Gottman Method in Our Marriage
Sometimes people want to know something about a couple who choose to work together every day and still manage not to want to scream at one another. Well the truth is that sometimes we do want to scream at one another. But we try really hard not to do that. It’s not that we don’t get frustrated and impatient like anyone who lives with their partner. Sometimes we think we would really like to be beamed up by Scottie, but that never actually lasts that long. We’re lucky that we have had previous relationships that did not work well at all and whilst that isn’t ideal, it provided a lot of valuable learning.
What stops us feeling like pulling out our hair is one, that only one of us can actually do that, and also that there is a huge respect and admiration between us. We honestly feel for each other’s life experiences and try to make one another lives easier and happier. We have also mindfully chosen to grasp a thorough understanding of the antidotes to The Four Horsemen. We purposely check ourselves as often as we need to and remind ourselves that these antidotes can keep us close and the Four Horsemen will drive a wedge between us. We still use those Horsemen when we forget ourselves, but we do our utmost to remember and apologise when we fall from grace.
We have to work hard to always want to talk about the problems that arise. Sometimes we just want to let things go and pretend things didn’t happen. But we know that that won’t resolve and heal and so we have to take the more uncomfortable steps to resolve conflicts and limit our perpetual problems.
When we forget our decision to treat each other with unconditional loving kindness, because we are only human and we get tired, overwhelmed, stressed, hungry and ill, we try our hardest to walk away before we start flooding. We know that our understanding of each other’s buttons is at mastership level and if we wanted to, we have weapons of mass destruction. But why would we do that to someone who brings out the best in us? We know that our work on ourselves is improved by the lessons we provide each other. We accept that we are fallible, well I know I am and I think Don can be persuaded to agree that he is too.
We make a point to do our best to Turn Towards. We take the time to share Fondness even when are very busy. And we never have any trouble feeling Admiration because we know that our greatest attraction is to the largest sex organs, our brains. We know one another’s Love Maps and ours are truly intertwined.
We know we are lucky to have found romantic love within a strong bond of friendship and intellectual equality.
However we have to make time to do what we teach others to do. It doesn’t just happen even for two people who feel very close. We have to put in conscious effort and discuss a lot of things.
Some days we ignore each other’s bids because we get stuck in our own heads. We get so wrapped up in what we want to get done that we forget what is truly vital. So after a little while we talk it over and try really hard to accept responsibility and get back into the ways we know build trust and harmony.
We do what we do because we know that since we learned about the Gottman Method we are clearer in our union. And that means we can use this clarity to work with others.
It brings us joy and makes us smile to see people really gaining from our Couple’s Coaching and returning time and again saying how they used the skills we teach.
We look forward to growing even closer and being able to create even more life dreams come true.
Relationships are Built on Acceptance and Connections
Many of us have had the experience of caring for someone, respecting them, admiring them and even being able to say that we love them, but is this the same as being "in love" with them?
At the beginning of many relationships it's fireworks and stars twinkling as we are swept along by endorphins and pheromones. This is the attraction stage that can be heavily influenced by physical desire and lust. Maybe lust generated our first interactions with a new person, which obviously can cloud clear thinking after that. However what happens after an initial attraction or interest has a lot to do with who we are and what we want. There are varied stages depending on cultural perceptions and personal beliefs.
But what happens when the natural progressions have taken us forward into the stages past initial dating, some degree of intimacy, declarations of intense feelings and into a level of commitment and the building of trust? Perhaps we are then able to make a next step of moving in together or getting engaged.
What continues through this commitment phase is also motivated by strong feelings as we are still involved in that honeymoon stage. Over time, many people will find themselves at a point when the thrill isn't as powerful as it was in the beginning. People without the experience of having had previous long term commitments can be disillusioned. And many people will then question their feelings and the feelings of their partner.
However the stage after the honeymoon stage always reminds me of the difference between getting a new puppy and owning a dog. Dog owners know that puppies are cute and fun and make our hearts melt, but dogs show real loyalty and want us in their lives for the long haul. Partners are a bit like that too in that when the stars in our eyes lose a little of the brightest shine, the light behind that sparkle is still there.
