Defining the Gottman Method, Part 1

Image fromUnsplash by Carly Rae Hobbins

I am frequently asked to explain The Gottman Method used in my practice. This counseling method is based on research studying thousands of REAL couples over many years together, and isolating and identifying the important skills, habits, and mindset that either make or break a relationship.

The three cornerstones of this method are: 1) Friendship and Intimacy, 2) Conflict Management, and 3) Shared Meetings

We will start by exploring the three aspects of FRIENDSHIP & INTIMACY.

Friendship is the foundation of any strong relationship. There are three “practices” when trying to strengthen the friendship within a marriage or couple. We’ll look at each of them over the next few weeks, then move on to the other two cornerstones.

The first dimension important in fostering friendship and intimacy is called Building Love Maps.

Have you ever been on a date, or met a colleague who told you about themselves but never asked about you? How did that make you feel? Probably not very important.

This is what happens to couples over time. Often, the conversations end up being about who needs to walk the dog, fetch the kids, cook dinner tonight. Conversations like these are transactions—we are interacting, but not connecting.

When we first meet, our goal is to get to know our new partner. We ask questions about their history, daily life, values. This process is called building a love map because we are creating a mental map of what we learn about the other person.

The skill we focus on is to create protected time and routines around talking with each other in ways that allow you to continue to learn more about each other. You are not the same person you were a year ago, or 20 years ago, and neither is your partner. We are always changing and growing.

Just like a traffic map, our love map for each other needs updating with current information— what is going on for each other right now? Generally we talk to each other like friends, which is a good thing. When that doesn’t happen, life becomes transactional and distant. We talk with each other like colleagues instead of friends.

By building love maps, you will accomplish 2 goals:

  1. You will understand each other better by staying up to date on each other’s lives, and
  2. You will feel my partner cares about me.

Building Love Maps sets the stage for the second dimension important in fostering friendship and intimacy: Sharing Fondness and Admiration. We’ll dive into that one in our November 9 post.

Have questions or want to learn more about Couples Therapy? CLICK HERE to contact Dr. Parker

Dealing with Criticism in Your Relationship

John and Mary’s neighbors have grown accustomed to the signs of discord—one or both of them getting a little loud, slamming doors, and on the occasions where they are both in the yard, a chilling silence. It can go on for days.

It starts when Mary feels unimportant and tells John his friends are more important to him than she is, or when John feels frustrated and tells Mary how inconsiderate it was that she bought the wrong kind of shaving cream…once again.

It starts when one of them criticizes the other.

The Gottman Institute speaks of the four negative forms of communication—indicators of the decline of a relationship—called “The Four Horsemen.” They are: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling. Today, we’ll take a deeper look at Criticism.

When Mary tells John he cares more about his friends than he does about her, she is, essentially, telling John he is wrong. The same is true when John tells Mary she is inconsiderate. The message is not just that you have done wrong, but rather that you are wrong.

At the heart of criticism is a complaint—and they are actually two sides of the same coin. One is destructive, the other constructive. Both have a valuable message about a need or want.

Criticisms are statements about who the other person is, rather than what they have done or said. A complaint—the other side of the coin—is a statement of what you want or need instead.

Criticism means the speaker is in attack mode, which probably means they are triggered or what we term emotionally flooded—their ability to communicate well is compromised.

When we feel criticized, we want to respond. The impulse is to say Yeah, well, but here is how I feel about it…. Basically to defend or deflect the criticism. How you feel about it is just as valid, but it is not productive to try to have that conversation when someone is flooded.

What is important, in dealing with either side of the coin, is to express appreciation that the other has brought this up. Oh, I know—it’s hard and risky to move toward conflict! Still, I encourage you to express appreciation, then ask open-ended questions to help you understand the problem behavior and how it impacted your partner.

Mary could tell John that she’s feeling lonely and unimportant, and ask him to spend more time with her.

John could thank Mary for picking up the shaving cream, and tell her that he is frustrated when she buys the wrong brand repeatedly.

Regardless of how it is phrased, John and Mary have received feedback from their partner. How should they respond?

We inevitably do or say things that displease our partner. When that happens, it is important to remember that part of the “glue” of our relationship is to remain loving, while holding ourselves and each other accountable.

John or Mary might say, Thank you for telling me (Or reminding me… or holding me accountable). ?How does it make you feel? What do you need me to say or do instead?

Understanding the difference between criticizing and complaining can make a major difference in your relationship, assuming your goal is to maintain the relationship.

Part of being a mature adult is the ability to choose your responses and reactions, even when you don’t like what you hear from your partner.

If you already know the answers, saying thank you and expressing appreciation is enough.

If your partner is in attack mode, they are probably not able to absorb your side. They took the risk to bring up the problem. This is their moment, let them have it.

Appreciate and acknowledge their side, and find another time when they are no longer triggered and emotionally flooded to raise the topic again and ask that complaints be brought up more gently in the future.

_____
Have questions or want to learn more about Couples Therapy? CLICK HERE to contact Dr. Parker

Defining the Gottman Method, Part 3

Image from Unsplash by Nick Sewings

I am frequently asked to explain The Gottman Method used in my practice. This counseling method is based on research studying thousands of REAL couples over many years together, and isolating and identifying the important skills, habits, and mindset that either make or break a relationship.

The three cornerstones of this method are: 1) Friendship and Intimacy, 2) Conflict Management, and 3) Shared Meetings.

