Q. Last weeks question: My husband and I have been married for 8 years and have discussed marriage counseling but I think we have so many resentments that divorce may be the only answer. Marriage is really hard; I think we are both really tired. How is it possible to have a healthy, happy marriage?
A. We discussed four principles created by Drs. John and Julie Gottman, clinical psychologists who created The Seven Principles That Prevent a Marriage From Breaking Up. This column will discuss the last 3 principles.
5. SOLVE YOUR SOLVABLE PROBLEMS
Complain but don’t criticize. Make statement that start with “I” instead of “you.” Describe what is happening, don’t evaluate or judge. Ask for a break if you need to process what is being said; this provides time to soothe and distract yourself. Compromise – is it possible to agree to disagree?
6. OVERCOME GRIDLOCK
Many perpetual conflicts that are gridlocked have an existential base of unexpressed dreams behind each person’s stubborn position. The bottom line in getting past gridlock is not necessarily to become a part of each other’s dreams but to honor these dreams.
7. CREATE SHARED MEANING
The culture of shared meaning incorporates both of the individual dreams, and it is flexible enough to change as husband and wife grow and develop. When a marriage has this shared sense of meaning, conflict is less intense and perpetual problems are unlikely to lead to gridlock.
Another component of assessing marriage stability is to consider the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; the best predictors of divorce according to the Gottmans.
1. CRITICISM — “What kind of person are you?” “Why do you always leave the toilet seat up?”
2. DEFENSIVENESS — “Yeah? Well what about what you did?” “But that’s not as bad as what you did.”
3. CONTEMPT — “I would never be so low to do something like that!” “You are never going to get it, what is wrong with you?”
4. STONEWALLING —- “Don’t say anything…….how long can she go on?” “Just smile and nod your head……maybe her phone will ring.”
This will give you something to think about. Are you riding any of the above horses?