In his study involving thousands of couples observed over several decades, relationship expert Dr. John Gottman demonstrates that 69% of problems in a relationship are unsolvable. How are we to understand (and deal with) this less-than-encouraging piece of data?
Without purporting to have any formal education in what makes a relationship thrive, he recently published a book (If You’re in My Office, It’s Already Too Late: A Divorce Lawyer’s Guide to Staying Together) in which he shares what he has observed makes relationships fall apart irretrievably.
Master therapist (and co-founder of the Couples Institute) Ellyn Bader notes that several myths can render an apology meaningless and even useless. After debunking these myths, she offers a path for repair that is more effective than a glib or quick apology.
The former approach entails a readiness to attack, confront, criticize, or cast aspersion, and quickly escalates a conflictual exchange that could be so much more easily resolved. The latter promotes a sense of powerlessness in the relationship, self-pity and self-victimization, sulking, withdrawal, internalized and growing resentment, and does little to move a situation or dynamic in new directions.
The book’s title — We Are Called to Rise — is drawn from the quote by poet Emily Dickenson: “We never know how high we are, Till we are called to rise; And then, if we are true to plan, Our statures touch the skies.” The following two eloquent quotes capture the book’s essence.
Brain science supports anecdotal evidence that compassion is infinitely more effective in de-escalating conflict and nurturing intimacy than are cool logic and rational argument. The following tactics are generally less than successful in trying to get the understanding and caring we need from our partner:
Many of us have been challenged by toxic people in our lives who spew negativity, leaving us feeling somehow demeaned and deflated. From the Latin word toxikon, meaning “arrow poison,” the term toxic means literally: to fill or poison in a targeted way, says Theo Veldsman, head of Industrial Psychology and People Management at the University of Johannesburg.
Martha Kauppi, marriage and sex therapist, and founder of the Institute for Relational Intimacy, notes that basic psychoeducation is an integral part of helping partners negotiate the most intimate aspects of their relationship.