it in the first place. 

In our next blog entry on Wednesday, we will offer you a series of examples illustrating the right and wrong ways to approach these conversations in your own life. On Friday, look forward to simple exercises that you can practice with your partner in the future to increase your attunement to each other, and practice the art of intimate conversations. Though these processes take time and patience, your efforts will pay off. Your friendship will be strengthened as you feel that you can depend on each other, and according to Dr. Gottman, trust and friendship are the keys to making love last.

All for now,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Friday, August 24, 2012

Weekend Homework Assignment: Following Up with Statements That Deepen Connection



When we talk to our closest friends about our problems, what we want from them most is their understanding and support.  Dr. Gottman’s research has taught him a great variety of things about relationships of all kinds, but whenever he discusses romantic relationships he begins with a deeply meaningful idea: The most important predictor of a good relationship is the friendship at its core. Couples who “know each other intimately [and] are well versed in each other’s likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes, and dreams” are the couples who make it.

To deepen your connection with your partner, and to build on the first two skills of intimate conversation we described in our previous blog posts this week, we offer you this powerful exercise. Its simplicity is beautiful, allowing you to apply it in everyday conversations to build trust and friendship with your partner - Dr. Gottman’s keys to romance.

When your partner answers a question, respond in your own words, reflecting the emotion that you just heard back to them. Remember, you don’t have to hit the ball out of the park right off the bat. To extend this sports metaphor unreasonably, as long as you are in the ballpark, your understanding and encouragement will open your partner up to sharing more with you.

Example:

David comes home very late from a meeting with an old friend, and flops into an armchair in the living room next to his wife Lisa. Both are exhausted, and David is stressed. He wants to talk.

Failing to Deepen Connection:

David: Rich was ridiculous tonight. I’m not sure what to do with him.

Lisa: You sound like you’re mad at him.

David: (frowning) I guess.

Lisa: What are you so mad about?

David: I don’t know, we’re both tired. Let’s just go to bed…

Succeeding in Deepening Connection:

David: Rich was ridiculous tonight. I’m not sure what to do with him.

Lisa: Are you feeling like you need to do something with him?

David: I’m just so frustrated, he seems like he’s trapped in life.

Lisa: It sounds like you feel responsible, is that what’s making you frustrated?

David: (sigh) Yeah. He’s relying on me, we’ve known each other since we were little, and I know his family life isn’t exactly peaceful.

Lisa: He’s lucky to have you, someone who cares so much about him. I’m lucky to have you.

David: Let’s invite him over to dinner Tuesday night? I’m sure he would relax. I would relax.

Lisa: (laughing) We would all relax…


Try this at home with your partner this weekend! On Monday, look forward to more teasers from Dr. Gottman’s upcoming book What Makes Love Last that will teach you skills for increasing your compassion and empathy in your relationships with your loved ones. 


Have a beautiful weekend!
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What Makes Love Last: Putting Your Feelings Into Words & Asking Open-Ended Questions



As we all know, emotions are devious creatures. They elude our understanding for a vast number of reasons, among which are the inescapable facts of daily life. Unfortunately, with so much focus being invested in the small crises and stressors that arise in our jobs and daily activities, it is difficult to find a moment to truly connect with what we are feeling. As a result, our emotional lives often spiral out of our control, and internal pressures build up. At a certain point we explode, and this affects our relationships with those we are closest to - potentially harming our bonds with those we care about the most. 

If we cannot identify our own emotions, how are we supposed to understand them or process them? If we cannot understand and process them, how can we communicate about them with others? How can we expect our partners to be a source of comfort and support? These are problems we all struggle with! If you feel frustrated in your inability to have intimate conversations about your deepest feelings with your partner, you are not alone. Right now you're probably thinking that "misery loves company" isn't particularly helpful. But that's not our message. Our message is that we can help.

As exhausting and frustrating as all of this is, Dr. Gottman encourages us not to feel too overwhelmed. He and his wife, Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman, have designed an incredible approach to help us achieve focus and explore our feelings, ultimately gaining the skills we need to discuss them with our partners.  In
his upcoming book on trust, Dr. Gottman describes some incredibly effective and largely unknown techniques for identifying our emotions. Identified by renowned scientists, including a number of research psychologists, there are certain physiological signs that can help us to understand what we are feeling. This week, we are excited to offer you a few tips that you can use in your own home to build intimacy with your loved ones. We wouldn’t want to reveal all of Dr. Gottman's secrets before the book’s release, but here’s a teaser!

