Friday, November 30, 2012

Weekend Homework Assignment: Do You And Your Partner Accept Each Other's Influence?

Happy Friday! In today's posting, we’d like to continue the Sound Relationship House Series by sharing a quiz designed by Dr. Gottman to assess of the state of your relationship in terms of accepting influence, a tool that the two of you can use in order to build a positive perspective in your relationship. As with all of the quizzes we share, this is not meant to be any kind of clinical diagnosis or final judgment of the state of your relationship! It is simply meant to show you where you and your partner are at in terms of this metric. Think of it as a starting point, an initial measure from which you and your partner can use our research-based methods to improve your abilities in this area and ultimately strengthen your relationship! 

Accepting Influence Questionnaire

Read each statement and circle
T for “true” or F for “false.”

1. I am really interested in my partner’s opinions on our basic issues. T F
2. I usually learn a lot from my partner even when we disagree. T F
3. I want my partner to feel that what he or she says really counts with me. T F
4. I generally want my partner to feel influential in this marriage. T F
5. I can listen to my partner, but only up to a point. T F
6. My partner has a lot of basic common sense. T F
7. I try to communicate respect even during our disagreements. T F
8. If I keep trying to convince my partner, I will eventually win out. T F
9. I don’t reject my partner’s opinions out of hand. T F
10. My partner is not rational enough to take seriously when we discuss our issues. T F
11. I believe in lots of give and take in our discussions. T F
12. I am very persuasive and usually can win arguments with my partner. T F
13. I feel I have an important say when we make decisions. T F 
14. My partner usually has good ideas. T F
15. My partner is basically a great help as a problem solver. T F
16. I try to listen respectfully, even when I disagree. T F
17. My ideas for solutions are usually much better than my partner’s. T F
18 I can usually find something to agree with in my partner’s positions. T F
19. My partner is usually too emotional. T F
20. I am the one who needs to make the major decisions in this relationship. T F

Scoring: (it sounds confusing, but we promise it's very simple!)
1. Give yourself one point for each “true” answer, except for questions 5, 8, 10, 12, 17, 19, 20.

2. Subtract one point for each “true” answer to questions 5, 8, 10, 12, 17, 19, 20.

6 or above: This is an area of strength in your relationship. You willingly cede power to your spouse, a hallmark of an emotionally intelligent marriage.

Below 6: Your marriage could stand some improvement in this area. You are having some difficulty accepting influence from your spouse, which can cause a marriage to become dangerously unstable. The first step to righting the situation is to understand just what it means to accept influence.

If you scored 6 or above on this questionnaire, congratulations! Remember that this doesn’t mean that you can simply skip working on this skill. As with all levels of The Sound Relationship House, attention and effort are required if you want to nurture a stable and healthy bond. If you did not score high, do not panic. By using the Gottman Method to work on accepting each other’s influence, your score is bound to increase. Learn more about The Gottman Method by picking up a copy of Dr. Gottman's NY Times bestseller 
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, The Relationship Cure, or his most recent release, What Makes Love Last?!

Have a great weekend,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Sound Relationship House: The Positive Perspective

Build Love Maps, Share Fondness and Admiration, and Turn Towards Instead of Away build the fourth story of the Sound Relationship House: The Positive Perspective. Positive Sentiment Override (PSO) determines a lot of things in the relationship, including the presence of positive affect in problem solving discussions and the success of repair attempts during conflict resolution. If the first three levels of the Sound Relationship House are not working, then people may find themselves in the Negative Sentiment Override (NSO), in which even neutral or positive messages are perceived as negative. People in the NSO see their partner as an adversary, not a friend. We have found that it is not possible to change NSO to PSO, except by changing the quality of the couple's friendship by using the first three levels of the Sound Relationship House.

A fundamental principle of maintaining The Positive Perspective in your relationship is to let your partner influence you. In fact, in a long-term study of 130 newlywed couples, we found that even in the first few months of marriage, men who allow their wives to influence them have happier marriages and are less likely to divorce than men who resist their wives' influence. This works both ways. 

If you do not accept your partner’s influence, the chances of your Sound Relationship House collapsing increase exponentially. In today's posting, we’d like to share Dr. Gottman's research on the subject – research that will likely surprise you and motivate you to face one of the most difficult challenges in strengthening your relationship. We will be spending two weeks instead of one on this subject, as it is both important and complex.

There are a lot of jokes about power struggles in relationships, particularly painting wives who attempt to exert influence in the relationship as ridiculous upstarts, constantly making unreasonable demands. These are evidence of the unfortunate persistence of cultural beliefs about the natural right of men to be entirely dominant in relationships. This cultural belief is slowly weakening as the role of women changes in our society, but it is important to acknowledge the way in which its widespread influence affects our feelings on the issue, and the way we feel about our roles and behaviors in our own relationships.

