Save My Marriage: The Gottman Approach and Therapy

In Mary Jo Faustgen’s webinar “Save My Marriage, Please,” she shares invaluable insights into how couples can rejuvenate their marriages using the Gottman approach. Developed by renowned researchers John and Julie Gottman, this method examines the intricate dynamics of marital interactions to identify patterns that either contribute to a happy union or lead towards divorce.

Understanding Criticism vs. Complaint

A key concept in the Gottman approach, as outlined by Mary Jo, is the distinction between criticism and complaint. Criticisms, she explains, are detrimental as they attack a partner’s character, while complaints address specific issues constructively. Recognizing this difference is crucial in fostering a healthier communication dynamic.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Gottmans’ concept of the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” — criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling — are behaviors identified as leading to marital discord. Mary Jo delves into each of these behaviors, offering strategies for positive interaction, responsibility, validation, and open communication to counteract them.

Seven Components of a Sound Marital House

Another critical aspect of the Gottman approach is understanding the “seven components of a sound marital house.” These include creating a deep, nuanced understanding of each other (Love Maps), nurturing fondness and admiration, turning towards each other’s attempts at connection, maintaining a positive sentiment override, addressing problems effectively, soothing each other physiologically through touch, and fostering shared dreams and meanings.

Embracing the Love Languages

In addition to the Gottman methodology, Mary Jo incorporates Gary Chapman’s concept of love languages. She underscores the power of ceasing criticism and enhancing positive interactions to strengthen the marital bond.

Addressing Marital Challenges with Practical Tools

Throughout her webinar, Mary Jo emphasizes practical solutions to common marital challenges:

  • Setting Realistic Goals: By setting achievable goals, couples can reduce stress and create more opportunities for connection.
  • Effective Communication and Listening: Clear expression of needs and active listening are essential for understanding each other’s perspectives.
  • Fostering Positivity: Cultivating a positive environment within the relationship is key to maintaining a strong connection.
  • Dream Sharing and Flexibility: Listening and supporting each other’s dreams is vital for a fulfilling partnership.
  • Addressing Emotional Intensity and Mental Health: Recognizing and treating mental health issues like depression is crucial for a healthy relationship.
  • Avoiding Harsh Startups: Starting conversations with empathy and understanding prevents defensiveness and fosters better communication.
  • Managing Anger and Fostering Passion: Acknowledging and discussing anger can lead to resolving underlying issues and improving the relationship.

Nurturing the Marital Bond

Mary Jo stresses the importance of prioritizing the marital relationship, even amidst the demands of childcare. Understanding ‘bids for connection’ and responding positively reinforces the bond. She also proposes a structured blueprint for conflict resolution, emphasizing the need for focused and civil dialogue.

Embracing Differences and Shared Values

Dealing with perpetual issues, such as differing planning styles or social preferences, requires acceptance, respect, and a focus on shared values and meanings. This approach helps couples create a culture that celebrates their unique qualities while maintaining a united front.

Mary Jo’s comprehensive guide, grounded in the Gottman approach and supplemented by other relationship theories, offers a beacon of hope for couples striving to strengthen their marital bonds. Her emphasis on active effort, empathetic communication, and flexibility in addressing marital issues serves as a robust framework for couples seeking to enhance their relationships.

Midwest Center For Personal & Family Development