For many of us Christmas is an important annual ritual of connection, but the way we celebrate Christmas can vary considerably. For some couples Christmas can be a deeply spiritual and very personal experience that draws them closer together. For others Christmas can be a source of tension, conflict and misery. Dr John Gottman found in his research looking at what made relationships work that couples who had developed a culture rich with symbols and rituals and an appreciation for the roles and goals that link them together had much more stable and satisfying relationships.
While Christmas has a reputation for good cheer and joy, it is also the most stressful month of the year for couples, according to Seddons, a law firm in the UK. They report in their 2011 study of 3000 couples that more arguments occur during the month of December than at any other time of the year. It was reported that the average couple has 4 arguments a day during December, or a total of 124 arguments over the month.
As part of his research on what makes relationships work, Dr John Gottman recruited several hundred newlyweds, observed how they interacted together, interviewed them and had them fill in a range of questionnaires designed to get a baseline on how stable their relationships were. He then followed up with them six years later. Many of the couples had remained together. Many had divorced. It turned out that the couples that stayed married were much better at one thing – what Gottman called Turning Towards Instead of Away. At the six-year follow up, couples that had stayed married turned towards one another 86% of the time. Couples that had divorced averaged only 33% of the time. This suggests the secret to relationship stability is turning towards each other instead of turning away.
Infidelity in a committed relationship—can severely strain the relationship and the individuals involved. One partner’s affair can leave the other person feeling devastated, alone, betrayed, jealous, confused, and aggrieved. Sometimes, an affair ends a relationship, and other times couples are able to repair the relationship on their own or with the help of a therapist, often making the relationship stronger as a result.
According to McCrindle research, November (spring) and March (autumn) are the most popular months to get married in Australia. Sadly about 38% of those marriages will end in divorce within 8.4 years. If we factor in the number of couples who end de facto relationships that number rises to approximately 48% of all committed live-in relationships ending each year in Australia. Additionally, approximately 70% of those households include children. It’s not a pretty picture.
Luckily we have some good news. After studying couples interactions over the past 40 years psychologist and researcher Dr John Gottman found that happy, healthy, long lasting relationships were characterised by two basic attitudes—you guessed it—kindness and generosity.
Michael Brown a Certified Gottman Therapist in the USA describes substance abuse as the “uninvited-invited guest” in an intimate relationship. He argues that at times substance abuse enters into a relationship like an uninvited guest. Other times, it is invited in by one, and unwanted by the other. Or in a third scenario, it is invited in by both partners. However, whenever it enters, it is like an unwanted guest that stays too long and interferes in the relationship. So just how does this “unwanted guest” impact relationships? Viewing it through the Sound Relationship House helps us to better conceptualise the issues.
We are social animals and have a deep and underlying desire to find that one perfect person, our ‘soul mate’, to spend the rest of our days with in perfect happiness and harmony. But what do we really know about the perfect mate or the ideal partner? Psychology has shed some light on this mystery in an effort to understand what truly makes two people compatible for a lifetime.
Rose Park Psychology is a private practice in an inner city suburb of Adelaide and are seeking an experience relationship counsellor.
Trish and John have just returned from presenting our first Gottman base workshops in Western Australia!
Over the weekend of 9 and 10 July, 5 brave couples arrived at the Novotel Langley in Perth to spend 2 days focussed on improving their relationships at the Art and Science of Love Couples Workshop. Over the two days Trish and John led them through a range of information and activities designed to help them build closer more connected and intimate relationships, better manage conflict and create shared goals and meaning in their relationships.
Trish Purnell-Webb is a clinical psychologist in private practice. Trish was the first therapist in Australia to become a Certified Gottman Therapist. She is also the only person in Australia to hold the title of Master Trainer and Consultant with the Gottman Institute and is only 1 of 22 in the world. What does all this mean? Recently Trish was interviewed by a psychology placement student from Bond University asking her about this.
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