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Gottman's research showed that it wasn't only how the couple fought that mattered, but how they made up. Marriages became stable over time if the couple learned to reconcile successfully after a fight. Partners heading for divorce responded to each other's bids to clear the air only 33 percent of the time, while the happy couples' response rate was 80 percent.
In 1994, Gottman and his wife, Julie Schwartz Gottman, a clinical psychologist, combined their expertise to fashion a science-based couples therapy. They began leading advanced training for therapists in 1998. By 2004, 4,000 couples had gone through their workshops or clinic. Two years later, more than 3,000 therapists had taken a basic training workshop with them, 65 had been certified, and 600 more were well on their way to certification in the Gottman Method Couples Therapy—a mix of classic therapeutic skills and scientific dispassion.
Research indicates that therapists using this approach can decisively stop their clients from what the Gottmans call "The Four Horsemen of Marital Apocalypse"—contempt, criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling. More than 30 pen-and-paper questionnaires are methodically administered to each partner before therapy begins. Videotaping and heart-monitoring are standard parts of the therapy. The dispassion, structure, and authority of the approach eases and contains the discouragement and chaos often generated by couples in trouble.
Quantum physics has proven to all the sciences that the observer, no matter how neutral or objective, acts upon what's observed. It's still too early to know how much the couples of Gottman's "love lab" were affected by Gottman himself and by being research subjects. Replication by others will decide the Gottman Method's ultimate effectiveness, and it'll take several years of such replication to garner further useful data. Results so far are promising, but at this stage, we must leave it for time to tell.