Today is our nine year anniversary. Amazing to think its been that long. I know that much of the reason we are still together is because of his strength and unwavering faith that I am ‘the one’ during the times when I was not so sure. And since we’re actually getting *married* this year, it’s like we’ve done the hard work already.
I know it’s not that easy. The good relationships require effort, all the time.
Speaking of which, we went to a seminar a few weeks ago that was as close as we are going to get to premarital counseling. It was the ‘Art & Science of Love’ by Drs. Julie & John Gottman. I would strongly recommend this seminar to any committed couple, no matter where you are in your relationship.
They are serious about the science — John Gottman has been studying couples for more than 40 years now. He has publicly said that he can spend five minutes with a couple and predict — with 80% accuracy — how long they will be together. And he’s backed that claim up. This is NOT something he does in the seminar, however. Instead he and his wife present a series of ideas to the audience, and then we go away to a semi-private space and work on that concept in the form of a focused exercise.
The four major destructive emotional reactions that are predictors to a divorce are: criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt. Among these four, Gottman considers contempt the most important of them all. He calls them the ‘Four Horses of the Relationship Apocalypse.’ They can be reversed, with a lot of work, but it requires a lot of effort from both people.
He outlined seven principles that will reinforce the positive aspects of a relationship and help marriages endure during the rough moments.
1. Enhance Your Love Maps. Gottman defines a love map as the place in your brain where you store information pertaining to your partner. This is crucial in really knowing your partner, their dreams, hopes, interests, and maintaining their interest throughout the relationship.
2. Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration. This means laying down a positive view about your spouse, respecting and appreciating their differences.
3. Turn Toward Each Other Instead of Away. Acknowledging your partner’s small moments in life and orienting yourself towards them will maintain that necessary connection that is vital for the relationship.
4. Let Your Partner Influence You. It is important to maintain your own identity in a relationship, but it is equally important to yield to your partner and give in. If both partners allow one another this influence, then they will learn to respect one another on a deeper level.
5. Solve Your Solvable Problems. It is important to compromise on issues that can be resolved, which Gottman believes can be accomplished by these five steps: soften your startup, learn to make and receive repair attempts, soothe yourself and each other, compromise, and be tolerant of each other’s faults.
6. Overcome Gridlock. Major issues that cannot be resolved because both partners’ views are so fundamentally different involves an understanding of the other person and deep communication. The goal is to at least get to a position that allows the other person to empathize with the partner’s view, even if a compromise cannot be reached.
7. Create Shared Meaning. Create a shared value system that continually connects the partners through rituals/traditions, shared roles and symbols
In the course of this workshop, we said things to each other that we’ve never said before — and it was powerful. If I may say, I think we fell deeper into love with one another. And that feeling has persisted in the weeks that have followed.
I find myself feeling profoundly grateful for this relationship in my life, and that I must nurture it and care for it so that it doesn’t die on me.