Marriage and politics (Need therapy???)
A lot of couples butt heads on their political views. It can really hurt, and devolve into criticism and outright contempt very quickly. The increased time together these days hasn't helped that. So much arguing! How can we solve the problem? Should couples continue to try to convince each other, or should they just stop talking about issues they disagree about? How do we solve the problem?
Well, the research of Dr. John Gottman, whose methods I use in marriage therapy, conclusively proves that MARRIAGE THERAPY BASED ON PROBLEM-SOLVING DOESN'T WORK!!! This is a real bombshell. The issue with problem solving is that if it does work, it only works until the next disagreement arises, and then it's the same old cycle. And if problem-solving doesn't work, or if avoidance is the solution, emotional distance is created, and that is what causes divorce. What should we do instead?
Dr. Gottman's famous 20-year study of over 130 couples shocked the therapy world regarding disagreements in marriage. He found that among couples who divorced, 69% of major disagreements remained unresolved. But he found that in happy couples who stayed together, the percentage of unsolved problems was exactly the same, 69%. This proves that problem solving is not the solution. The difference was in how couples approached engaging with the problem, and the styles of arguing. Yes, arguing is good for marriage! Couples can experience greater intimacy when arguments leave them feeling on the same side, validated, and heard, even if the disagreement is not "solved." Happy couples' dialogue around disagreements had the characteristics of a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative statements, emotional regulation, compromise, and seeking to understand rather than to respond. This occurred in a culture of fondness and admiration for one another that did not permit, or quickly repaired, 1) criticism, 2) defensiveness, 3) contempt, and 4) overload/disengagement. Unhappy couples demonstrated the opposite, including a ratio of less than 1:1 positive to negative statements, and a tendency to see everything in a negative light due to emotional overload.
So to conclude, your marital happiness does not depend on your agreement over politics, but emotional disengagement is not a solution, it is a road to divorce. Happy couples may never agree on politics, but dialogue, in which emotional closeness is more important than agreement, is the solution to not only avoiding disengagement, but to actually building emotional closeness!
Give me a call if you'd like to learn more about this revolutionary, research-proven approach to marriage therapy. Additionally, a great book to read is Dr. Gottman's "Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work," co-written with his wife Julie.