“If you want to be happy for the rest of your life” then don’t do what the songs recommend; do what research has proven works. John Gottman, PhD. at UW, has studied married couples for decades.
Here are some of his ideas:
- Accept influence instead of responding negatively to each other; share power
- Put the brakes on anger as it accelerates between you; de-escalate negativity
- Use positive interactions: agreement, approval, laughter, assent, smiles
- Instead of withdrawing from angry spouses, soothe them gently, lovingly
- Husbands: validate your wife’s feelings (I understand that or that makes sense.)
- Wives: use humor to decrease your husband’s stress when you complain
- Both: show you’re listening with brief vocalizations, head nods and facial movements that convey to the speaker that you are tracking what they say
– Be fair with each other – remember the Golden Rule.
– Be a choice maker – you choose what you say and how you act..
– You can make things worse, better or about the same. Choose.
– If you can’t resolve the issue, step back and look at it from your spouse’s perspective.
– Rate it from 1 inconsequential to 10 vital.
– Negotiate trades. Which is more important: A, B or C?.
– Find the third alternative so it’s not Win-Lose.
– Take turns. Well, it worked in kindergarten!.
– Decide to be Christ-like, laying down your life for each other.
During conflict resolution, happily married couples use skills:
- When he does something she doesn’t like, she softens her approach to him to gently ask him to make a change.
- When she raises this complaint, he de-escalates her low intensity negativity by validating, soothing and empathizing.
- She offers humor to break the tension in an argument; this is one type of repair effort to mend the relationship during conflict.
- He accepts influence from her, trusting she means him no harm, sharing decision making and power with her as an equal.
- As they talk, both use five times more positive comments than negative, ten times more compliments than criticisms.
- As they listen, both show positive affect (pleasant, friendly, kind, smiling, patting, stroking, nodding, tilting the head nicely).
- While resolving the conflict, both intentionally de-escalate negativity by calming, lowering volume, saying positive things.
- Because males respond physiologically with fight-or-flight, both partners physiologically soothe the husband during conflict.
- Both see with X-ray vision beyond hostility to the old wounds behind any hostility, then reframe the perceived attack.
- Each spouse reframes harder emotions (anger, hostility) as the softer emotions (fear, sadness), then provides caring support.
- Couples need other patterns of emotional engagement and responsiveness than conflict resolution, like inductive Bible study.
- Happy marriage partners express affection for each other all the time, even during a disagreement.
- Couples acknowledge their partner’s point of view (I’m sorry I hurt your feelings) in order to keep quarrels from getting too hot.