Relationships What the Research Shows
World renowned relationship experts and researchers John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman have spent the past four decades studying couples from their first dates through old age in an effort to learn about the meaning of love over time. Their research has shown that love has three distinct phases.
In the first phase, love feels like a drug because it is dominated by neurotransmitters and hormones excreted by both males and females. It is a phase of excitement and pleasure, lust and sexual desire.
The second phase is focused on building trust. Partners want to determine if the other will be there for them in a time of need.
The third phase of love is about building commitment and loyalty.
The findings of the Gottman’s extensive research indicates that conflict is inevitable in all relationships which is why couples therapy is focused on conflict management rather than conflict resolution. In any relationship, there is an inherited set of particular problems. Pick another partner, you would simply get a different set of problems. The conclusion is to understand that a relationship with problems can be managed rather than having an unrealistic expectation that there will be resolution to all problems.
The research shows that arguments between couples are simply failed attempts to connect with each other. Conflict management can help couples love and understand their partners better. The negative communication patterns of criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling are clear indicators of a disastrous outcome for relationships.
Criticism attacks the character of the person rather than focusing on a specific behavior. Learning to talk about feelings using “I” statements can help a couple avoid criticism and express their needs in a positive way.
Contempt can be displayed in a variety of ways and research shows that it is the greatest predictor of relationship failure. The solution is for couples to treat their partner with respect and foster appreciation within the relationship.
Defensiveness although defensiveness is a form of selfprotection, it never solves the problem. One partner gets defensive and the other partner feels blamed. Each partner must accept responsibility for his/her role in the conflict.
Stonewalling occurs when one partner withdraws from the conversation and refuses to engage. Stonewalling is extremely disruptive to a relationship. Learning communication skills that allow for calm conversations and acknowledging the need for and granting a brief break in a conversation when requested can help avoid stonewalling.
If you recognize any of these destructive patterns in your relationship and have not been able to change the patterns, you may find working with an experience relationship counselor of great value. Learning some practical relationship skills can literally save a relationship from dissolving.