We began our exploration of Friendship and Intimacy in the October 26 post on Building Love Maps, and built upon it in the November 9 post on Sharing Fondness and Admiration.

Today we’ll focus on the final dimension of Friendship and Intimacy, called Turning Toward Bids.

How many big or small interactions do you and your partner have over the course of an hour? Asking How Are You? is what we call a bid. It looks like the weather is fine is a bid. You hurt my feelings last night is a bid. I’m worried that we aren’t saving enough for our retirement is a bid.

All bids are calls for connection and interaction.

Couples who thrive are good at consistently responding to each other’s bids in a warm and receptive way. When your partner puts out their hand for a connection, that is a moment of vulnerability.

When our bids are consistently received with kindness, warmth, and affirmation, we feel secure that the other is there for us, for the big needs and the small needs.

Similarly, if we are missing or rejecting each other’s bids, we become disconnected over time, and that disconnection grows and grows.

Let’s say you spend an hour together on a Saturday morning and have 100 moments of interaction. How do you feel at the end of the hour if most are received with love and affection?

How do you feel if they are not?

Multiply that by seven days a week, 52 weeks in a year, and your relationship is either strong or corroded.

The next time your partner asks How Was Your Day?, think of it as a bid for connection, and don’t just respond with fine. Turn to them, say something meaningful about your day, then ask them how they are doing.

is the third and final aspect of Friendship and Intimacy, the first cornerstone of the Gottman Method. Next, we will turn our attention to the second cornerstone: Conflict Management.

Have questions or want to learn more about Couples Therapy? CLICK HERE to contact Dr. Parker

Defining the Gottman Method, Part 2

Image from Unsplash by Eduardo Barrios

This series is focused on explaining The Gottman Method used in my practice. This counseling method is based on research studying thousands of REAL couples over many years together. The intent is to isolate and identify the important skills, habits, and mindset that either make or break a relationship.

The three cornerstones of this method are: 1) Friendship and Intimacy, 2) Conflict Management, and 3) Shared Meetings.

We began our exploration of Friendship and Intimacy in the October 26 post on Building Love Maps.

Today we’ll focus on the second dimension of Friendship and Intimacy, called Sharing Fondness and Admiration.

One characteristic of a healthy marriage or relationship is that you each feel genuinely liked and appreciated by the other. There is no magic to this, but we work on making it a habit to express respect and affection, verbally and non-verbally.

This is a struggle sometimes because giving compliments and praise may not be part of your partner’s personality. It may not be their “love language.” Meanwhile, no one likes feeling unappreciated, unrecognized, or not being seen for all that they do and their positive qualities.

Think of this as a relationship account. We strive to make consistent positive deposits of admiration and respect for each other so when we have a rough patch or difficult fight or we do something hurtful to our partner, our relationship account is large enough that a big withdrawal will not overdraw the bond.

It is not Partner A or B’s account—it is a collective account and aspect of your relationship. Both partners make deposits into the relationship by expressing appreciation, and offering compliments.

Both partners also make withdrawals from that same account when they speak harshly, act selfishly or inconsiderately, either intentionally and unintentionally.

Breaking even is not enough! Make it a shared goal to be overwhelmingly wealthy in affection and admiration for each other.

Sharing Fondness and Admiration sets the stage for the third dimension important in fostering friendship and intimacy: Turning Toward Bids. We’ll discuss that one in our November 23 post.

Defining the Gottman Method, Part 1

Image fromUnsplash by Carly Rae Hobbins

I am frequently asked to explain The Gottman Method used in my practice. This counseling method is based on research studying thousands of REAL couples over many years together, and isolating and identifying the important skills, habits, and mindset that either make or break a relationship.

The three cornerstones of this method are: 1) Friendship and Intimacy, 2) Conflict Management, and 3) Shared Meetings

We will start by exploring the three aspects of FRIENDSHIP & INTIMACY.

Friendship is the foundation of any strong relationship. There are three “practices” when trying to strengthen the friendship within a marriage or couple. We’ll look at each of them over the next few weeks, then move on to the other two cornerstones.

The first dimension important in fostering friendship and intimacy is called Building Love Maps.

Have you ever been on a date, or met a colleague who told you about themselves but never asked about you? How did that make you feel? Probably not very important.

This is what happens to couples over time. Often, the conversations end up being about who needs to walk the dog, fetch the kids, cook dinner tonight. Conversations like these are transactions—we are interacting, but not connecting.

When we first meet, our goal is to get to know our new partner. We ask questions about their history, daily life, values. This process is called building a love map because we are creating a mental map of what we learn about the other person.

The skill we focus on is to create protected time and routines around talking with each other in ways that allow you to continue to learn more about each other. You are not the same person you were a year ago, or 20 years ago, and neither is your partner. We are always changing and growing.

Just like a traffic map, our love map for each other needs updating with current information— what is going on for each other right now? Generally we talk to each other like friends, which is a good thing. When that doesn’t happen, life becomes transactional and distant. We talk with each other like colleagues instead of friends.

By building love maps, you will accomplish 2 goals:

  1. You will understand each other better by staying up to date on each other’s lives, and
  2. You will feel my partner cares about me.

Building Love Maps sets the stage for the second dimension important in fostering friendship and intimacy: Sharing Fondness and Admiration. We’ll dive into that one in our November 9 post.

Have questions or want to learn more about Couples Therapy? CLICK HERE to contact Dr. Parker