|Creating Friendship and Love
Carole Kirby, LMSW
What happened to the friendship and love you once experienced in your relationship? Is it possible to have that again?
Gottman, Ph.D., psychologist at the University of Washington in Seattle
and founder of the Seattle Marital and Family Institute, believes there
are definite things a couple can do to create and maintain friendship
and love in a committed relationship. He developed statistical
predictions based on his 25 years of studying couples.
His well-researched findings are helpful in two regards:
has a 90% success rate in predicting which couples will make it over
the long haul and which will not. He found that couples who demonstrate
certain observable behaviors have a higher success rate. As a result of
the research data, he has developed a method and practice of helping
couples re-create the friendship and love that was once present in
Gottman's theory and approach to committed love relationships is
somewhat different from Harville Hendrix', his ideas about
strengthening relationships are complimentary to Imagorelationship therapy.
Here is some solid advice coming out of Dr. Gottman's research about partners maintaining a good connection:
Seek help early. Half of all marriages that end do so in the first seven years. The average couple lives with unhappiness for far too long,
Edit yourself. Gottman's studies show that couples who avoid saying every angry thought when discussing tough topics are consistently the happiest.
Be careful how you "start up" a discussion.
Wives have a crucial role in keeping arguments from getting out of
hand. One partner, and it is usually the wife, escalates conflict from
the get-go by making a dramatic, angry or upsetting remark in a
confrontational tone. A marriage succeeds to the extent that a husband
can accept influence from his wife. A husband's ability to be
persuaded by his wife is so critical because (research shows) women are
already well practiced at accepting influence from men, and a true
partnership only occurs when a husband is able to do so as well.
Learn to self-soothe and to soothe each other as a way of ensuring connection and intimacy. Successful couples know how to exit an argument.
Happy couples know how to repair the situation before an argument gets
completely out of control. Successful repair attempts include: throwing
in some humor; lowering the intensity by knowing when not to
proceed, even backing down at times; stroking your partner with a
caring remark; making it clear you see the problem as "our" problem;
changing the topic to something completely unrelated for a brief period
of time; waiting for a more opportune time to deal with the issue;
moving to compromise quickly.
Focus on the bright side.
In good relationships, couples make five times as many positive
statements to and about each other and their relationship than negative
ones. For example, "We laugh a lot." as opposed to, "We never have fun."
Make deposits in your emotional bank account.
It's not how you fight that makes a difference in marital happiness,
but rather how the two of you move through time together when you're
not fighting that determines the mood of your marriage and what your
fights will be like. Gottman calls this the art of "turning towards the other". He has found that if you can get people to practice "turning towards each other"
in the little ways day in and day out - reading things out loud to each
other, acknowledging whatever the other person has to say, etc. - the
terrible arguments just don't happen.
Gottman has many ideas that can be helpful to couples in keeping friendship and love alive, if practiced regularly.
Note: The research reported above was done with heterosexual couples;
however, most of the advice is applicable for Lesbian and Gay couples
as well. Source: Clinical Manual for Marital Therapy, A
Scientifically-Based Marital Therapy, Dr. John Gottman, Revised 1998.
Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.
you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make a
difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That
factor is attitude.