Today’s Spotlight: John Gottman (The Einstein of Love)

“Mostly, all you can do in love is repair how you screw up.” – John Gottman

John Gottman might be the world’s most calculating romantic. Love is a form of energy, he insists, and by expressing the dynamics of human relationships in mathematical terms, he aims to save more of them.

World renowned for his work on marital stability and divorce prediction, John Gottman has conducted 40 years of breakthrough research with thousands of couples. His work on marriage and parenting have earned him numerous major awards. Dr. Gottman was one of the Top 10 Most Influential Therapists of the past quarter-century by the Psychotherapy Networker. He is the author of 190 published academic articles and author or co-author of 40 books, including the bestselling  What Makes Love LastThe Relationship CureWhy Marriages Succeed or Fail; and Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child, among many others. Together, he and his wife have founded the Gottman Institute in Seattle, where they teach their findings to therapists and also ordinary couples seeking aide.

At the University of Washington, Gottman founded the “Love Lab.” He recruited 130 demographically representative newlyweds to spend 24 hours there being monitored and observed. Gottman was interested in how they build intimacy when they are just hanging out together. Gottman pored over the videotapes and noticed that partners regularly issue bids, gambits of some sort that invite conversation, laughter or some response. When, six years later, he contacted the former newlyweds, 17 percent were no longer married. Looking again at the videotapes, he discovered that, among those who divorced, partners had responded to only 33 percent of their spouse’s bids, while those who stayed married were turning toward their partner’s bids 86 percent of the time, building up a reservoir of positive emotions that disposed them kindly to each other in times of conflict.

In Principia Amoris, Gottman has polished the insights gleaned from decades of research and expressed them both in words and different equations. He spent more than 15 years with mathematician and biologist James Murray converting the findings into quantifiable variables, then creating equations showing how the variables interact to drive marriages toward hell or a state of grace. Trying to understand love is like trying to understand the weather, Gottman urges: It’s complex, but essentially full of the kind of patterns that mathematicians can interpret.

The Gottmans have developed an intervention for couples dealing with varying struggles; from fights veering into violence, dealing with affairs, one partner with PTSD and/or addiction. “The relationship is potentially the greatest source of healing,” he says. “We think we have the technology to help with that.” But at the end of the day, is he the ultimate spoiler, reducing romance to a bunch of equations? His response to this claim: “Does understanding the way a star works eliminate the awe we feel when we look at the night sky? Or does the knowledge add to the majesty of the night?”

Source: Psychology Today


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