For nearly 50 years Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman have revolutionized the study of relationships. They have developed an approach that not only supports and repairs troubled relationships but can also strengthen happy ones and are able to tell if a relationship is going to be successful in over 90% of cases.
The four horsemen of the apocalypse
One of the most famous findings has been the four occurrences in a relationship (partners or parent and child), that the research identifies will almost always be an indicator that the relationship will experience great difficulty include:
- Criticism (a form of blame). A partner who engages conflict in a criticism-based way might say something like, “you always do this!” (Look for words like always and never.)
- Contempt (hiding). Contempt can often look like verbal abuse in a relationship. Contempt offers no opportunity for joining with a partner or for resolution.
- Stonewalling (another form of hiding) might look like silence. Examples might be “the silent treatment,” walking away from an argument, or leaving a partner’s texts on “read.” Stonewalling is tuning the other person out, ignoring, or sometimes it’s a fear-based shutting down that occurs when a person doesn’t have emotional resources to engage.
- Defensiveness (also a type of blame) may look like statements such as “it’s all your fault!” Defensiveness escalates conflict and deflects shared responsibility. It may inflate the problems that are present.
One the other hand the key skills that the Gottman Institute focus on for building better relationships include:
- Cultivate appreciation and friendship for each other
- Bring more curiosity and playfulness to your relationship
- Create more love by focusing on the small moments
- Listen, appreciate, and understand your partner
- Stay compassionate and assume the best
- Create rituals to build the life you want in your relationship
- Having a positive perspective
- Small things often are better than one big thing a year
- Take time to check the meaning of things and not assume