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During my year studying
Interpersonal
Communications, I was
introduced to the work
of one of the top
researchers in marriage
and relationship health,
Dr. John M. Gottman.
Throughout my post
college years, I have kept
up with his research. He
is most famous for
developing a formula
that accurately predicts
divorce after observing a
couple interact with one
another for only five
minutes!
Here I will describe Dr.
John Gottman’s findings
through his research on
successful, happy
couples, as written in his
book, The Science of
Trust.
1. Matches in Conflict
Style
Most people fall into one
of three conflict styles:
validators, avoiders, and
volatiles. If the ratio of
positivity to negativity in
conflicts was 5:1, the
relationships were
functional. However,
mismatches in conflict
style will increase risk of
divorce. The mismatches
usually mean one person
wants the other to
change, but that person
is avoiding change. The
researchers did not find
any volatiles and
avoiders matched. They
speculate it’s because
they don’t get past the
courtship phase!
2. Dialogue With
Perpetual Issues
Gottman discovered that
only 31% of couples’
disagreements were
resolvable! This means
the majority of conflicts
were about perpetual
problems, which was
attributed to personality
differences (even among
similar temperaments).
While active listening
seems like a good idea
in theory, it almost never
is practiced or works in
real life settings, because
if there is any negativity
at all, the listener finds
that hard to ignore and
will usually react to it.
One of the biggest
indicators for a
successful relationship is
having a “soft” start-up.
This usually puts the
pressure on women,
since we are the ones
who bring up issues in
the relationship 80% of
the time. The positive
responses in these
conflicts were from
couples in relationships
who used the gentler
start-up. So remember to
keep your sense of
humor, and be sensitive
to your beloved!
Dialogue is necessary to
avoid “gridlock” in
conflicts, and remember,
God created us uniquely,
so rejoice in that!
3. Present Issues as
Situational Joint
Problems
Instead of blaming your
spouse for your feelings
of irritability and
disappointment in the
relationship, express
how you feel, but then
identify your needs. Be
gentle in this
conversation. Focus on
what he or she is doing
right, and acknowledge
that first. Remember,
you’re not perfect either,
so don’t expect
gratitude for your
complaints.
4. Successful Repair
Attempts
No one is perfect. After
years of spending time
with someone, you’re
going to get on their
nerves from time to
time, and vice versa. This
is actually a good thing!
It helps us identify our
areas of weakness
beyond the shadow of a
doubt, and remain
humble through seeking
correction.
Your goal in a
relationship is not to
avoid these conflict
situations, or punish
yourself when they
happen, but rather
process the damage
done and make repair.
This point of repair is so
crucial. Saying sorry
alone is never enough.
Work with your spouse
in identifying those
areas where you
strayed, apologize for
those specifics, and ask
what you can do to
make it up to them.
I teach my daughters
that for every offense
they commit to one
another, they must
actively seek three to five
good things to do in
reparation for them.
Repairs also help
maintain the positive
balance in the
relationship.
5. Remaining
Physiologically Calm
During Conflict
Once adrenaline is
flooding our bodies, we
are rendered incapable
of empathetic
conversation. Learn
techniques and skills to
self-soothe. When you
sense your temper
rising, either take a
break, or interject with
some humor. Reach out
to hold each other’s
hands. Stop the
negativity in its tracks.
These skills will not only
help you in your
marriage, but they will
help you as a parent
when you teach your
children positive
methods of self-
soothing.
6. Accept Influence
From Your Spouse
Resist the pattern of
turning down every
request your husband
and wife makes.
Accepting influence
means looking at your
beloved’s point of view,
and allowing their way,
as long as it’s not
immoral. This means
stretching your comfort
zone. So if your
significant other asks for
you to wake up early on
a Saturday morning to
pray in front of abortion
clinic, for example, try it,
instead of making
excuses or backing
down.
7. Building Friendship,
Intimacy, and Positivity
Affects Systems
This is where couples
who practice Natural
Family Planning have an
advantage. There is
already that regular
built-in daily evaluation
of how you’re going to
spend your time
together, and how you
will show your love for
one another. The issue
isn’t whether you do
love each other, but
rather which way are
you going to express it
today? This just means
keeping up the
courtship all throughout
marriage. Learn to love
each other well. Keep a
greater ratio of positivity
to negativity. Start those
habits now, and you’ll
have a seamless
transition into marriage.



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