Tip 1: Ask Open-Ended Questions. If you ask questions that require only a yes or no answer, you are destroying conversations before they even have a chance to begin. You are accidentally slamming the door that you are trying to open. This door is unfortunately labeled “Intimacy.” Instead of “Did you watch that movie?” ask, “What was your favorite part?” Instead of “Are you upset?” ask, “You seem upset – what’s going on?”

Tip 2: Relax. Take your time. If you are bothered by your inability to label your emotions, stop and meditate for a moment. Clear your mind. Search for a word. When a word comes to mind and your body relaxes, you have hit the spot. Here are a few examples you can use in this activity. Remember, these are just a starting point!

Positive Emotions

- Amused
- Appreciated
- Lucky
- Satisfied
- Silly
- Turned On
- Joyful
- Safe
- Proud
- Powerful
- Playful
- Fascinated


Negative Emotions

- Alienated
- Tense
- Misunderstood
- Powerless
- Ignored
- Inferior
- Criticized
- Ashamed
- Betrayed
- Numb
- Unsafe


We look forward to sharing a few more skills for building intimacy with you in our next blog posting this Friday! We will show you the fundamentals of deepening connection in your conversations and expressing compassion and sympathy. Until then, enjoy our second promo video for Dr. Gottman's new book:



All for now,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Monday, August 20, 2012

What Makes Love Last: Intimate Conversations & Collective Monologue



Fear: N. \’fir\ An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. 
Intimacy: N. See Fear, The opposite of.

Not really. Not entirely. Fear was taken from the reality of Merriam-Webster. Intimacy was taken from the reality of human relationships. Ultimately, when we are afraid of the possible consequences, we cannot trust our partners to listen and fully support us - especially not when it comes to our deepest feelings, hopes, or
dreams. And why should we? Our internal wiring prevents us from opening our hearts to those we fear will hurt us emotionally, from worries that they will let us down, to terror and anxiety about their potential to leave us. This is, in the language of evolutionary psychology, called an adaptive trait. It’s healthy. We need to protect ourselves! 

Dr. Gottman understands this. His upcoming book on trust tells us to listen to these feelings, but also provides incredibly important methods for discerning how trust functions (or malfunctions) in our relationships. He doesn’t waste any time in getting to the core of the issue: trust begins in emotional attunement. Emotional attunement is often rooted in the ways in which we speak to each other - trust is built and broken in our everyday conversation.

In today's crazy world of technology, high-speed jobs, and overstimulation, we are culturally forced into a seemingly limitless barrage of superficial chatter. While small talk is harmless and often incredibly effective in maintaining an amicable work environment at the water-cooler, constant superficial conversation is toxic to any intimate relationship. Dr. Gottman finds irony and a cause for concern in the bizarre applicability of Jean Piaget’s findings on “
collective monologue” to our everyday conversations. Originally found in preschoolers, the effect is visible in adults these days: around the dinner table, we often alienate each other without even realizing what we are doing. We behave like toddlers. We somehow forget to leave our meaningless chattering water-cooler selves at the office, and wonder how it is that we end up missing each other entirely. Consider the following example between Mia and Jesse at the dinner table, when she has come back from a long day at work and night school, and he has spent all day dragging the kids around to various activities:

Mia: “Augh, I can’t believe how much
stuff I have to do these days, it’s insane! I don’t understand how these classes can assign so much homework, don’t they realize we have jobs?!”

Jesse: “The kids were crazy today, Bobby didn’t want to go to swimming lessons, and he keeps talking about being a lifeguard. Maybe we should stop sending him, they’re not cheap.”

Mia: “And I have such a
stupid boss. He doesn’t even get it – I keep having to work overtime shifts!”

Jesse: “It’s not as if he even talks about life-guarding that much anymore – these days it’s all about dinosaurs. Sometimes it all feels so ridiculous…”

Mia: “What if I get laid off?!”

Jesse: “WHAT? What are you even talking about?”

They are talking past each other. Examine your recent conversations. Sound familiar?

When we are stressed out or feel that we are unable to share our feelings with our partners, we risk sending the wrong messages to each other. These days, we seem to need to re-learn what an intimate conversation even looks like. According to Dr. Gottman, many of us have severe misconceptions on the subject, which understandably provokes anxiety in some for legitimate reasons. Intimate conversation is not about constant headlong plunges into touchy subjects and conflict discussions - a behavior which has the potential to tear you and your partner apart. Intimate conversation is about
Sliding Door Moments. Intimate conversation is about sharing closeness and solidifying your bond with your loved ones.

