John Gottman, author and renowned respected scientist of attachment theory, states that people who stay married live four years longer than people who don’t. Further, couples that are happily married (as evidenced by numerous scientific measurements over the course of two days and a night) show a greater proliferation of white blood cells in response to a foreign invader that those whose response to their spouse was neutral or negative. He says (I suspect only partially tongue in cheek) that if people spent a portion of their time working on their marriage instead of the StairMaster that they would get more health benefits.
Gottman’s research is solid and based on research involving thousands of couples. He states with confidence that he can predict whether a couple will divorce by watching and listening to them interact with each other for 5 minutes.
- These aren’t couples who don’t fight–rather they are couples who are able to understand, honor and respect each other and their marriage.
- They aren’t couples who don’t make mistakes, but they are couples who know how to fix them.
- They aren’t couples who don’t ever get mad, but they are individuals who can take responsibility for their behavior and work to actively repair the relationship.
- They aren’t couples who don’t yell at each other, but they are couples who are able to sustain a connection, and continue to give signs of wanting to continue value and continue the relationship.
- Couples with positive marriages are ones where the spouses are good friends with each other, who can extend and receive “repair attempts” which prevent negativity from spiralling out of control.
Gottman says the slide down towards destruction starts with criticism, moves to contempt, progresses to defensiveness and eventually gets to stonewalling.
Marriage counselling doesn’t teach communication–men and women come to counselling knowing how to talk. Marriage counselling works at the connection–helping people find ways to reestablish between each other, and to find ways to be able to offer and accept it when the negativity puts people in places where they don’t trust the other’s intentions as safe and loving.