Below is a Summary of the interview which can be listened to in full at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4EJuXyH8To&feature=youtu.be
My Quick Checklist Summation (Below this is the full essay written summation)
- Having high expectations for going into relationships and expecting to be treated well with love, affection, kindness, generosity will bring about those things. Having less than high expectations will also bring about less than ideal relationships.
- Channeling your anger and resentments in a respectful way is a must. Taking responsibility as the speaker and as the one expressing, for how you come across, is very important. Masters soften the way they start talking about problems and edit themselves. They’re considerate, they’re kind and gentle, they take responsibility for even a small part of the problem, overall paying attention to their partners defensiveness which minimizes it. How the first 3 minutes of a conversation about conflict goes predict with 95% accuracy how the conflict will end up.
- A 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative within a discussion related to conflict. This is how many seconds are dedicated to being nice to each other, being interested, asking questions, being affectionate, empathetic, laughing together, being curious and amused, etc. (positive) to how many seconds they are being hostile, defensive, angry, disappointed and hurt, etc. (negative). When not in conflict that ratio goes up to 20 to 1!
- Except and embrace the differences of your partner but also try to change to become better for yourself and your partner. There needs to be obvious movement in both direction.
- Research proves that partners who were in happy relationships received their partners attempts at connection 85% of the time.
- If only trying to fix conflict in a relationship, the positive changes won’t last. You have to also fix friendship and intimacy.
- Communicate and push for connection about trying to get your needs met in the relationship rather than building resentment and betrayal where your substituting for what’s missing in the relationship and magnifying resentment for what you don’t have rather than gratitude for what you do have.
- You will have more sex if it’s positively accepted that it’s ok to say no, while still moving towards wanting to bond in other ways that’ll make connection the focal point. There also needs to be a clear way of saying, ‘yes’ to sex and initiating sex. Know what turns your partner on and off and put effort into creating a love map of your partners erotic world and continue to invest and participate in it.
- In great relationships, the motto of “when you’re hurting baby the world stops and I listen” is adhered to. Really paying attention and being attuned to “taking notes” about what they’re feeling and what their needs are is crucial to keep from a disconnect or neglectful feeling situation from occurring.
- Taking up compassionate mindful meditation. Think about feeling yourself in your body and how to increase how compassionate you are. It moves people away from ruminating on negative things that gets them to withdraw from the world and instead moves them toward engagement with life with curiosity, interest, amusement, and also anger.
- Put your effort and energy into relationships that make you a more kind and generous and compassionate person. Walk towards and invest in the kinds of people that make you more adventurous and playful.
- There is a three times as high success rate for dealing with relational problems when people do preventative work and they try and prevent problems vs waiting for them to come up.
- Conflicts that feel like deal breakers can turn out much of the time to be the greatest potential sources for intimacy as it makes people think about what their position means to them and the history and story behind it all.
Believing in buzz phrases we commonly hear about successful relationships simply do not hold up. We may even have thought many of them to be obvious for creating successful relationships when in fact many of them are totally wrong. For example, saying “Lower your expectations or else you’ll end up disappointed and unhappy” has proven to actually put people into relationships that are largely disappointing and unhappy. People get the energy they put out there. If they feel they deserve a standardized product or mediocrity research has shown they will most likely get that. Contrary, having high expectations for going into relationships for expecting to be treated well with love, affection, kindness, and generosity has been backed up by research to result in bringing about such things.
Another phrase we often believe to be true which isn’t is to “Let it all hang out. Express all your feelings and emotions. People need to say what’s on their mind in an uncensored way when it comes to important things like anger and resentments. Get it all out!” As it turns out, doing this, and say, expressing your anger and resentments to each other actually increases them. The key is in channeling your anger. Not that it’s bad, but you got to take responsibility as a speaker and how you come across. The masters soften the way they start talking about problems. Their considerate, their kind, they’re gentle. They minimize their partners defensiveness. Expressing your feelings without censorship will lead to more intense problems and partners being more in reactionary attack and defense modes. Taking responsibility for even a small part of the problem will allow your partner to not feel like the weight of the problem is on them and you have a role in it too.
When problems arise, some people start persuasion right away like lawyers in a court room. If the partners are matched in this “engaging focused” way, they love debating, arguing, and disagreeing with each other. They can be funny, they can laugh a lot, but again they abide by being gentle while going full bore towards persuasion. These kinds of partners are easily labeled as tough, and overall, they are matched well and fine, even though it might look to an outsider like they are in the throes of deep confrontation and argumentative stress. Other couples can be the opposite in that they never persuade and avoid conflict whenever they can. They are very gentle and often say, “Hey I can live with that. That’s your point of view. I have a different point of view. It’s all good.” They have this don’t tread on me kind of motto and want to maintain independence and strength as individuals and don’t want to tread on each other’s territory. They can be great talkers, though, and seem most likely to be the most accepting of all relationships.