This week, in the Gottman Relationship Blog,
we will teach you the basics of intimate conversation. For far more detail, we encourage you to explore Dr. Gottman’s new book What Makes Love Last when it becomes available to the public on September 4th. Until then, look forward to posts on Wednesday and Friday sharing the fundamental skills he teaches in his chapter on The Art of Intimate Conversation. 

Also, if you missed our first promo for Dr. Gottman's new book, here it is again: 



Until Wednesday,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Friday, August 17, 2012

What Makes Love Last: Building Bridges


As many of us know all too well (having learned the hard way!) trust begins and ends with emotional communication.  Though we may wish this wasn’t so, no corner of our world is free from this rule. We are governed by it in our relationships just as the our bodies are governed by the laws of gravity. Dr. Gottman’s studies cannot magic-away all of physics – he freely admits to this. Comparing broken trust in a relationship to a shattered mirror, he says: "You can glue it back together, but it will never be the same again.” 

Nonetheless, his many years of research on our endlessly complicated human relationships fill him with hope. He offers it to us, bestowing tools upon those of us who dream of protecting trust. Though we've all been shattered by its fragility, we are not forever doomed to stand amid shards of glass. Dr. Gottman’s research-based insights into the complex world of relationships offer us real tools, ones we can apply to our own relationships easily and effectively. His studies have shown that a little bit every day goes a long way. If both partners build habits of turning towards each other in simple everyday moments, they build bridges wrought of affection, fondness, and admiration for each other: these are the bridges of trust.

Think of the exercise below as a list of ideas, of building blocks, and remember – they are not set in stone. Every relationship is different. Whether you’d like to build bridges, carve intricate tunnels, or sail messages in bottles towards each other, the connections you create will bring the two of you closer together. Practice affection, and trust will naturally follow.

Things to Do for Your Spouse:
Fix coffee, a snack, or a meal for your partner.
Wait on your partner when he or she is ill.
Compliment your partner, say thank you, praise his or her efforts around the house.
Listen. Listen. Listen.
Buy a silly gift. Buy something inexpensive. Make it an inside joke.
Do something kind for your partner’s friends or family.
Run errands for your partner.
Call or send an email during the workday. Ask how it’s going.
Put a loving note into your partner’s lunch or briefcase.
Draw a funny picture or write a sweet note. Hide it in your partner’s coat pocket.

Things to Do Together:
Hug.
Kiss.
Hold hands.
Cuddle.
Have a snowball fight.
Reminisce.
Take a class together.
Volunteer together.
Talk over drinks, or coffee, or tea.
Build a fire in the fireplace. Read. Talk.
Philosophize.
Wash the dishes: you wash, they dry.
Go camping.
Create artwork together.
Help to take care of aging relatives.
Take a shower or a bath together.
Fold laundry.
Take a spontaneous trip to somewhere beautiful.
Plan your future. Dream.

This activity is one we found in the pages of Dr. Gottman's
The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening our Marriage, Family, and Friendships. To learn more about bids, emotional connection, and the many other building blocks of trust, be sure to check it out! Next week, look forward to learning some of Dr. Gottman's skills for building intimacy! In the weeks anticipating the release of his new book, we will continue to discuss his previous research on trust, and to share with you some fascinating previews of what is yet to come! For now, we wish you a beautiful weekend.

Happy Friday,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What Makes Love Last: The Zeigarnik Effect



If the above diagram makes no sense to you, you are not alone. 

The dynamics of flowcharts, mathematical models, and interpretations for detailed experimental results on trust - a subject that has barely been touched by scientists - are foreign to most of us. In fact, little to no research has been conducted on trust in committed relationships. Dr. Gottman's work is ground-breaking.

The above diagram, taken from Dr. Gottman's The Science of Trust, displays his findings on the dynamics of loyalty and betrayal and their deep role in predicting the success or failure of our most intimate relationships. Acclaimed by professors and scientists as an "encyclopedic volume” with “authoritative and profound insights into the inner workings of relationships," the book was nonetheless meant for “the academic, the researcher, the clinician… the game theorist and the mathematician.” The amount of complex "science" it contains may be inaccessible to those of us lacking a background in psychology. 

Luckily, Dr. Gottman is not your usual researcher!

