Originally posted August 20, 2014
I have been present for training led by some of the great experts in the counseling field: John and Julie Gottman, Harville Hendrix, David Burns, Jill Scharff, Sheri Denham and others. My love for learning kept me fascinated with all of the information these experts imparted, but it is the Gottman research that I still go back to over and over. The Gottman's have done research on couples for over 30 years. John Gottman took a unique approach. Instead of looking at what couples were doing wrong, he studied what successful couples were doing. He considered successful couples those who remained married and reported that they were happy with their relationship. He realized that successful couples got angry too. They had arguments too. It was how the couples dealt with their arguments that made the difference. Gottman was able to begin predicting divorce with great accuracy simply by watching how a couple dealt with conflict. He named four predictors of divorce: criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling (withdrawing), and contempt. Of these, Gottman considers contempt the most damaging.
The research also brought to light that one or both spouses can be in "negative overload." If this is the case, whatever is said is heard through a negative filter. Comments or questions can sound like criticism or attack. The intent may be something very different, but it gets converted and twisted in the emotional, negative filter. Therefore, the one doing the listening keeps their defenses up which makes it impossible to really listen and work toward agreement. Sometimes agreement means to agree to disagree.
The Gottmans have several helpful books published. I have a link to one on my Resource page.
If you feel you or your spouse are not as satisfied with your relationship as you would like to be, seek some help. If you have tried everything else, try counseling before more distance enters the relationship.
Call me at (317) 364-6078. Even if I am not a good fit, I will be happy to make a referral.