As briefly mentioned above, in a series of studies Dr. Gottman found that, “
the happiest, most stable marriages in the long run were those where the husband treated his wife with respect and did not resist power sharing and decision making with her. When the couple disagreed, those husbands actively searched for common ground rather than insisting on getting their way." Obviously, husbands are not always the ones who refuse to compromise or accept their partner’s influence (and often make this mistake without even noticing), but according to our research, a significant gender difference exists in handling of areas of conflict.

In such situations, wives may express anger or other negative emotions, but they seldom increase the negativity. Instead, they either match it or try to tone it down. 65% of the husbands in Dr. Gottman’s study did not take these approaches; rather, they very frequently introduced what Dr. Gottman calls the 
4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, or stonewalling) into the conversation, escalating negativity! If a wife says, “You haven’t been paying any attention to me!” the husband may ignore her (stonewall), be defensive (“Yes I do!”), be critical (“You’re not always saying important things!”), or be contemptuous (“Oh, princess, spare me your hysterics!”). Instead of allowing his wife to influence him, he is attempting to trample all over her words and her feelings. Our research shows that, if such a pattern develops, you enormous risks: if both partners fail to arrive at solutions that satisfy both of their needs, there is an 81% chance of serious damage and destabilization of a relationship.

Both partners are responsible for keeping the
4 Horsemen out of their relationships, but our research indicates that husbands are frequently the ones who let the horsemen run free. To see this from another perspective, Dr. Gottman’s research reveals that, “The wives of men who accept their influence are far less likely to be harsh with their husbands when broaching a difficult marital topic. This increases the odds their marriage will thrive.” 

Unfortunately, accepting each other’s influence is nearly always a stumbling block for couples. For this reason, we are excited to share the methods that Dr. Gottman has discovered over four decades of relationship research for learning to let your partner influence you! Look forward to our next post on Friday, in which we will give you a metric designed by Dr. Gottman to calculate the way that Accepting Influence works in your own relationship!

All for now,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Monday, November 26, 2012

Dr. Gottman’s 5 Tips for Filling Your Holiday Season with Romance

We here at The Gottman Institute hope that you’ve all had a lovely Thanksgiving! As we recover from a long weekend away from the workplace and think fondly of you, we feel it is our duty to break from the Sound Relationship House Series to make an important announcement: The holiday season has begun! 

If the thought of the upcoming holiday season brings you emotions other than pure, unadulterated joy, we understand. With meals to prepare, gifts to purchase, decorations to put up, and in-laws to entertain, it can be a very stressful time. Don’t let your navigation of the holiday season cause you to inadvertently put your relationship on the back burner! To ensure that your relationship thrives, and that you and your partner enjoy your holidays to the fullest, follow Dr. Gottman’s 5 Tips for filling your holiday season with romance:

1. Give Love
On a budget? Instead of overspending on gifts, show your partner your love with a thoughtful, personal gesture. One idea we love: think of 10 qualities you love and cherish about your partner, write them on little bits of paper, and put them in a jar with a ribbon around it. Our favorite part: you can update this jar by adding positive qualities about your partner long after the holidays have passed.

2. Nurture Appreciation
Nurture appreciation during the holidays by noticing all of the things that your partner does and expressing your thanks for them. Our research shows that successful couples maintain a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions. Simple expressions of appreciation like, "I really enjoyed the conversation over dinner," "you really look incredible tonight," and, "thanks for making the bed!" will go a long way. Making deposits into this emotional bank account will come in handy during times of stress and conflict.

3. Stay Emotionally Connected
Make sure to check in with your partner before going to bed by asking questions like, "How are you? How is the world treating you?" Really listen to their concerns, stresses, and frustrations. Don’t give advice, just express empathy. According to Dr. Gottman, it is critical that you show genuine interest, communicate your understanding, take your partner’s side, express a “we against others attitude,” express affection, and validate their emotions.

4. Make Memories
Cuddle up with your partner, grab a cup of hot cocoa, and watch your favorite holiday movie. Take a walk down a tree-lined street and kiss under the lights. Make breakfast in bed. Build a fire. Hold each other. Dream. Reminisce. Make sweet memories – they are the ultimate gift you can give to each other.