Once we have been through the stage of dating and impressing and we have arrived at the much more secure stage of moving in or committing to living as a couple in the future, then the real business of a long term relationship begins. This next stage is the part that involves endurance, tolerance, acceptance, flexibility and normal day to day life. Sometimes it is also the start of some disagreements as we allow ourselves to be more frank about what we expect of the other.
No one is perfect all the time (I used to think my partner was, but even he disappointed me eventually). So when disagreements happen we need to make sure that we keep in mind that we love this person, and we are supposed to treat them with kindness and respect. If our connection is solid and well founded, it is far easier to demonstrate unconditional love and to always be respectful.
Of course many people have had models of unhealthy and dysfunctional relationships and struggle to stay "clean"in their conflicts. If your parents fought dirty then that's the example that you saw of marital or long term relationship fights so it is not surprising if you see echoes of that couple's style creeping in.
Fighting fair and being reasonable is part of keeping your relationship and connection alive and well. Remember that the Four Horsemen as spoken about in Gottman Therapy didn't just cause the apocalypse, they can destroy a loving and committed union because they undermine connections and devalue your significant other and your credibility as a loving partner.
Connection means that we really want this other person in our lives for life. Therefore we have to accept that neither of us is perfect. It's essential that we build on our connection at all times by showing genuine concern, fondness, admiration and a positive outlook even when we are stressed, tired, worried and pressured. We have to check our words and actions and see our partner as a friend and ally that we can lean into not step away from when things go badly.
Building a really strong and resilient future with a loved one means knowing that they are still the person who piqued our interest, turned us on, made us tingle and fascinated us in the early honeymoon stage of our lives together. Truly enduring relationships require work and effort and letting lots of small things "go through to the keeper".
In Gottman Therapy it's emphasized that the whole of the Sound Relationship House is important and a valuable analogy for a solid life together. So even though you will discover that your partner isn't perfect, if you remember why you initially wanted to commit, it might help you to admit that you aren't perfect either and that is another thing about one another that draws you closer.
Our modern take on a day to remember and reconnect
Valentine’s Day has some less than romantic and love filled origins. It appears to have some dark beginnings and was less about love and more about random coupling. Later in more modern times it began to be celebrated and commercialised as it is now.
However it is a good excuse for a date night, some loving kindness and an opportunity to connect with your someone special. Buying some flowers and writing something loving on a card won’t do anyone any real harm and it might just gain you some quantifiable brownie points. Going on a date night is always a great opportunity to reconnect, eat something whilst looking at each other and not your phone and reminding your someone significant why they agreed to commit and trust you.
I’m always reminded of one of our second Valentine’s Day. The first one only a few short weeks after we started seeing one another involved a rose and a dinner out and I was sure that I had met Mr Romance. The next year I made a wonderful picnic feast and bought a funny gift for my beloved. The gift was a weird looking soft toy bird emblazoned with “You drive me cuckoo!” And never a truer word was spoken in jest as said beloved had not even considered doing anything to celebrate that day nor the next one. However I realised that he’d finally come to his senses and made a commitment when he drove an hour and a half to meet me, bought me a CD (shows how long ago it was!) and wrote “Love” for the first time on a card. Since then we have made it a practise to always eat out and show one another that we can live in a culture of appreciation.
Valentine’s Day is our chance to stop and remember what we are doing here together. We are busy and we have lots of “have to” things to do. But we both know that nothing would be as easy if we had to face those “have to”s alone. We aim for regular date nights and pressures of work and study can mean that the space between those dates can be longer than it should be.
But we also plan date days. We may picnic on a beach or walk in a rainforest or eat cake and drink coffee somewhere away from home and we ensure that we make eye contact and have a laugh together.
My point is that one needs to celebrate one’s union and if that means one allows oneself to be drawn into the commercialisation of Valentine’s Day, then where’s the harm? I’m not suggesting breaking the budget to overly indulge in expensive gifts and 5 course degustations, unless that’s important to either of you, I’m suggesting you give one another your time and your attention.
It’s too easy to allow yourself to find excuses for not being romantic and demonstrative. It’s actually just as easy to just show a bit of romantic ability and be happy to allow yourself to show someone that you love them, care for them, want their support and appreciate all that they are in your life.
Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!