The work of John Gottman (family psychotherapist and researcher) has identified six factors involved in functional marriages. Marriages featuring these six components were found by Gottman to have a much better chance of survival long-term.
Good marriages, with sufficient long-term security, featured: typically softened start-ups when communication around complex issues was embarked upon; the mutual acceptance of influence from partners; the ability to make effective repair from conflict; the de-escalation of conflict and self-soothing competencies; the nurturance of positive feelings; and, the management of stress spillover.
1. Softened Start-Up
Marriages where tumultuous territory is handled with special care and respect deal with complex issues better. When we respect the need to position particular issues properly, we demonstrate concern for our partners. We don’t just dump and run. Planning the right time and way of raising the matter is important. Going in carefully will avert many potential unnecessary conflicts.
2. Accepting Influence
Not accepting influence is particularly an issue for men. When a man refuses the influence of his wife, thinking that he alone has all the answers, he cuts off a vital avenue to respect. Through a lack of respect on his part to her, she lacks respect for him. But when partners can accept the influence of each other a particular mutual respect and value for each other resides between them.
3. Effective Repair
Whenever conflict has taking place, and one or both have been hurt, effective repair is the key. Through repair forgiveness is forged. A repair attempt takes place when one partner does or says something representing the other partner or them as a marital team. Making an attempt at effective repair can be as simple as saying sorry or acknowledging something positive the other partner has said or done.
4. De-escalation and Soothing
One of the hallmarks of early marriages is the issue of extended conflict; of not knowing when to take time out. De-escalation is simply the matter of calling an early halt to proceedings when one or both are too angry to communicate effectively. When partners withdraw to their own spaces they then need to draw upon their self-soothing capacities in order to calm down enough so reflection can take place.
5. Positive Feelings
The ratio of five positive things said and done to one negative thing said and done is backed by research. Good marriages pass the 86 percent mark so far as positivity is concerned. Positive feelings are augmented by well-placed humour and a generally positive outlook.
6. Managing Stress Spillover
We all get stressed, and marriages where stresses can spillover safely, where anger can be safely contained and even explored, allow for the normal vagaries of life. When partners can support each other in the stresses of life, without either partner being especially or unusually dependent, there are encouraging outcomes.
Good marriages were found to feature: 1) careful start-ups in communication around complex issues; 2) the mutual acceptance of influence from partners; 3) the ability to make effective repair from conflict; 4) de-escalations of conflict and self-soothing abilities; 5) the nurturance of positive feelings; and, 6) tolerance of stress spillover.
Good marriage is not just about conflict resolution, but that’s not a bad place to start.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.