In his new book, he goes beyond an exposition of the mathematics of trust. In a stunningly accessible style, and with a greater focus on theory and exercise of his conceptual understanding, Dr. Gottman opens his innovative research to the public. He offers us explanations of his studies and reveals his findings of complex effects and phenomena in hope that his research inspire all of us (now radically informed!) to proactively approach problems of trust in our own relationships.

One of the most significant phenomena Dr. Gottman focuses on in the world of trust is called the Ziegarnik Effect, and on the creation of what he amusingly calls “A Theory Of Building Trust When SH#!T Happens.” In explaining the failure of relationships, the age-old field of study bursting with myriad theories, each more upsetting than the next, Dr. Gottman has found something strange, indisputable, and utterly un-amusing. He has found that a theory discovered in 1922 by a bright young psychology student named Bluma Zeigarnik has enormous capacity to destroy human relationships. Here is Bluma, below.





Watching waiters in a cafĂ© in Vienna, Bluma realized something very strange  in their behavior: they only seemed to remember the orders that they were in the process of serving. As soon as they had completed their task, the orders disappeared from their memory. What Bluma didn't realize were the implications of her findings.

The Ziegarnik Effect, in simple terms, is the propensity of human beings to remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. In the world of trust, Dr. Gottman has found that it translates as follows: unprocessed negative events between partners have an enormously destructive power - through an ongoing erosion of trust, they gradually screw-up and ultimately destroy our most intimate relationships.

It works like this: We humans have a deeply frustrating and totally maladaptive tendency towards rumination. According to Dr. Gottman, “If a couple’s negative events are not fully processed (by attunement to each other), then they are remembered and rehearsed repeatedly, turned over and over in each person’s mind. Trust begins of erode… eventually, one is staying in a relationship, but that relationship is a veritable fountain of negativity (and that) cognitive dissonance is like a stone in one’s shoe.” As this process progresses slowly but surely, we begin to think of our partners with a universally critical eye, with suspicion and mistrust – we begin, even unconsciously, to vilify them. 

“It’s no surprise she hasn’t called yet, I bet she isn’t even at the office! She never thinks of me..." or, “Oh, of course… he’s out drinking again. Leaving me with the kids, again. He knows how stressed out I am! What a selfish jerk!” 

In this powerful spiral, our irritation mounts, our feelings of hurt surge upwards, and our relationships flare up violently. Fearing that we will be left guarding a mound of embers, we often stay in the mutual volatility of this closed circuit. Dr. Gottman's years of research offer hope for a way out!

To take advantage of his wisdom on trust, in the form of detailed explanations, interactive exercises, and research-based tools for couples, we invite you to read What Makes Love Last?, and of course, to keep reading The Gottman Relationship Blog! 

All for now,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Monday, August 13, 2012

What Makes Love Last: Negative Sentiment Override & Quiz



University of Oregon emeritus psychologist Robert Weiss coined the term “Negative Sentiment Override” (NSO) for the emergence of troubling patterns in which trust has been broken in relationships. Rose-colored lenses are shattered and replaced with the persistent and deeply frustrating feeling of being trapped with your partner in an endless void. Delightful! In his research, Dr. Gottman has found that the concept of the Three Boxes is deeply related to the ebb and flow of these perceptions (in theoretical terms, essentially the fluctuating idealization and devaluation of our relationships with our partners). What we called the “valley of darkness” in the Nasty Box becomes an enormous problem as Negative Sentiment Override kicks in and positive feelings felt between partners are decreased from their honeymoon peak. With both these phenomena in place, partners are left trying to push a relationship up a mountain.

Though we all experience difficulties in our relationships (because we are human, and because we are complicated, and because issues of trust are often incredibly difficult to deal with), Dr. Gottman does not believe that all problems can be solved or that all relationships can be healthily maintained! With the understanding he has gathered from over 35 years of research, he appreciates the realities of human relationships, but his books offer great hope. Though they do not imply that our current relationships may be made into our idealized images of perfection, he offers a vast number of tools that we can use to better approach the difficulties we encounter. In discussing trust and beliefs couples form about each other in his upcoming book What Makes Love Last?, he offers the following exercise, allowing couples to determine whether or not they are experiencing Negative Sentiment Override. Take this quiz and find out!