5. Create Traditions
How did your partner celebrate the holidays growing up? Do they have traditions? What are their best and worst memories? What is the ideal meaning of the holiday season in your partner's mind? Have a conversation about how you can honor that meaning this year. Share your own family traditions and create special ones of your own together - for this year, and the many years to come.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Sound Relationship House: Turn Towards Instead Of Away

We continue The Sound Relationship House Series today with the third level of Dr. Gottman's model: Turn Towards Instead of Away. The strongest relationships (and homes) are built from the ground up. According to Dr. Gottman’s 40+ years of research, one of the greatest predictors of your relationship’s success is your ability to
turn towards each other, constantly developing your bond by making an effort every day to reach out to your partner and accept their bids for emotional connection.  We have found that the majority of fights in relationships are the result of turning away from and against these bids. Turning away and against are related to both suppressed negativity (sadness, whining, stonewalling) and being in the attack-defend mode (anger, criticism, contempt, defensiveness, belligerence). Playful bids and enthusiastic efforts to turn towards each other result in heightened levels of positivity during conflict discussions. They also help you to build up your emotional bank account, maintain a strong and healthy bond, and bring the fire back into your romance.

When Dr. Gottman asked couples what they thought made their relationships feel more romantic, he heard the following examples: candle-lit dinners, soft music, lovely drives in the country, picnics, and moonlit walks. According to his research on relationships, none of these things alone will make your love life better if you are not first connected emotionally. 

See the video below to hear an excerpt from one of Dr. Gottman's lectures on the building of attunement in your relationship - the things that you can do in the smallest moments that strengthen your  connection and your trust in each other:

Here we will provide some easy but very effective ways in which you can make a deep and lasting emotional connection with your loved one and show them your commitment and attention throughout the day:
  • You have just woken up and your partner is lying next to you. Roll over, put your arm around them and tell them how thankful you are that you get to wake up next to them every day.
  • You are reading the paper over breakfast and your partner makes a passing comment about a meeting they have at work that day. Follow up on what they said (put down that paper!) and give them your attention for a minute.
  • You are walking together and you see that your partner looks cold. Stop into the nearest coffee shop and get them a warm beverage!
  • Your partner is leaving to go somewhere. Tell them to come see you before they go. When they come to see you, give them a 6 second kiss.
  • You see that your partner looks stressed. Let them know you’ve noticed, and ask them if they’d like to talk about what they are feeling. 
  • Your partner sends you a text message about something, anything. Send them one back that lets them know how irresistible they are to you.
  • Compliment your partner about something they did. Compliment your partner about their appearance. Thank them for something they’ve recently done that you appreciate.
  • Your partner is back from their errand and is doing some housework. Without saying a word, join in and start helping them.
  • Your partner tells you that they are getting hungry. You tell them that you are too, and that you are going to take them out for dinner.
  • Your partner and you are talking after dinner, and they say how much they miss going out and dancing like you used to back in the day. Agree and recommend that you go out right now and dance.
  • Your partner is looking tired, but you are still having fun. You know that they have to be up early tomorrow to prepare for a meeting. Recommend that you go home so that they can get some rest.
  • You are in the bedroom and things are getting hot. Light some candles, and tell them that you want to re-discover their body for an hour.

Look forward to more on turning towards in upcoming postings from The Sound Relationship Series this week!

All for now,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fondness and Admiration: Assessment

According to our research, fondness and admiration are two of the most crucial elements in a rewarding and long-lasting romance. Getting through stressful times and managing conflict is much easier if you and your partner regularly show how highly you value each other! The following questions have been designed by Dr. Gottman to assess the current level of fondness and admiration that exists in your relationship. On a sheet of paper, please answer T for true and F for false. 

  1. I can easily list the three things I most admire about my partner. T F
  2. When we are apart, I often think fondly about my partner. T F
  3. I will often find some way to tell my partner “I love you.” T F
  4. I often touch or kiss my partner affectionately. T F 
  5. My partner really respects me. T F 
  6. I feel loved and cared for in this relationship. T F
  7. I feel accepted and liked by my partner. T F 
  8. My partner finds me sexy and attractive. T F 
  9. My partner turns me on sexually. T F 
  10. There is fire and passion in this relationship. T F
  11. Romance is definitely still a part of our relationship. T F
  12. I am really proud of my partner. T F 
  13. My partner really enjoys my achievements and accomplishments. T F 
  14. I can easily tell you why I started dating my partner. T F 
  15. If I had it all over again, I would date the same person. T F 
  16. We rarely go to sleep without some show of love or affection. T F 
  17. When I come into a room, my partner is glad to see me. T F 
  18. My partner appreciates the things I do in this relationship. T F 
  19. My partner generally likes my personality. T F
  20. Our sex life is generally satisfying. T F

Give yourself one point for each true answer.

