Relationships are complicated. But getting couples out of gridlocked conflict doesn't have to be, says Julie Gottman, cofounder of the Gottman Institute. For over two decades, Julie and her husband, John, have studied couples in their "love labs," equipped with computers, video cameras, and physiological sensors. Their understanding is so vast, that after just minutes of watching two partners interact, they can predict with 90 percent accuracy how the relationship will look six years down the road.
"How couples bring up their problems is very important," Julie says. All couples resort to what she calls "The Four Horsemen" of relationship conflict—criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. "But what separates the masters of relationships from disasters," she says, "is that they recognize all of us are going to make mistakes, so they focus on making repairs following ruptures, and making them early."
In the following video clip from her 2015 Networker Symposium keynote address, "The Myths and Realities of Couples Therapy," Julie explains how couples can escape negative cycles by following her "Couples Blueprint." Hear about it for yourself, below.
Along with her husband, John, Julie Gottman is cofounder of The Gottman Institute. She's also the author or coauthor of Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage; And Baby Makes Three; and The Marriage Clinic Casebook.
As Julie explains, the key to helping couples recover from arguments runs deeper than just making quick apologies. Each partner has to explain, in their own words, what happened during the argument, what they felt, what their perspective was during the incident, and acknowledge that each partner's point of view is valid. Just as important, she adds, is addressing the problem early rather than letting tensions marinate.
"Even when they make mistakes, in the midst of an argument, functional partners will say, 'What have I just said? Oh no! I’m so sorry. Let’s back up. What was that like for you? What happened?'" Julie explains. "Once that kind of slow start-up becomes a habit within a couple, the ability of partners to process the ups and downs of what happens between them can move to a very different level."
Stay tuned for more clinical wisdom from the Gottmans in our upcoming video blogs.
Did you enjoy this video? Check out John and Julie's article, "Lessons from the Love Lab," in which they explain how science has radically transformed the way we practice couples therapy, and "The Myths and Realities of Couples Therapy," in which they discuss the three phases of romantic relationships, and share how to maintain romantic spark and connection even decades into marriage.
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