In the recent past in my relationship, generally I felt:

1. Hurt. (T/F)
2. Misunderstood. (T/F)
3. Like “I don’t have to take this.” (T/F)
4. Innocent of blame for the problem. (T/F)
5. Like getting up and leaving. (T/F)
6. Angry. (T/F)
7. Disappointed. (T/F)
8. Unjustly accused, (T/F)
9. “My partner has no right to say those things.” (T/F)
10. Frustrated. (T/F)
11. Personally attacked. (T/F)
12. I wanted to strike back. (T/F)
13. I was warding off a barrage, (T/F)
14. Like I wanted to protect myself. (T/F)
15. I took my partner’s complaints as slights, (T/F)
16. My partner was trying to control me. (T/F)
17. My partner was very manipulative. (T/F)
18. Unjustly criticized. (T/F)
19. Like getting even. (T/F)
20. I wanted the negativity to just stop. (T/F)

Scoring: Add all of your “true” responses. Use a calculator to divide the sum by 20. Multiply the result by 100 to find your percentage. If you scored above 40%, you are currently experiencing Negative Sentiment Override.

Whether you are experiencing NSO or not, check out Dr. Gottman's new book What Makes Love Last? to learn far more about the fascinating dynamics of trust and to gather incredible, research-based skills you can use for the rest of your life to avoid betrayal!

Until Wednesday,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Friday, August 10, 2012

What Makes Love Last: Sliding Door Moments


Following over 35 years of research, Dr. Gottman has discovered something very surprising. He now understands  something that is counter-intuitive to many of us. Even those who are aware of its occurance in our everyday relationships rarely pay it any attention. What are we talking about? Dr. Gottman calls it the sliding door moment. Sliding door moments are the seemingly inconsequential everyday moments filled with the words we haphazardly throw back and forth at each other, accompanied by little evanescent pains, frustrations, joys, and laughter, flying through our minds and our hearts, that make or break the most important relationships in our lives

Most of us focus on the blow-outs: the shouting matches and door slamming competitions, what the British adorably and somewhat incomprehensibly refer to as "rows." According to Dr. Gottman's studies, this is both totally understandable, and utterly ludicrous if we want to truly solve the problems at the source of these awful fights.

Dr. Gottman's findings shared in his upcoming book build on previous conclusions that he has shared about his research in his earlier publications, particularly The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work and The Science of Trust. During what he refers to as “sliding door moments,” when one partner bids for the other’s attention, relationships are made or broken. During the everyday moments we share (or try to share!) with our partner, from “I love you” to “Did you see that crazy jerk cut in front of me?,” we expect or hope for a return – a hug or a kiss, shared laughter, or simple acknowledgment. 


When our partners do not respond and turn away or against our bids for emotional connection, we begin to lose trust in them. Though Dr. Gottman explains that the reasons for failed connection are often the result of mindlessness, not malice, they add up (or take away) from a relationship over time, creating complex and all-encompassing systems of Positive or Negative Sentiment Override.

In his upcoming book on trust and betrayal What Makes Love Last, Dr. Gottman does more than show awareness for the unending emotional toll of failed attempts at bids - what he refers to as the unsuccessful sliding door moments. He gives readers the tools to helping each other to crack that door open and leave it permanently ajar. If you are tired of peering through the keyhole into your partner’s life, you simply cannot trust them. Dr. Gottman’s advice is to listen to that feeling. 

If you find yourself asking questions like: “Is my partner just selfish,” “does my partner care about me at all,” “can I trust my partner,” then reading What Makes Love Last may change your life. Explaining the ways in which you can begin to measure the trust in your relationships in order to make more informed decisions about the people who you do decide to trust, Dr. Gottman builds on his findings on sliding door moments, which he describes in this video: 



Have a great weekend,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What Makes Love Last: Exclusive Interview with Dr. Gottman



We recently sat down with Dr. John Gottman and talked about trust, emotional attunement, and the upcoming release of his new book. For all intents and purposes of this posting, Dr. Gottman's words will be bolded. One of the most integral parts of creating trust in our relationships is what Dr. Gottman describes as a deficit in emotional attunement, defined by psychologists and researchers in a variety of different ways. Dr. Gottman’s definition is the following:

“Attunement in adult relationships is the desire and the ability to understand and respect your partner’s inner world.”

