This is not an advertisement, I promise. It’s just me talking a bit about my job at The Gottman Institute and about the Gottmans’ theory of what it takes to keep a relationship strong – or to begin to repair it.
Oh, and there’s also a giveaway (and some links). Thus the “markety” feel. Forgive me.
So this is the Sound Relationship House:
If you go to our Couples Workshop in Seattle (which, I promise, is relationship/life-altering!), you’ll hear all about it, because it is the theory that the Gottmans devised based on their 35+ years of academic research. The first three levels of the Sound Relationship House focus on a couple’s friendship, which is the foundation of a strong relationship.
The first level, building love maps simply means maintaining an awareness of each other’s world. “Simply” is actually a misnomer. Once lives get busy with kids, careers, mortgages, etc., how often do couples renew their knowledge of each other’s inner world? If you think your partner’s favorite rock band is still the BeeGees, you might want to renew your love maps – which is what my little contest is all about.
But we’ll get to that later.
Expressing fondness and admiration for your partner is a second important level of a sound relationship. You know when you think I really appreciate that my husband can fix the car’s carburetor (or make a delicious meal) or I really appreciate that my wife takes care of the bills (or fixes the carburetor)? This is all about actually expressing that fondness and admiration – like verbally.
“Turning towards” is so important and so simple, but is often not done… or not responded to. Turning towards are bids for emotional connection. If your partner says “Look at that beautiful flower coming up in the garden,” you have a choice of responses, from “Wow – it is beautiful, let’s start our own nursery!” (enthusiastic – and maybe a bit unrealistic -- turning towards) to “Nice!” to “Uh-huh” (still both considered turning towards) to ignoring your partner (turning away) to shushing or rejecting your partner -- “Can’t you see I’m busy?!” – which is vehement “turning away.” Turning toward and responding to your partner’s bids for connection can take a micro-second, but collectively they are very significant and even predict whether a couple will divorce or stay together.
If a couple is strong in the first three levels of the Sound Relationship House – if they know each other’s worlds, if they share fondness and admiration, and if they turn towards each other instead of away, they are in the Positive Perspective, meaning they are more likely to give each other the benefit of the doubt and their emotional bank account is solid enough that their relationship can handle a few slip-ups here and there.
The next level of the Sound Relationship House deals with managing conflict – which every relationship has. I could go into a great deal of detail here (and the Gottmans do – in fact they spend an entire day on it in the workshops), but here is the essence:
- Practice self-soothing to keep calm when you feel physically and/or emotionally flooded.
- Use softened startup. (A harsh beginning usually means a harsh conversation.)
- Discuss problems - move from gridlock to dialogue on perpetual problems (and about 69% of couples’ problems are perpetual/unsolvable).
- Repair and de-escalate. (In any conflict there are two subjective realities and both are right. Take responsibility for your role in the conflict. Dialogue.)
- Accept influence and be open to compromise.
(You can learn more about how to manage conflict in John’s book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.)
The next level of the Sound Relationship House is Making Life Dreams Come True. Sounds kinda schmaltzy, doesn’t it? That’s what I thought at first too. Like, duh – we’re married, that’s just expected! Expected and hoped for – yes. But often ignored. Using the skills of accepting influence and compromise, partners can nurture each other’s dreams while maintaining their own. This actually goes right back to building love maps, the first level of the house, because you need to know your partner’s inner world to really nurture it.
Creating Shared Meaning, the tippy-top level of the Sound Relationship House (but don’t think all pinnacley… John and Julie sometimes say it should actually be a Sound Relationship BAGEL because it’s all pretty circular and inter-related) means sharing goals, narratives, symbols, cultural rituals and legacies. In other words, building a shared life together and being a family full of meaningful interactions.
If you’ve gotten this far, here’s a little video for you, all about the Gottmans and their work. I love this video!
OK, so that give-away? Well, we’re slowly (ever so slowly) going digital and we’ve just created our first iPhone application! It’s the digital version of the Love Map cards from the Couples Workshop. It focuses on that first level of the Sound Relationship House – friendship and knowing your partner’s world.
Here’s the plan: you install this app, go out for a romantic dinner, pull out your iPhone over hors deurves, and “play”! Granted, this isn’t a huge give-away, since you can buy the app yourself for $1.99 here.
But I’ve never done a give-away on my blog before, so for me it’s big! :-)
Just leave a comment with feedback about anything you’ve read in this post (not just “I want to win,” but actual feedback) and I’ll randomly choose a winner from both blog and Facebook comments. No, my blog isn’t big enough to do that random number generator stuff. You’ll just have to trust me to be fair.