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PostPosted: 30 Dec 2007, 21:32 
Grand Poobah
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Joined: 18 Sep 2007, 11:26
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of theLove Lab...

Just some intersting thoughts on relationships (which kinda bears out my own theory of respect topping all else...)

COUTU You're said to be able to predict, in a very short amount of time and with a high degree of accuracy, whether couples will stay together for the long term. How do you manage that?
GOTTMAN: Let me put it this way: If I had three hours with acouple, and if I could interview them and tape theminteracting—in positive ways as well as in conflict—then Iwould say that I could predict a couple's success rate forstaying together in the next three to five years with more than90% accuracy. I've worked with 3,000 couples over 35 years, andthe data support this claim, which have now been replicated byother scientists. For instance, one test we've used for years is the "paper towertask." We give couples a bunch of materials, such as newspaper,scissors, Scotch tape, and string. We tell them to go build apaper tower that is freestanding, strong, and beautiful, and theyhave half an hour to do it. Then we watch the way the coupleswork. It's the very simple things that determine success. Onetime we had three Australian couples do the task. Beforehand, wehad the couples talk on tape about each other and about a majorconflict in their relationship that they were trying to resolve.So we had some data about how relatively happy or unhappy theywere. When one couple who came across as happy started buildingtheir paper tower, the man said, "So, how are we going to dothis?" The woman replied, "You know, we can fold the paper, wecan turn the paper, we can make structures out of the paper." Hesaid, "Really? Great." It took them something like ten seconds tobuild a tower. The wife in an unhappily married couple started bysaying, "So how are we going to do this?" Her husband said, "Justa minute, can you be quiet while I figure out the design?" Itdidn't take much time to see that this couple would run into somedifficulties down the line.

COUTU What's your biggest discovery?
GOTTMAN It sounds simple, but in fact you could capture all of myresearch findings with the metaphor of a saltshaker. Instead offilling it with salt, fill it with all the ways you can say yes,and that's what a good relationship is. "Yes," you say, "that isa good idea." "Yes, that's a great point, I never thought ofthat." "Yes, let's do that if you think it's important." Yousprinkle yeses throughout your interactions—that's what a goodrelationship is. This is particularly important for men, whoseability to accept influence from women is really one of the mostcritical issues in a relationship. Marriages where the men say totheir partners, "Gee, that's a good point" or "Yeah, I guess wecould do that" are much more likely to succeed. In contrast, in apartnership that's troubled, the saltshaker is filled with allthe ways you can say no. In violent relationships, for example,we see men responding to their wives' requests by saying, "Noway," "It's just not going to happen," "You're not going tocontrol me," or simply "Shut up." When a man is not willing toshare power with his wife, our research shows, there is an 81%chance that the marriage will self-destruct.

COUTU Does that mean that there's no room for conflict in a good relationship?
GOTTMAN Absolutely not. Having a conflict-free relationship doesnot mean having a happy one, and when I tell you to say yes alot, I'm not advising simple compliance. Agreement is not thesame as compliance, so if people think they're giving in all thetime, then their relationships are never going to work. There areconflicts that you absolutely must have because to give in is togive up some of your personality. Let me explain by illustrating from personal experience. Mywife is very bad at just sitting still and doing nothing. Acouple of years ago I gave her a book called The Art of DoingNothing. She never read it. She always has to be up and aboutdoing things. I'm not like that. I don't multitask the way shedoes; if I take a day off, I want it to be a day off. I want toplay music; I want to have a sense of leisure. We fight aboutthis difference all the time. She wants me to do stuff aroundthe house, and I want her to take it easy. And it's worthfighting about this because it's an important personalitydifference between us. I don't want to adopt her style, and shedoesn't want to adopt mine. Another common issue in many relationships is punctuality. Peoplehave huge differences in their attitudes toward it and fightabout it constantly. And they should—because unless you do, youcan't arrive at an understanding of your differences, which meansyou can't work out how to live with them.

COUTU What else do people in relationships fight about?
GOTTMAN I actually analyzed about 900 arguments last summer. Withthe help of the lab staff, I interviewed people about theirfights—we saw them fighting in the lab and then outside thelab, and we talked about the issue. What we learned frommeasuring all these interactions is that most people fight aboutnothing. Their fights are not about money, or sex, or in-laws—none of that stuff. The vast majority of conflicts areabout the way people in the relationship fight. One fight westudied was about a remote control. The couple was watchingtelevision, and the man said, "OK, let me see what's on," andstarted channel surfing. At one point the woman said, "Wait,leave it on that program, it's kind of interesting." He replied,"OK, but first let me see what else is on." She kept objectinguntil he finally said, "Fine, here!" and handed her the remote.She bristled and said, "The way you said 'fine,' that kind ofhurt my feelings." He shot back with, "You've always got to haveit your way." It may seem really elementary, but that's whatpeople fight about. Unfortunately, most of these issues never getresolved at all. Most couples don't go back and say, "You know,we should really discuss that remote control issue." They don'ttry to repair the relationship. But repair is the sine qua non ofrelationships, so everybody needs to know how to process thoseregrettable moments. I want to stress that good relationships are not just aboutknowing when to fight and how to patch things up. We also needhumor, affection, playing, silliness, exploration, adventure,lust, touching—all those positive emotional things that weshare with all mammals. Something that's been so hard for me toconvey to the media is that trivial moments provide opportunitiesfor profound connection. For example, if you're giving yourlittle kid a bath and he splashes and you're impatient, you missan opportunity to play with him. But if you splash back and youclean up later, you have some fun together and you both getreally wet, laugh, and have a beautiful moment. It's ephemeral,small, even trivial—yet it builds trust and connection. Incouples who divorce or who live together unhappily, such smallmoments of connection are rare.

