by Rebecca Kirk, MAMFT
Since 1980 Dr. John Gottman has been gathering research on marital interactions and has proven with 94% accuracy the ones that end in divorce based on the partners’ physiological interactions with one another. The important thing to note in couple problems isn’t “how often they fight” but “how they fight.” Research was done by observing couple’s heart rates, facial expressions, gestures, fidgeting, sarcasm, contempt, breathing, listening, emotional understandings, and inability or ability to agree on their history and laugh at past hardships. This research has lead to the identification of dissolved marriages. Research has also refuted popular myths on marriage busters such as financial, sexual, and compatibility problems leading to divorce, etc. Gottman’s findings contradict Olsen’s speculation that couples who argue aggressively end in divorce. Gottman’s evidence is gathered from hundreds of couple “x-ray” tests where he observes them with lie detectors, electrodes, pulse devices, blood flow sensors, and microphones. Couple disagreements were then observed when they arose.
Not only is this research methodically different, but it remains valid across time per couple that has participated. Spanning close to three decades and using seventy-nine couples exhaustively, the research has stood the test of premature predictions. It is important to study these long-term successful relationships.
What is some of the most pivotal information found in his research?
- Couples need five more positive comments than negative for each other. (Even couples who have many passionate disagreements thrive when this ratio is kept.)
- Laughter is important in marriages.
- The Four Horseman of the Marriage Apocalypse:
Remember that one of the greatest gifts you can give your children is a healthy marriage, and that these research findings prove that a ratio of five positives to one negative predicts the most important ingredient of hope. Decreasing the criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and withdrawal by focusing on the positive is truly life.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. -Philippians 4:8, ESV
Communicate positive interactions with the significant people in your life by speaking them, and writing them on sticky notes and leaving them in surprising locations. Don’t forget that our facial expressions and laughter screams communication as well. For more great information on this by Dr. John Gottman, read his book entitled Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: …and How You Can Make Yours Last.