”Positive feeling systems must be built and maintained intentionally (as part of couples therapy or marriage therapy)…” Gottman and Gottman, 2009)
As an LPC, every year, I pay for and attend many professional mental health trainings. A few years ago, I took one of my most informative and fav trainings, Level One and Two of John Gottman’s training on marriage therapy or couples therapy.
I love Dr. Gottman’s data about what makes a marriage last, as his ideas and methods are based on years of structured, observational research about married couples (not just opinions).
Over many years in his marriage lab, Dr. Gottman and his research assistants recorded, observed and carefully broke down people’s daily behaviors. He found that people who are successful in relationships have certain skills.
Some of those skills are:
- able to de-escalate conflicts
(Hey – you know, babe, I notice I’m getting really worked up here. I need a breather…I’ll come back in a half hour or so and we’ll talk, ok?)
- choose turning towards/supportive behaviors with their partner
(Hey – what a (stupid) funny joke, babe!)
- don’t make it a habit to conceal their feelings (ie, stonewall)
(Hey – Can we talk about something? I need to express my feelings, otherwise, they don’t build up…I I felt bad and put down the other day at the party…maybe you didn’t mean to do that, but I felt bad.)
- intentionally build up positive feelings
(Hey – let’s take a walk today in the park, look at the lake and the people and talk.)
That’s a picture where my husband and I took a walk in the park this weekend, Loantaka Brook Reservation, outside of Morristown, Morris County, New Jersey. Loantaka (pronounced lo-wa’-na-ka) is Lenni-Lenape for place of the cold winter (us northeasterners dig that cold stuff). The park has five miles of safe biking, hiking and horseback riding trails, is dog-friendly and is home to many interesting woodland critters! A nice activity to restore friendship and build up positive feelings!
Being a marriage therapist, I can cite all sorts of research about how couples can keep their relationship going. Dr. Gottman’s work is rich in solid naturalistic observations and straightforward skill acquistion. I listed a few books you might want to check out below.
Being married for 22 years, I can say from personal experience that doing your own personal healing is probably the best investment you can make in order to be part of long-term relationship. And also learning some relationship based skills. If you are angry and self-centered in ther first place, it is hard to understand what it is to turn towards, and use civility, respect and kindness on a daily basis.
It’s just another way to enhance your life = Do It Yourself-care or DIY-care for Relationships. Call it self-help, call it a mindbody practice, just another way to put more joy in your life and help you manage your emotions!
How do you keep your relationship strong? Let us know what types of things you do to keep up your marriage!
Gottman, J. & Gottman, J.S. (2009). Bridging the couples chasm. Distributed under license by the Gottman Institute.
Gottman, J. & Gottman, J.S. (2009). Assessment, intervention and co-morbidities. Distributed under license by the Gottman Institute.
Gottman, J., Gottman, J.S., & Declaire, J. (2007). Ten lessons to transform your marriage: America’s love lab experts share their strategies for strengthening your relationship. New York: Three Rivers Press.
Johnson, S. (2010). Hold me tight. Boston: Little, Brown & Company.