Then there is a middle group that are called “validators” that first talk a lot and then move onto persuasion and they are fine too. Research shows that if couples are matched appropriately with a similar type of partner than they are, then they are really fine and their kids are fine, etc. The golden rule in research, though, for why all of these couples are successful isn’t totally reliant on if they are similar, but rather, if they have a 5 to 1 ration of positive to negative during a conversation about conflict. This ratio relates to how many seconds they are being nice to each other, being interested, asking questions, being affectionate, empathetic, laughing together, being curious and amused, etc. (positive) to how many seconds they are being hostile, defensive, angry, disappointed and hurt, etc. (negative). When the above couples are mismatched from their type then that is where big problems come in. One partner wants to engage and persuade and talk about things while the other doesn’t and instead wants to walk away and avoid. This difference in communication makes it even more important to cater to the 5 to 1 positive to negative ratio. As a note of comparison, for disaster couples that ration was about 1 to 1. And interesting to note as well, when successful couples are not in a conflict based conversation that ration goes up to 20 to 1, positive to negative, which shows for successful relationship to occur there needs to be an overwhelming amount of appreciation, affection, kindness, generosity, etc. The positive approaches should be easy to recognize if it is anywhere near the 20 to 1 ratio.
Even with something as simple as saying something like “yes, AND…can I add something to that” vs “yes, BUT…can I add something to that”, that simple change in language (‘and’ rather than ‘but’) creates unity vs separation and division. The masters of relationships are having conversations, even about conflict, that open the heart and mind and eventually get to places where they can find compromise, accept the problem, or live with the differences. An interesting piece of information to consider is that how the first 3 minutes of a conversation about conflict go dictate 95% of the time how the overall conflict goes.
When couples sit down in their natural environment there isn’t any one particular conversation or topic that comes up that creates problems. They just hang out and within that, arguments seem to come up out of nowhere relating to failed attempts to connect as friends and lovers. These attempts at connection could be saying something as simple as, “honey can you pass the chips.” If the response is “I’m actually really busy and can’t” or “get your own chips please” then that is a failed attempt at connecting. Research has shown that during dinner there can be up to 200 attempts at connecting in ten minutes. Other types of simple attempts have to do with just getting your partner’s attention and looking out the window and saying things like, “oh what a lovely day.” If there’s no response or one that goes against their response like “actually it’s a horrible day” or “why do you talk about nothing” then that’s a failed attempt at connection. Partners studied over many years who eventually got divorced were successful at these points of connection 30% of the time, while partners who were still married or in successful relationships connected with their partners 85% of the time. Again, like the 20 to 1 ratio above, successful relationships seem to obviously be successful.
For approaching and fixing conflict in a relationship, the positive changes won’t last just with stopping there. You have to fix friendship and intimacy which relate to moving towards and accepting and being mindful of the attempts at connection above. Gottman calls this the “small things often” approach and these attempts are really a “foreplay” for overall deeper connection in every aspect.
Coupled with the ideas above about how to receive positively your partners attempts at connection is also the idea that receiving such attempts builds an emotional bank account. These comments include yourself making positive attempts at connection by doing such things as being complimentary at food made, good conversations, physical appearance, etc. They build up trust, friendship, intimacy, love, affection, and overall connection. They make the relationship playful, flirtatious, exciting, safe, comfortable, etc.
Gottman talks about the three phases of relationships. The first phase is easy to relate to as it is all over the media and entertainment in movies and such. It is the falling in love phase. The Romeo and Juliet ideal. It is a very selective matching. Only the right partner can trigger this in you. They need to smell right, taste right, feel right, look right, all of which give rise to exceptional surges in your hormones and neurotransmitters. There’s excitement, obsession, real concern for one another, exceptional kindness exerted, lust, passion, the comfort of creating someone you can nest with, the feeling that it’s easy to relate and time passes quickly, etc. One of the most intense hormones surging in this phase is oxytocin which is the hormone of bonding and also the hormone of very bad judgement as it calms down the fear section of the brain. This can often lead to people not seeing obvious red flags that will be problems in the relationship at a later time.
The second phase encompasses building trust and a safe haven in the relationship. When people enter this phase, and make a big commitment, a bit of “buyer’s remorse” occurs as the oxytocin haze of the first phase fades and what originally attracted you to that person can even become sources of irritability. Arguments in this phase are mostly about “can I trust you, will you be there for me, do you have my back, will you be there for me when I’m horny, when I’m lonely, when I’m angry with you and disappointed, am I more important than your mother, than your friends, what if I really need you, will you be sexually and emotionally faithful to me, do I really come first, are wedding vows really true?” This second phase is just as selective as the first and you can only build trust with a select type of person. Being successful in this phase leads to moving onto much bigger commitments like buying a house, having children, marriage, merging finances, etc.