Do not be deceived by the simplicity of this concept! The mechanisms behind a
failure to attune are very specific. Based on his complex research, these mechanisms are referred to by Dr. Gottman in layman’s terms as The Five Steps. In his long-awaited upcoming book What Makes Love Last?, he describes the results of the Five Steps and their domino effect, offering such resources as a test measuring Negative Sentiment Override. Speaking about his recent research on trust, with palpable delight and the usual twinkle in his eye, he describes his new book:

“Prior to this [research on trust] we were suggesting that any two people who could learn these skills could establish a positive relationship, but this is not true! There is chemistry behind establishing trust! It involves hormones and neurotransmitters… this is the mystery. Now we are working to reveal the dynamics of this mystery...”

In explaining his thoughts, Dr. Gottman refers to Kahneman, author of recent bestseller Thinking, Fast and Slow, a book with incredible new insights into behavioral economics. It distinguishes between intuitive, creative, immediate conclusions that we come to in System I thinking and the slower, more critical, and analytical thoughts of System 2. As Dr. Gottman cautions, “When you start living with somebody you fall into Kahneman’s Type II thinking. You see the red flags.” Though the outlook may seem bright at the beginning of a relationship, trust makes or breaks a serious commitment to another person.

In his flurry of words and ideas, within the dance of his arms and the excited gesticulations of his hands, one thing is made clear:  “You have to find the right person.” Long story short, Dr. Gottman’s conclusions are these: 

Love and romance and trust are conscious decisions to cherish what is wonderful about your partner and nurture gratefulness for what you have. What people frequently instead is nurture resentment for what they don’t have. Trust has got to be mutual.” 

Glancing over at his wife in their sunlit kitchen on Orcas Island, he stops and smiles. “I am always aware of how lucky I am to have Julie in my life.”

All for now,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Monday, August 6, 2012

What Makes Love Last: The Three Boxes



After spending decades researching the intersections between behavioral economics and relationship psychology, Dr. John Gottman has made a number of incredible discoveries about relationships. One conclusion in particular stands out in the first few chapters of his new book What Makes Love Last: In relationships, two plus two does not always equal four. At least, not in the ways we think it does.

Unhappy couples defy game theory. 

Game theory, for those of you who are unfamiliar, is the study of strategic decision making. Dr. Gottman explains his conclusions to us by demystifying the math. He divides the behaviors of conversing couples into three clear boxes: Nice, Neutral, and Nasty. Unhappy couples get stuck in what he calls The Nasty Box. They are rarely able to climb into the Neutral Box, and are more hesitant and less likely to spend time peering over the sides of the Nice Box. Though this may all seem pretty intuitive at first, Dr. Gottman’s discoveries about the underlying mechanisms determining the ultimate nature of the relationship are more complex.  They signify motivations underlying behaviors and statements made during the interaction by each person: the emotions behind their words, the success or failure of their repair attempts, their attunement to each other, and very importantly, their timing.

In terms of game theory, the concepts Dr. Gottman talks about come down to payoffs and losses. He relates his mathematical calculations of trust metrics and trustworthiness - yes, there is a difference - to the times when it is most effective to attempt overtures guiding your partner into the Nice Box.  But according to Dr. Gottman, the most surprising results he saw in his relationship studies on trust had little to do with the Nasty and Nice Boxes. While their impact upon our behavior is worth noting and their importance in increasing our faith in our loved ones is important, his “findings on neutrality are among the most exciting to come out of [his] research on trust!”

Dr. Gottman describes neutrality in relationships as a kind of peace, a relief from conflict, an alternative to ending up in a “valley of darkness.” Unlike scientists who have remained singularly drawn towards combating behaviors in the Nasty Box and attempting to reinforce behaviors in the Nice Box, Dr. Gottman has discovered something new. He has been able to prove that specific physiological signs, which he refers to as the Four Horsemen, provide a great deal of support for the powerful bi-directional feedback loops between our nervous system and our feelings about trust in our most intimate relationships.

For more on these subjects and his new book, look forward to an exclusive interview with Dr. Gottman in our next blog posting on Wednesday!

Countdown to WMLL Release: 29 Days

All for now,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Friday, August 3, 2012

What Makes Love Last: Inside The Love Lab


Dr. Gottman’s research on trust is groundbreaking. Widely recognized as the world’s foremost researcher on marriage and relationships, his intuition and natural ease with people are not his only gifts. The secret to his success has always been their combination with his deep understanding of mathematics. With such a combination, his natural creativity has allowed him to invent incredible ways of measuring what has, until this day, proved elusive to others: the science of trust. 

