PROFILE of a HEALTHY MARRIAGE
F. Douglas Stephenson, LCSW, LMFT, BCD
Former President, The Florida Society for Clinical Social Work
Based on the pioneering and well researched work of John Gottman and associates at the University of Washington, several key factors are identified in a realistic profile of a good marriage. Describing a “Sound Marital House”, the foundation of a healthy marriage includes:
Unhealthy marriages lack knowledge of spouses likes/dislikes, are weak on fondness and admiration between partners , and tend to ignore, make excuses, and not turn toward the spouse when called, thereby producing “Negative Sentiment Override”. With this, the tendency is to assume the worst possible interpretation of the spouses irritating behavior. You give the benefit of doubt with Positive Sentiment Override. Negative Sentiment requires just the reverse, where you assume that your spouse means harm.
1). CRITICISM: troubled couples often attack each other in global ways, defaming each others character rather than carefully describing behaviors that have been annoying.
Seeking antidotes to the Four Horsemen behaviors is the central focus of marriage and family psychotherapy. With Gottman and other therapists, global and harse criticisms by couples are rephrased into softer, more focused complaints. Displays of contempt are combated by encouraging spouses to reconnect with their mutual fondness and admiration. By encouraging each partner to take some of of the responsibility for marital problems, defensiveness and combativeness are combated and often reduced. Stonewalling is worked on by encouraging more self expression and openess of communication.
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