The third phase then comes and this is where you really build loyalty, commitment, and true romantic passion, where romance is about cherishing this person above all others producing a “being in love” that can last a lifetime. You maximize your partners positive qualities and minimize their negative ones and are really trying to get your needs met in the relationship rather than building resentment and betrayal where you’re substituting for what’s missing in the relationship and magnifying resentment for what you don’t have rather than gratitude for what you do have.
Many couples have problems with sex in relationships with either not having enough of it or not communicating about it. Gottman describes that it can be mathematically proven, citing the concept of “Game Theory” in his research that couples will have more sex if it’s okay to say no. For example, if a woman says no to sex and a man responds with, “Ok then what are you in the mood for? Do you want to take a walk, watch a show, get some food, do you need to be alone, do you need me to take care of something, what would make you feel good” then it is easily proved that that couple will have a lot of sex. On average, men want sex six times more often than women, and if the man in this situation responds by being hurt and moves to punish her in any way then that couple is not going to have a lot of sex.
There also needs to be a clear way of saying, ‘yes’ to sex and initiating sex. Most couples in our culture don’t have a ritual for initiating sex. Knowing what turns your partner on and off and putting effort into creating a love map of your partners erotic world and continuing to invest in this really creates a healthy, fulfilled sex life. Sometimes this means having long, gourmet sex, sometimes this means quicky sex, sometimes this means helping your partner masturbate, sometimes it means fulfilling kinky fantasies. Staying on top of this is key for developing positive forms of connection, bonding, intimacy, etc. An interesting note on internet pornography; unless it is experienced together with a partner it actually decreases libido. It creates an impersonal sexual fantasy that disrupts connection to a person. Facilitating oxytocin release to images to which you have complete control over that comes from no communication really is what proves detrimental about internet porn. It moves away from connection and bonding with anything real.
In a great relationship, the motto of “when you’re hurting baby the world stops and I listen” is adhered to. This relates to all scenarios even if the partner is expressing disappointment in the other partner. Really paying attention and being attuned to “taking notes” about what they’re feeling and what their needs are is crucial to keep from a disconnect or neglectful feeling situation from occurring. If you feel you can’t talk to your partner or your partner will not be there for you or won’t listen or will be short or belittle, criticize, or blame you for feeling and expressing a certain way then you are in serious trouble in that relationship.
The best way to change a relationship is if both people are willing to look at the relationship and their own roles. As an individual, though, you can do a great deal on your own. Taking up compassionate mindful meditation is a healthy strategy. Thinking about feeling yourself in your body and how you can increase how compassionate is the key. It moves people away from ruminating on negative things that gets them to withdraw from the world and instead moves them toward engagement with life with curiosity, interest, amusement, and also anger. It leads people to be engaging and have more of a sense of humor. This practice also allows people to sustain positive emotion. This is a must for everybody as positive emotion has a shorter half-life than negative emotion. Negative emotion is thus more powerful and long lasting. Research has shown that when you’re unhappy in a relationship you don’t notice 50% of the positive things your partner does for you. The meditation allows for you to notice those things more and not give so much influence to the overly powerful negative emotions. Rather, they give way to learning the skills of intimate conversation and make individuals better at being receptive, less judgmental, less critical, more kind and generous, more gentle in approaching their partner and others, and bringing about less resentment and alienation.
Gottman also offers some good advice on when to recognize and bail out of a bad relationship. It is important to know oneself when it comes to this. What are you and your personality like and what are you like when you’re with your partner? If you compare those two things and think about how your partner influences you what comes up? If your partner moves you to a more negative place then that’s a very bad sign and you want to bail out of any relationship that does that to you. Putting your effort and energy into relationships that make you a more kind and generous and compassionate person is key. What kinds of people make you more adventurous and playful, and such people are those you want to invest in.
Gottman advises that you don’t necessarily need a therapist to achieve or repair to a healthy place in a relationship. Reading and doing the exercises in the “7 Principles” book together with your partner can have a dramatically positive, long lasting effect on your relationship. Part of the problem is that people wait for problems to come up which makes it much more difficult. There is a three times as high success rate when people do preventative work and they try and prevent problems. Other forms of therapy that Gottman recommends that have had high success rates is Susan Johnson’s Emotional Focused Therapy, and Behavioral Marital Therapy has also proved very effective. Gottman also has a unique belief in his therapeutic practice that some conflicts that feel like deal breakers can turn out to be the greatest potential sources for intimacy. The claim is that each person’s position has a very deep meaning to them and there is a dream within their position that is not getting talked about. Gottman’s “Dreams Within Conflict” approach has a very high statistical success rate (66%) for helping couple’s reach a positive breakthrough in this regard. It makes people think about what their position means to them. What is its history and the story behind it all? Delving in as such can create exponential relationship health.