I know someone who realized she needed to get a divorce when she confided in her husband that she was having trouble with one of her best friends, and he didn’t respond.
He did not attempt to soothe her, or care to listen to her more closely. In fact, he continued brushing his hair, not facing her, staring at himself in the bathroom mirror.
According to John Gottman PhD, founder of the Love Lab, a relationship-focused research center, the secret to a successful marriage is being able to lean on one another during difficult times.
This woman learned, over time, that she could not count on her husband for empathy, or to connect with her when she bid for his attention, so she left the relationship.
Some people don’t leave, but they are left with an unsatisfactory marriage, brimming with hostility and resentment.
According to Gottman, in regards to our relationships we’re either Masters or Disasters. He says, we must be attuned to our partner and listen in a non-defensive way. Listening with empathy is what builds trust in a relationship “and trust is the number one thing that makes a relationship work.”
In his bestselling book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Gottman writes about The Four Horsemen, (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling) and how these acts are detrimental to a relationship.
How strong is your relationship? See the Gottman relationship scale:
Instructions: Rank each item below —
*Strongly Agree (5 points) *Agree (4 points)*Neutral (3 points)*Disagree (2 points)*Strongly Disagree (1 point)
At the end, tally up each category and use the key to interpret your results.
✦ I feel emotionally close to my partner. ✦ I think that my partner really cares about me. ✦ I feel confident that we can deal with whatever problems might arise. ✦ I would consider myself happy in this relationship. ✦ My partner really listens to me. ✦ I feel that my partner finds me physically attractive. ✦ I can talk to my partner about anything. ✦ I feel that my partner is very interested in me ✦ I feel respected by my partner ✦ I am committed to staying together. ✦ I have a great deal of respect and admiration for my partner. ✦ My partner really tries hard to meet my needs. ✦ My partner respects my dreams in life. ✦ My partner is one of my best friends. ✦ My partner rarely puts me down.
How to read your results:
Above 55: You’re emotionally close to your partner, a sign that your relationship is going strong.
45-55: Your relationship may have once been solid, but recently some cracks have begun to show.
35-44: If you’ve been unable to cope with problems that have plagued your relationship recently, Gottman recommends taking a couple’s seminar to realign your relationship goals and individual needs.
Less than 35: It’s time to bring in the pros and seek a couples therapist immediately. According to Gottam, “Criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling are the best predictors of a doomed relationship.”
Valentine’s Day may remind us to buy flowers or to say I love you; but in order for a relationship to flourish, and last, it must be tended to daily. Hard work, attention, empathy, kindness and generosity are the fundamentals of any long-lasting healthy relationship.
Consider this story:
A married couple drives in a car. The husband’s cell phone rings just as his wife is telling him about a problem at work. He answers his phone, engages in the conversation for about five minutes, and then he hangs up. He does not apologize for interrupting his wife or for answering the phone. He doesn’t ask about what she was saying before the call.
A. Has great sex
B. Has a fight
C. Gets a divorce
What do you think?