Sometimes we can feel in a perpetual conflict cycle in our relationships and lives, continuously reinforced when we turn on the news or open up social media. We are constantly presented with polar opposite perspectives and asked to take a side. This polarity creates deeper chasms in views and does very little to help build understanding of difference or encourage a curiosity of exploration and tolerance. We miss out on the depth and rich complexity when we narrow down our perspectives and actively exclude other views and opinions.
In relationship and in life there are fewer absolutes than what we imagine.
As a Gottman therapist, the goal is to help couples build and maintain a strong, healthy relationship. The Gottman Method is a research-based approach to couples therapy that focuses on building a strong emotional connection between partners. A Gottman therapist is trained to use this method to help couples improve their communication, increase their understanding of each other, and strengthen their emotional bond. Here are some of the key things that a Gottman therapist does:
1. Builds a strong therapeutic alliance
One of the most important things that a Gottman therapist does is to build a strong therapeutic alliance with the couple. This means creating a safe and supportive environment where the couple feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings. The therapist works to establish trust and rapport with each partner, and to create a sense of mutual respect and understanding. This is essential for creating a foundation for effective therapy.
Gottman Method Couples Therapy is an evidence-based approach for working with distressed couples. This approach, developed by renowned relationship experts John and Julie Gottman, is designed to help couples increase trust, build understanding, and improve communication in their relationships.
The foundation of the Gottman Method of Couples Therapy is based on many years of research from the Gottman’s research centre known as the Love Lab. Through their work, they have identified the key components that can predict the success or failure of a relationship. They have divided these components into three main areas: friendship and connection, conflict management and creating shared meaning. Through their research, they have developed strategies to help couples in each of those areas.
In his extensive career, Dr John Gottman developed mathematical models, scales, and formulas to identify the elements of stability in relationships and the interactive patterns that cause couples to divorce. We now know what makes relationship work and not.
Here are some fun and not so fun facts.
Dr John Gottman has completed over 12 longitudinal studies with over 3000 couples, the longest period couples were followed up was 20 years.
The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse, criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling predict early divorcing. When the 4 horsemen are present without an effective repair attempt, couples divorce an average of 5.6 years after the wedding.
February has been known as the romance month since well before the 5th century. The holiday has origins in the Roman festival of Lupercalia, held in mid-February. The festival celebrated the coming of spring, and included fertility rites and the pairing off of women with men by lottery, resulting naturally in a glut of newborns arriving during the weeks leading up to Christmas. At the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I, concerned about the growing size of the lower classes, forbade the celebration of Lupercalia.
The notion was revived however in the 14th century by none other than Geoffrey Chaucer. He wrote a 699 line poem called ‘Parliament of Fowls’ about a group of birds that gather together in the early spring on ‘seynt valentynes day’ to choose their mates for the year.
By the 17th century enterprising young flower sellers (think Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady) were calling to young men in the marketplace to ‘Trap your lady’s heart with flowers on Saint Valentine’s day, sir – primroses two bunches a penny!’ And by the end of that century industrious printers had begun creating commercial Valentine’s Day cards to accompany those flowers.
It only took 300 years to turn Valentines day into the $60 billion dollar business we know it as today. All for one day of the year!
But here’s the thing, Gottman demonstrated clearly in his research that in happy, satisfying, successful relationships romance is a daily occurrence.
One of the most difficult emotions to deal with in couple therapy is contempt. Feelings of superiority, self-righteousness, and a lack of empathy can quickly escalate conflict and lead to gridlock. It can be expressed as sarcasm, put downs, sneering, eye-rolling and of course swearing, name-calling and yelling.
If you suspect that contempt is an issue in a couple's relationship, there are a few things you can do to help them manage it. First, help them to understand what contempt is and why it's so harmful to their relationship. Dr John Gottman demonstrated in seven different studies that he could predict with 93% accuracy which couples would be separated within three years just based on the amount of contempt present during a 10 minute conflict conversation.
Gottman Relationship Therapy has grown in popularity over the last 40 years, internationally and now here in Australia - and there are very good reasons for this. It is one of, if not the most, research-based methodology for couple’s therapy.
Gottman Therapy involves personalising the principles from the Sound Relationship House Theory to each couple’s unique interaction patterns, issues and challenges.
Assessment-Understanding your unique couple story
Gottman Therapy has a strong focus on assessing and understanding the presenting and underlying issues that couples bring to therapy. Gottman Therapists ensure a thorough assessment is completed to gain a clear understanding of the couple’s history, strengths, weaknesses and treatment goals.
RIA is Australia’s lead agency that offers Certified Gottman Methods Couple Therapy training for professionals. We have delivered over 90 Gottman Training programs and trained over 1500 professionals in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and the USA. RIA begins and finishes your Gottman professional development journey offering all three levels of Gottman training, professional supervision, and consultation to become a Certified Gottman Therapist.
Currently across the world, there are 26 Master Trainers and Consultants in Gottman Therapy. This group has honed their craft over many years and lead Gottman training across all levels. Fortunately, in Australia RIA has the two Master Trainers and Consultants, John Flanagan and Trish Purnell-Webb.
When couples are dissatisfied in their relationship, couple therapy has become one of the most widely practiced interventions. The effectiveness of couple therapy has been demonstrated by several studies (Shadish Baldwin, 2003). and in systematic reviews. Lebow, Chambers, Christensen, and Johnson (2012) summarized research findings indicating that evidence based couple therapy improves relationship satisfaction for 71% of participating couples at the end of treatment.
While couple therapy has shown to be significantly more effective than individual therapy in addressing relationship distress (Barbato & Avanzo, 2008), many people who seek help for couple-related issues are treated in individual therapy.
There are several reasons for this. For example:
• One partner is reluctant to attend;
• One partner may be reluctant to invite the other partner;
• Therapists might recommend individual treatment if one partner demonstrates clinical issues such as substance abuse, depression, trauma, etc;
• Individual therapy may be the only format of therapy offered by the service provider (organisational EAP programs, or therapist is not trained in couple therapy)
The current research raises three major concerns about treating couple problems in individual therapy (Gurman & Burton,2014): ...
The iconic Australian songwriter Paul Kelly wrote,
“Little decisions are the kind I can make, Big resolutions are so easy to break”.
The waters are yet to calm on the COVID 19 landscape; certainty and predictability still remain fragile commodities. As we enter 2022, it is the little decisions we can make that can provide more stability and direction for our future.
As you know the John Gottman mantra of ‘small things often’ is more important than ever as we contend with looking after our relationships, families, work and ourselves. Did you know that if the navigation calculations and trajectory were out by only .1 degree for the Apollo mission to the moon, the spacecraft would have missed the moon by 6709 km. Over time, little things become significant. Importantly this is true for both positive and negative acts.
So here are 5 practical ways to create small change across time in your relationship.