Couple Talk – Importance of Kindness and Fondness, ‘Turning Towards’
∇ Have you become argumentive lately?
∇ Seem to only see the negative in your partner?
∇ Seem to have bad “moods” a lot lately?
∇ Not as happy as the early days in the relationship?
∇ Wonder when things are going to change?
∇ Feel stuck in your relationship?
∇ Feel not as upbeat as usual?
∇ Tired of fighting?
∇ Ponder getting back at your partner?
∇ Think: Hurt ME, and you will hurt MORE!
Well join the club! 53 % Divorce Rate In USA
Need a fast change to restore your relationship to better times? Read on…
Masters And Disasters
The Gottman Institute studies of Julie and John Gottman along with many other supporting studies¹ say lasting relationships come down to kindness, fondness, turning towards your partner and an active interest in maintaining intimate friendship over the years.
A question came up: Do unhappy marriages share something in common?
Psychologist John and Julie Gottman along with Robert Levenson for the past four decades has studied thousands of couples in a quest to figure out what makes relationships work.
In 1986, John Gottman with his colleague Robert Levenson and associates, hooked the couples up to measure the subjects’ blood flow, heart rates, and how much they sweat. The hooked up ‘wiggle-monitors’ to determine the edginess of them wiggling in chairs. They establish base rates and then followed along with a research team behind walls monitoring their vital signs. They had the couples talk about their relationship. Such things like: how they met, a major conflict they were facing together, and positive memories they had. Everything was recorded including videotaping.
The data suggested two major groups: the Masters and the Disasters.
Analyzing the data they saw clear differences between the masters and disasters.
The Masters were still happily together after six years.
The Disasters had either broken up or were chronically unhappy in their marriages.
The disasters looked calm during the interviews but their active physiology told important new data understanding relationships.
- heart rates were quick
- sweat glands were active
- blood flow was fast
- often edginess in wiggling in chairs
Following thousands of couples longitudinally, The Gottman Institute found that the more physiologically active the couples were in the lab, the quicker their relationships deteriorated over time.
The disasters showed signs of arousal—of being in fight-or-flight mode—in their relationships. The Limbric brain is involved here. Specifically the amygdala. This also affects impulse control and the anger response. (Anger Management).
Having a conversation sitting next to their spouse was, to their bodies, like facing off with lions and tigers and bears.
Even when they were talking about pleasant or mundane facets of their relationships, they were prepared to attack and be attacked. This sent their heart rates soaring and made them more aggressive toward each other.
An example: The couple could be talking about how their days had gone, and a highly aroused wife might say to her husband, “Why don’t you start talking about your day. It won’t take you very long.” A put down indeed. This then distances the couple, perhaps the feeling of being disrespected and an anger response arises, even if not expressed.
The masters, by contrast, showed low physiological arousal.
- calm and connected together
- Their vital signs were more normal or returned to normal quickly if aroused
- translated into warm and affectionate behavior even if they argued.
It’s not that the masters had a better physiological make-up than the disasters. The masters had created a climate of trust and intimacy that made both of them more emotionally and thus physically comfortable.
Professor Gottman wanted to know more about how the masters created that culture of love and intimacy, and how the disasters squashed it.
In 1990, he designed a lab on the University of Washington campus looking like a bed and breakfast apartment deemed “The Love Lab”. He invited 130 newlywed couples, each couple one at a time, to spend the day at this retreat and watched and recorded as before everything normal couples do: arrive, put up groceries, eat, chat, cook, clean, listen to music, hang out, etc.
Professor Gottman and his team, made a critical discovery in this study. It identified why some relationships thrive while others wither.
Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.”
One of John’s favorite examples from my training with them:
The wife who is a bird enthusiast notices a bluebird flying across the yard and finds a perch on a branch. She says quietly to her husband eating cereal while watching TV, “Look …a bluejay outside!” He is apparently absorbed and says nothing to her.
Question: What does the wife feel from this interaction?
No… she might feel: Invisible, Not heard, Disrespected, Disconnected
The wife is not just commenting on the bluebird, she is requesting a response from her husband, a sign of interest or support, hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.
The husband missed his chance with no response. He is effect “turned away.” Silence, no response.
REWIND: How would he “turn towards”?
Professor Gottman suggests the husband grunt, “Huh?” or better “Wow, a sign spring is here.” I suggest: Put down the cereal and come over and look beside your wife holding her, perhaps better, a hug from behind, a bit of playfulness and a kiss on the cheek.
CHOOSE: Respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” .
Though the bird-bid might seem minor, it actually reveals a lot about the health of their relationship.
People (Masters) who turned toward their partners in the study responded by engaging the bidder, showing interest and support in the bid. Those who didn’t, (Disasters) those who turned away, would not respond or respond minimally and continue doing whatever they were doing, like watching TV or reading the paper. Sometimes they would respond with overt hostility, saying something like, “Stop interrupting me, I’m reading.”
These bidding interactions had profound effects on marital well-being. Couples who had divorced after a six-year follow up had “turn-toward bids” 33 percent of the time. Only three in ten of their bids for emotional connection were met with intimacy.
The couples who were still together after six years had “turn-toward bids” 87 percent of the time. Nine times out of ten, they were meeting their partner’s emotional needs.
By observing these types of interactions, Professor Gottman can predict with up to 94 percent certainty whether couples—straight or gay, rich or poor, childless or not, will be broken up, together and unhappy, or together and happy several years later. Much of it comes down to the spirit couples bring to the relationship.
Couples who practice kindness and generosity stay together. (Masters)
Couples who practice contempt, criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling and hostility mostly breakup or are unhappy. (Disasters)
“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained in our training. Masters are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. I call it the 3 A’s. Appreciate, Acknowledge, Acceptance.
Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse:
Contempt is the number one factor that tears couples apart.
1. Couples who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 % of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it’s not there. People who give their partner the cold shoulder (avoidance or putting up walls) choosing to ignore their partner or responding minimally, damage their relationship by making their partner feel invisible, alone, as if they’re not there, and/or not valued.
Being mean is the death of relationships.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is the death of relationships.
Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together.
Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, validated and feel loved, connected. The more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to upward spirals of love and generosity in a relationship.
Masters tend to think about kindness as a muscle. Exercise it to keep it in shape. A good relationship requires consistent mindfulness and hard work.
When your partner expresses a need (bid) even if you are emotionally not available or tired, or stressed, you still turn toward your partner.
Do not ignore the small moments of emotional connection or they will slowly wear away at your relationship. Neglect creates distance between partners and breeds resentment in the one who is being ignored.
Letting contempt and aggression spiral out of control during a conflict can inflict irrevocable damage on your relationship. This is the time to remember kindness and learn to disengage before things get ugly. Successful couples know and practice this.
1. Make a list of 5 Acts Of Kindness You Will Do Today, each day.
2. 3 A’s. Appreciate, Acknowledge, Acceptance. How? Practice.
See Blog on Practice Not Quarreling.
The Sound Relationship House (C) Gottman Institute Used With Permission. Do Not Reproduce.
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