COUTU What contributes to asuccessful long-term relationship?
GOTTMAN Look for the positive in each other. Robert Levenson, ofthe University of California at Berkeley, and I are in the 18thyear of a 20-year longitudinal study in the San Francisco Bayarea. We have two groups of couples who were first assessed whenthey were in their forties and sixties and are now, respectively,in their sixties and eighties. The surprising thing is that thelonger people are together, the more the sense of kindnessreturns. Our research is starting to reveal that in later lifeyour relationship becomes very much like it was during courtship.In courtship you find your new partner very charming andpositive. It was all so new then. You de-emphasized the negativequalities and magnified the positive ones. In the long term, thesame thing happens. You say, "She's a wonder woman. She can getus through anything." For instance, my wife and I have just movedout of the house we lived in for 14 years, and she orchestratedthe entire thing. She was amazing. My genius was to sit back andsay nothing. In good relationships, people savor the moments likethis that they have together.

COUTU Is there such a thing as an ideal relationship?
GOTTMAN I don't really know. Somebody I admired a long time agowas Harold Rausch, now retired, from the University ofMassachusetts, who studied relationships and decided there was anoptimal level of intimacy and friendship—and of conflict. Hecalled couples who had achieved those levels "harmonious." Hesaid that couples who preferred some emotional distance in theirrelationships were psychologically brittle and not very orientedtoward insight and deep understanding. Rausch identified anothertype of couple—those who fought a lot and were reallypassionate—and he said they're messed up, too. We studied those three groups of couples as well, and ourresearch showed that they could all be successful. The people whowanted more distant relationships and friendships valued loyalty,commitment, and dedication but weren't so interested in intimacy.Still, they could have very happy marriages. You might think,"OK, they don't fight a lot in order to avoid conflict, and maybethat's bad for the kids." It turns out that wasn't true at all.We followed the kids' emotional and intellectual development, anda distant relationship between the parents turned out to be finefor the children. Our research showed that bickering a lot can befine, too, provided that both people in the relationship agree toit. People have different capacities for how much intimacy andpassion they want and how much togetherness they want. Theproblem is when there's a mismatch.

COUTU Are the short-term factors for success in relationshipsdifferent from the factors that make for long-term success?
GOTTMAN In studies again and again respect and affection areshown as the two most important things. Expressing interest inthe story your partner's telling at dinner, paying himcompliments, listening to her ideas, asking him to watch a Novaspecial with you so that you can discuss it later. Thepossibilities abound.

COUTU What other advice emerges from your study of goodrelationships?
GOTTMAN I think that men need to learn how to embrace theirwives' anger. This message is particularly pertinent todaybecause women are now being educated and empowered to achievemore economically, politically, and socially. But our culturestill teaches women that when they assert themselves they arebeing pushy or obnoxious. Women who get angry when their goalsare blocked are labeled as bitchy or rude. If men want to have agood relationship with women, they have to be sensitive to thechanging dimensions of power and control in the Western world.And they have to accept the asymmetry in our relationships forthe time being. The good news is that embracing your wife's angerjust a little bit can go a long way toward unleashing feelings ofappreciation and affection. I had this funny experience when I sold my book The SevenPrinciples for Making Marriage Work to my publisher. I met withthe head of the marketing department, a young guy who leaned backin his chair as if he were not at all impressed by any of mywork. He pointed his finger at me and said, "All right, tell meone thing in the next 30 seconds that I can do to improve mymarriage right now!" I told him that if I were to pick just onething it would be to honor his wife's dreams. The guy jumped up,put on his coat, and left the room. I found out months later thathe had immediately hopped on the subway to Brooklyn, where hesurprised his wife, who was at home with a young baby. Her mouthdropped when he asked her what her dreams were. He told me laterthat she said she thought he would never ask.

COUTU What would you suggest we be on guard against inrelationships?
GOTTMAN What I call the Four Horsemen of theApocalypse—criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, andcontempt—are the best predictors of breakup or continuedmisery. Readers familiar with my work will remember that Iconsider contempt to be the worst: It destroys relationshipsbecause it communicates disgust. You can't resolve a conflictwith your partner when you're conveying the message that you'redisgusted with her. Inevitably, contempt leads to greaterconflict and negativity. Our research also shows that people incontemptuous relationships are more likely to suffer frominfectious illnesses—flu, colds, and so on—than other people.Contempt attacks the immune system; fondness and admiration arethe antidotes.

COUTU Are you in a successful relationship?
GOTTMAN Yes, my wife and I have just celebrated our 20th weddinganniversary, but we both had disastrous first marriages. Minefailed because my first wife and I had opposite dreams. I reallylove children and wanted to be a father, but she wasn't so sureand that was a deal breaker. Could a therapist have saved thatrelationship? I don't think so. My need to be a father was toogreat. And I'm so glad I became a dad. It's the most importantthing I've ever done.

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PostPosted: 31 Dec 2007, 11:05 
First Circle Initiate

Joined: 31 Oct 2007, 18:47
Posts: 194
Location: Colorado
Good stuff, thanks for sharing :)

PostPosted: 30 Jan 2018, 02:01 

Joined: 30 Jan 2018, 01:59
Posts: 1
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