10 or above: This is an area of strength in your relationship. Because you value each other highly, you have a shield that can protect your relationship from being overwhelmed by any negativity that also exists between you. Although it might seem obvious to you that people who are in love have a high regard for each other, its common for spouses to lose sight of some of their fondness and admiration over time. Remember that this fondness and admiration is a gift worth cherishing. Completing this exercise from time to time will help you reaffirm your positive feelings for each other. 

Below 10: Your relationship could stand some improvement in this area. Don’t be discouraged by a low score! There are many couples for whom the fondness and admiration system has not died but is buried under layers of negativity, hurt feelings, and betrayal. By reviving the positive feelings that still lie deep below, you can strengthen your bond enormously!

If your fondness and admiration for each other are being chipped away, the route to bringing them back always begins with realizing how valuable they are. Fondness and admiration are crucial to the long-term happiness of a relationship because they prevent contempt - a corrosive that, over time, breaks down the bond between partners -  from becoming an overwhelming presence in your lives. The better in-touch you are with your deep positive feelings for each other, the less likely you are to act contemptuous of your partner when you have a difference of opinion.

Look forward to Friday’s Weekend Homework Assignment, in which we will share one of Dr. Gottman’s exercises for building fondness and admiration in your own relationship!

All for now,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Friday, November 9, 2012

Weekend Homework Assignment: Who Am I?

On Wednesday, we introduced the "Sound Relationship House Series" and explored Build Love Maps, the house's first level. Remember: deepening your understanding of your partner’s inner psychological world and allowing them to get to know you more intimately is fundamental to strengthening the friendship in your relationship. In today's posting, we would like to share one of Dr. John Gottman’s Love Map exercises for you and your partner to work on over the weekend. Think of it as your Gottman weekend homework assignment.

With the passage of time our priorities, goals, likes, and dislikes inevitably change. Beyond the simple in-and-outs of our everyday lives, we experience deeper changes as our life experiences evolve and transform us. To truly know your partner, it is necessary to first know yourself. With the stressors of daily life - from deadlines at work, cleaning around the house, children to take care of, finances to manage, etc - we dont always have the opportunity to make the time to ponder these important questions of self-actualization.

Dr. Gottman understands all of this and encourages you and your partner to set aside some time to consider the following questions.

This exercise is not meant to be done all at once! It is meant to be completed over time, in a relaxed and focused manner. While we encourage you to start this weekend, we hope that the conversations facilitated by this exercise last for weeks, months, and even years to come. These questions will allow you to embark upon deep and meaningful explorations of yourself while strengthening your bond with your partner, strengthening your love for one another through the intimacy created by sharing your deepest hopes and dreams! Without further ado:

Who Am I?
Questions written by Dr. John Gottman

My Triumphs and Strivings:

1. What are some of the proudest moments of your life? What kinds of trying and stressful experiences have you survived in which you felt more powerful, victorious, capable of meeting challenges?
2. How have these successes shaped our life, changed the way in which you view yourself, your goals, your dreams?
3. Did your parents show you that they were proud of you for your accomplishments? What about other important figures in your life? How did this affect your experience of feelings of pride in yourself?
4. Were you shown love and affection in your family? If not, how has this affected your relationships in your adult life?

My Injuries and Healings

1. What experiences have you had in which you have felt the deepest senses of disappointment, loss, self-doubt, hopelessness, loneliness?
2. What kinds of deep traumas have you undergone? How have you survived through them? What kinds of changes do you feel in yourself after going through these difficult times in your life?
3. How did you strengthen and heal yourself? How did you protect yourself? Did you find ways to avoid such experiences in the future?
4. How do you think that these experiences have affected your relationships? Your relationship with your current partner? What do you want your partner to understand about you and your past injuries?

My Mission and Legacy

1. What do you feel is the purpose of your life? Its meaning? What do you want to accomplish? What is your greatest struggle?
2. What kind of a legacy do you want to leave behind when you are gone?
3. What kinds of significant goals do you still yearn to realize to feel that you have lived a full life?

Who I Want to Become?

1. Describe the person that you want to become.
2. What kinds of struggles have you faced in trying to become that person?
3. What internal demons are you fighting? What demons have you conquered?
4. What would you most like to change about yourself?
5. What do you want your life to be in five years?

When you and your partner work through this exercise this weekend, set aside a time when you are both relaxed and uninterrupted. Turn off the TV. Turn off your cell phones. While this exercise is meant to inspire conversation, it is a long, complex conversation that should not be had all at once. It is a conversation that should be ongoing throughout your lives as you change and dream and grow together!

