Monday, January 14, 2019

Gottman Method Couples Compatibility and Couple-Based Therapy

The Gottman Method Couples Therapy created by psychologist John Gottman and his wife is another theory that tries to explain how couples can better their marriage. This approach to working with couples entails therapeutic skills, scientific dispassion, and scientific authority. Gottman created this theory by opening a “love lab” where he videotaped couples and their interactions in the most ordinary moments. He studied these couples and used an elaborate coding system to track their verbal exchanges, facial expressions, signs, clammy hands, rolling eyes, and heart rates. From this information, Gottman found that he could predict divorce with 91 percent accuracy by analyzing seven different variables in a couple’s behavior.

In the theory Gottman describes seven principles that should be in a marriage in order to make it successful. 

Principle One: Enhance Love Maps

Gottman describes a love map as the part of the brain where all relevant information about a partner’s life is stored. This means that “couples are intimately familiar with each other’s world”. If couples do not start off with knowing each other in an intimate way, it is easy for their marriage to lose its way when their lives have sudden and dramatic shifts

Principle Two: Nurture Fondness and Admiration

Gottman states that “fondness and admiration are two of the most crucial elements in a rewarding and long-lasting romance”. Fondness and admiration pronounces that even though a partner may become distracted by another’s personality flaw, they are still feel the person they married is worthy of honor and respect. Fondness and admiration can be tested by listening to how the couple views their past and it can be improved by simply reminding one’s self of the positive qualities their spouse has. Simply acknowledging and discussing positive aspects of a spouse and of the marriage can strengthen a bond between couples.  

Principle Three: Turn Toward Each Other Instead of Away 

When a couple turns toward one another, it shows a basis of emotional connection, romance, passion, and a good sex life. It also shows that the partners are emotionally engaged with one another. Turning toward each other does not have to mean taking a romantic vacation or a big candlelit dinner; turning toward each other can be done and should be done in small ways. Turning towards each other can just mean couples are helpful to one another.  

Principle Four: Let Partners Influence Each Other
Gottman found that the happiest and most stable marriages were those in which husbands and wives treated each other with respect and shared power and decision making.  

Principle Five: Solve Solvable Problems 

Principle five and principle six both deal with how to solve or cope with problems. Gottman states there two different problems in marriages: resolvable and perpetual. Perpetual problems will be in couple’s lives forever in some form or another. Gottman states that resolvable problems and perpetual problems need to be identified and distinguished in order for couples to develop coping strategies. Couples need to find a way to distinguish these so they can work on the fifth principle, solve their solvable problems. In order to do this, couples may need to learn a new approach to solving conflict. Many couples divorce because of how they argue so Gottman developed an approach to resolving conflict in a loving relationship which is laid out below. 

1. The first step to resolving a solvable conflict is to have a soft startup. Gottman’s research found that discussions end on the same note they started. So in order to start solving a conflict, the one who brings up the topic needs to do it in a way that is void of any criticism or contempt. 

2. The next step in solving a problem is to learn to make and receive repair attempts. Repair attempts are necessary to deescalate any tension in order to come to a place where both partners can compromise. A repair attempt can be anything from making a joke to a couple saying they are sorry; it does not really matter what the repair attempt is what matters is that the repair attempt is received. 

3. The third step is for partners to soothe themselves and one another. 

4. Compromising is the fourth step; couples need to accept influence from one another. Couples must keep their mind open to their spouse’s opinions and desires. 

5. The last step in solving a problem is for partners to be tolerant of the other’s faults. If partners are not tolerant of their spouse’s flaws then they will never be able to reach a compromise because one will always try to change the other. Once a couple has learned how to solve their solvable problems through arguing correctly, they have completed the fifth principle.

Principle Six: Overcoming Gridlock

Overcoming gridlock is the sixth principle and it describes how couples need to work on the perpetual problems in the relationship. The goal of overcoming gridlock is not to solve problems, but to move from gridlock to dialogue. Gridlock normally happens when a partner has a dream for their life and they do not feel that dream is being addressed or respected by their spouse. When couples are in a happy marriage they realize that one of the goals of their marriage is helping each other realize one another’s dreams. In order to overcome gridlock, one needs to express understanding and interest in their partner’s dream, offer financial support for their dream (if needed), and finally become part of their
spouse’s dream. When overcoming gridlock couples need to understand they are not trying to solve the problem, they are just trying to get to the point where they can have a discussion about the issue without hurting one another.   

Principle Seven: Create Shared Meaning

In order to create shared meaning, couples need to develop an atmosphere where partners feel encouraged to openly discuss their opinions or beliefs. Sharing goals can create a deeper intimacy between spouses and it creates a space where couples work together to achieve their shared goals.  

Gottman since added to the Gottman Method Couples Theory. He also added a visual called the Sound Relationship House. Figure below shows that all the seven principles previously described make up the floor of the house, but there are two more important aspects of a marriage that make up the walls. These principles are trust and commitment. Gottman describes trust as knowing each partner will have each other’s best interests in mind. The other side wall is commitment. Commitment is believing and acting on the belief that the relationship completes a lifelong journey for better or for worse. It acknowledges that if things do get worse, the partners both work to improve the relationship. Commitment also implies focusing on a partner’s positive qualities and comparing them to others in a favorable way. Commitment does not allow room for trashing partners or magnifying negative qualities.

Gottman started researching couples in 1972. He has done extensive research through interviewing couples, videotaping them, and getting physiological reads. He then analyzed data from marriages where couples stayed stable and happy even through tough times. Gottman then found what was similar with all these marriages and this resulted in the Seven Principles. To test the Seven Principles, Gottman followed up with participants of the Seven Principle therapy after nine months; researchers have found that nine months is the magic number when determining if a marital therapy was successful or not. Gottman followed up with 640 couples and found that only 20 percent of the couples relapsed compared to the 30 to 50 percent relapse rate for standard marital therapy. They also found that before the Seven Principle Workshops 27 percent of the couples were at very high risk for divorce. Three months after the workshops these couples were only at a 6.7 percent risk for divorce and after nine months these couples were at a 0 percent risk for divorce.

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