In his new book What Makes Love Last?, Dr. Gottman explains that his fascination with trust in relationships was the product of a strange thought loop, a Eureka moment that he experienced in watching a popular TV show called Numb3rs. In an episode of the show, he saw a plot twist being introduced that described a mathematical program that calculated a loyalty level among suspected “bad guys,” which in this case were terrorists. He recognized that this fictional sci-fi dream could be made a reality. With the enormous quantity of data that he already had at his disposal, he had the key to unlocking real mathematical models, to measure what he calls the “trust metric.” According to Dr. Gottman himself, “Both trust and betrayal metrics significantly predict a marriage’s happiness.”

Drawing on the very real developments discovered by mathematicians, Drs. Neumann and Morgenstern, he develops his approach on a combination of game theory, his own previous research, and his incredible creativity. Intuitively grasping the futility of interviewing couples directly about their relationship (a rather ludicrous endeavor, given the interminably long list of biases with which we all approach ourselves and those most intimately entangled in our lives), Dr. Gottman immediately turned his focus towards what lies below the deceptively smooth surfaces of our relationships. Using a simple video-recall dial, he discovered something incredible: our behavior in what seem like throw-away moments - those simple day to day conversations - can make or break the relationships to people we hold most dear.

By gaining insight into the underlying mechanisms of loyalty or perceived lack thereof between partners in a relationship, Dr. Gottman has revealed the science beneath the questions that trouble us most. Watch the following video to see (just the tip of the iceberg!) inside his strange and wonderful Love Lab:



Next week, look forward to more on the mathematics of trust, including details on the trust and betrayal metrics, attunement and connection, and a curious peek into Dr. Gottman's systematic deconstruction of the forces and effects that fuel our decisions about trust (and ultimately, about those to whom we choose to open our hearts)!

Countdown to WMLL Release: 32 Days


Have a great weekend,

Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What Makes Love Last: The Love Lab


Dr. Gottman opens his long-awaited book, What Makes Love Last?, with an unsettling anecdote about trust: suspecting his wife of cheating, one man crept outside in the morning before he left for work to draw chalk marks on his wife's rear tires. Discovering their disappearance when he returned that evening, he came to the conclusion that she had left the house in his absence and asked his wife if she had been out. Forgetting that she had made a trip to the post office that morning, she said no. Certain of her betrayal, he erupted into a jealous rage. Cue a rush of blood to the head, increased blood pressure, throbbing veins, and slammed doors.

Though this example is disturbing, upon further consideration its actually pretty normal. In a way, haven’t we all experienced a "chalk mark" moment? We are all human, wired with an embedded response system to sense insecurity and danger in situations. What is disquieting about this anecdote is not at first entirely apparent. It rings true in its unsettling qualities by revealing the true impact of suspicion, jealousy, emotional overdrive, and other reactions to a lack of trust in our relationships – both on our partners and on ourselves.

As Dr. Gottman explains in What Makes Love Last?, the stress we feel emotionally is often expressed in tangible ways beyond drawing chalk marks on our partners’ car. The toxicity of trust-destroying behaviors in our relationships may cause such physical symptoms of stress as: sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, states in which it is completely impossible to think clearly about anything at all, much less to resolve a complicated problem with our loved ones. Lashing out at each other, it seems that there is more cause for alarm because we are effectively posing long term health risks to each other, and to ourselves.

In his world-renowned Love Lab, equipped with computers, video cameras, physiological sensors, and an array of fascinating scientific gadgets, Dr. Gottman shattered many misconceptions about the nature of relationships. Though we may be right to be skeptical of the ability of a scientist to capture the magic of romance, this is not what Dr. Gottman claims to do at all. Instead, he provides us with an incredible insight into the very workings of our physiology. He has been able to explain how our everyday conversations hide a variety of micro-expressions - physical and emotional, both externally explicit and internally felt - deeply move our relationships.


With an objective and scientific eye, Dr. Gottman manages to remain deeply in-tune with the elusive nature of our feelings falling into and out of romance. On Friday, we will take you deeper into the Love Lab, and reveal more about the incredible trust metrics developed by Dr. Gottman as discussed in his new book. For those of you who are impatient, check out Dr. Gottman's Science of Trust, and read what has been described by his colleagues in the field of psychology as a “creative and cutting-edge encyclopedic volume on marriage… something for the academic, the researcher, the clinician and surprisingly, the game theorist and mathematician...”

Countdown to WMLL Release: 34 days


All for now,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff