This chapter speaks of how John Gottman (et al) made a “Love Lab” where they studied couples (recorded, physiologically monitored, etc.). The authors devised a 91% successful way of predicting divorce – which can be observed with a 5 minute observation! As mentioned, those predictions are based on empirical studies. Gottman claims that often, couples therapy will not work long term because often, the essential ingredients are not tapped into. In emotionally intelligent marriages, a dynamic is established where negative thoughts and feelings are kept from overwhelming the positive ones.
Most marital arguments cannot be resolved. Many couples try to change each others’ minds with futility. People are different, and you have to learn to live happily with it in some way or another.
Following the seven principles will help the couple beyond the unhelpful conflict-resolution advice they may have gotten or have to offer themselves.
When the studies couples were in Gottman’s ‘Love Lab’, he asked them to argue and resolve a conflict. Findings show that it is not if they argue but how they argue that makes the difference in the relationship.
Four signs of possible relational problems/divorce:
1.Harsh startup– i.e. How discussions (especially emotion-laden topics) are started. Harsh startup are those conversation start-ups laden with criticism and sarcasm – which are forms of contempt.
2.Four horsemen of the apocalypse: They are toxic to a relationship
3.Flooding: People stonewall to protect against flooding response to harsh startups or the Four Horsemen. Flooding is the defenseless, shell-shocked feeling after the barrage of criticisms, contempt or defensiveness. People in such states become hyper-vigilant that spouse is “just about to blow at me again”. This state of mind, only reflexive responses could be expected due to the physiological “fight-or-flight” state of the flooded partner. Only is the above factors are a routine occurrence is the marriage in dire straits. The occasionally flooding can be tolerated by a stable relationship.
4.Body language: Physiological changes during flooding (i.e. endocrine, heart-rate) can predict divorce for two reasons: 1) distress when dealing with the other; 2) hard to have a productive problem-solving discussion when distressed.
5.Failed repair attempts: Emotional repairs lower stress levels and conflict. But if the repair attempts not work to avoid the flooding stage of conflict, then the couple is likely going to have relational difficulties. i.e. when the four horsemen rule the pattern of the couple’s communication, then repair attempts are often not even noticed. Feedback loop: the more “four horsemen”, the more flooding, and then repair attempts are not noticed, until eventually the partner withdraws. Positive sentiment override predicts the success of repair attempts. Four horsemen predict divorce by 82%. Add in the failed-repair attempts, and prediction percentage runs in the 90s. On the other hand, having the four horsemen, but with successful repair attempts, a stable relationship is likely. But when four horsemen moved in for good, repair attempts are incredibly hard to attempt, accept or even notice.
6.Bad memories: When past is re-written in a negative hue, divorce chances royally go up! i.e. do you gain strength or negativity from the adversity that you weathered together. How people frame the situation could lead to further negativity or positivity or reasonability, etc…. When the couple has negatively re-written their relationship, they are at the end stage of their marriage. They could talk calmly (i.e. distantly!!!!) about their conflict. They may appear like they are doing relatively well. This calm is not to say that their conflicts were superficial, but that the couple has emotionally divorced! But such relationships could be salvaged too, i.e. not only by the communication (i.e. startups, horsemen issues) and effective repairing, but also by increasing friendship -i.e. improving things too when the couple is not fighting.
Gottman: couple therapy is not about negotiating skills or conflict resolution. Such approaches do not work!!!!! It is also about what people do right when they do not argue: i.e. therefore work on increasing the friendship.