One of the key predictors of a romantic relationship's success or failure, says Julie Gottman, is how partners dialogue about their differences. As cofounder of the Gottman Institute, Gottman and her husband, John, have spent over two decades studying couples in their "love labs." Their understanding is so vast, that after just minutes of watching two partners interact, they can predict with 90 percent accuracy how the relationship will look six years down the road.
So what have they learned about helping partners dialogue better?
"The idea that transformed couples therapy emerged from attachment theory and the belief that what’s needed in marriage isn’t better contracts, but looking at marriage for a safe haven," Gottman says. "Beyond that, the big paradigm shift was bringing emotion into couples therapy. You really have to express emotions and validate them." By helping partners create a safe space to explore each other's point of view from an emotional standpoint, Gottman says, therapists can begin the healing process.
In the following video clip from her 2015 Networker Symposium keynote address, "The Myths and Realities of Couples Therapy," Julie uses the story of renowned therapist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl to illustrate how partners can uncover each other's life dreams and create shared meaning from mutual understanding. Take a look for yourself and let us know what you think.
Along with her husband, John, Julie Gottman is cofounder of The Gottman Institute. She's also the author or coauthor of Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage; And Baby Makes Three; and The Marriage Clinic Casebook.
As Gottman notes, a great deal of conflict springs from partners' inability to see how their lover's belief system is deeply tied to their innermost dreams. “Therapists need to develop a system of shared meaning within the couple that has an existential base," says Gottman. "When partners aren’t compromising in their essential conflicts, it’s because they feel as if the compromise means giving up a core part of themselves."
The solution, she says, is getting at the meaning of each person’s position in a conflict in order to resolve it. It’s also necessary, she says, to look at intentionally building shared meaning in order to create a connection that’s fulfilling. A sense of shared purpose, like a caring for a child or relative, co-participating in religious practices, or doing volunteer work all qualify.
Want to help the couples in your office get past cyclical arguments and strengthen their relationship? Check out more from Julie Gottman below.
Did you enjoy this video? In, "Lessons from the Love Lab," Julie and John Gottman explain how science has radically transformed the way we practice couples therapy. In "The Myths and Realities of Couples Therapy," they discuss the three phases of romantic relationships, and share how to maintain romantic spark and connection even decades into marriage.
Tags: attachment | attachment disorder treatment | communication problems | Couples & Family | couples therapist | Couples Therapy | gottman institute | Gottman Method | healthy relationships | John Gottman | Julie Schwartz Gottman | love | love and relationships | marital problems | relationship | relationship help | relationship problems | relationships | sex | Sex & Sexuality