Have a great weekend,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Sound Relationship House: Build Love Maps

Today on the Gottman Relationship Blog, we are happy to announce the beginning of a new seven-week series: "The Sound Relationship House!" We start at the  "foundation" today with the first level of the House: Build Love Maps. The principle of building Love Maps is simply this: knowing the little things about your partner’s life creates a strong foundation for your friendship and intimacy. 

In his extensive research, Dr. John Gottman has found that emotionally intelligent couples are intimately familiar with each other’s worlds. He calls this having a richly detailed Love Map - his term for that part of your brain where you store all the relevant information about your partner’s life. Another way of saying this is that these couples have made plenty of cognitive room in their minds for their relationship. They remember the major events in each other’s histories, and they keep updating their information as the facts and feelings of their spouse’s world change. They know each other’s goals in life, each other’s worries, each other’s hopes and dreams. Without such a love map, you can’t really know your partner. And if you don’t really know someone, how can you truly love them? 

From knowledge springs not only love, but the fortitude to weather marital storms. Couples who have detailed love maps of each other’s world are far better prepared to cope with stressful events and conflict. Partners who are already in the habit of keeping up to date and are intently aware of what each other are feeling and thinking aren’t as thrown off course by changes and stress in each other’s lives. But if you don’t start off with a deep knowledge of each other, it’s easy for your relationship to lose its way when your lives shift with the challenges and stressors that come to you over time. 

Start creating and strengthening your Love Maps today! Try to answer the following questions about each other and find out how much you really know about your partner’s world. While you’re having fun playing, you’ll also be expanding and deepening your relationship. 

Love Map Exercise: 
  • Name my two closest friends. 
  • What was I wearing when we first met? 
  • Name one of my hobbies. 
  • What stresses am I facing right now? 
  • Describe in detail what I did today, or yesterday. 
  • What is my fondest unrealized dream? 
  • What is one of my greatest fears or disaster scenarios? 
  • What is my favorite way to spend an evening? 
  • What is one of my favorite ways to be soothed? 
  • What is my favorite getaway place? 
  • What are some of the important events coming up in my life? How do I feel about them? 
  • What are some of my favorite ways to work out? 
  • Name one of my major rivals or “enemies.” 
  • What would I consider my ideal job? 
  • What medical problems do I worry about? 
  • What was my most embarrassing moment? 
  • Name one of my favorite novels/movies. 
  • What is my favorite restaurant? 

Asking these questions will help you develop greater personal insight and a more detailed map of each other’s life and world. However, getting to know your partner better and sharing your inner self with them is an ongoing process. 

This Friday, we will post a Weekend Homework Assignment for you to explore your partner’s inner emotional world in more depth with questions that are designed to guide you through some self-exploration and to help you share this exploration with your partner. Remember, the more you know about each other, the more you feel a strong connection, the more profound and rewarding your relationship will be. 

Have a good week,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff

Friday, November 2, 2012

Weekend Homework Assignment: Date Night in a Jar

At The Gottman Institute in Seattle, we have been engaged in an informal research study which has consisted of sadly looking out the windows and periodically turning up the thermostat. We have come to the following conclusion: Winter is coming.

When your Vitamin D levels plummet and you start to feel like gray skies are permeating every last bit of your existence, don’t let your relationship become yet another storm cloud!

As Dr. Gottman says, “The foundation of my approach is to strengthen the friendship that is at the heart of any marriage.” Friendship, according to Dr. Gottman, is the key to romance!

In the interest of keeping the spark alive in your relationship when adventures outside stop being an option, we at The Gottman Institute would love to share an idea that has been making its rounds on the internet: Date Night in a Jar!

Get together with your partner this weekend and come up with a list of things you both want to try: local area restaurants, movies to go see or rent, events to attend, attractions to visit, firsts to experience together, etc. Keep it updated as new ideas are brought up in everyday conversation. Put these ideas on little scraps of paper or write them on popsicle sticks, as depicted above. Then place your date night ideas go into jar, and save them for your next night out together! 

If "Date Night in a Jar" doesn’t really fit into the way that you and your partner interact, think of other ideas to surprise each other in a playful, romantic way. Remember: it is the small things done often that make the most difference in your relationship. You can introduce fun into your relationship in ways that feel more natural to you – every relationship is different! Perhaps you could surprise your love with tokens: a “kiss” token, a “massage” token, a “trip to the ice cream parlor” token…let your imagination run free!

You can give a sweet gift like this to your partner on any occasion, no need to wait for birthdays or holidays! Surprise them with something and rejuvenate your friendship and closeness. Creating great memories together and sharing laughter and joy will help the two of you to build affection and fondness for each other. As the two of you play and have fun with each other, trust and support in your relationship will naturally follow. 

Have a great weekend,
Ellie Lisitsa
TGI Staff