Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Watch your mouth! : An impromptu lesson on marriage and relationships! (... and a quick update)

Last week I read a book called "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell. It was pretty interesting and I enjoyed the stories he tells to illustrate his point that our snap judgements, our instincts, our first impressions, can often be more reliable than we think.  That "Blink" of an eye moment where we just have a feeling in our stomach about something... where does that come from?

Anyway, I found myself being served an impromptu lesson on marriage, relationship, communication, attitude and watching my mouth!  I wanted to share it with you...

He tells the story of a guy named John Gottman who has been analyzing married couples since the 1980s in his "love lab" near the University of Washington campus.  Each couple is videotaped and analyzed just like on the show "Lie to Me"!  (Which I love!)  Based on his calculations and assessments he can predict, after one hour of observation, whether a couple will still be married fifteen years later, with 95% accuracy!  How does he do it?...

"People are in one of two states in a relationship," Gottman went on.  "The first is what I call positive sentiment override, where positive emotion overrides irritability.  It's like a buffer.  Their spouse will do something bad, and they'll say, 'Oh, he's just in a crummy mood.'  Or they can be in negative sentiment override, so that even a relatively neutral thing that a partner says gets perceived as negative.  In the negative sentiment override state, people draw lasting conclusions about each other... It's really hard to change those states, and those states determine whether when one party tries to repair things, the other party sees that as repair or hostile manipulation..."

His success rate is still around 90% just after 15 mins of observing a couple!  He's found that he doesn't need to pay attention to every little detail of facial expression and words that are spoken, he's found he can find out much of what he needs to know just by focussing on what he calls the Four Horsemen: defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism, and contempt. ....that's quite the ugly list!  He goes on to say that "Even within the Four Horsemen, in fact, there is one emotion that he considers the most important of all: contempt.  If Gottman observes one or both partners in a marriage showing contempt toward the other, he considers it the single most important sign that the marriage is in trouble."

"You would think that criticism would be the worst," Gottman says, "because criticism is a global condemnation of a person's character.  yet contempt is qualitatively different from criticism... It's trying to put that person on a lower plane than you.  It's hierarchical."

"Gottman has found in fact, that the presence of contempt in a marriage can even predict such things as how many colds a husband or wife gets; in other words, having someone you love express contempt toward you is so stressful that it begins to affect the functioning of your immune system."


To me it's amazing that our words and our attitudes towards each other can have such a huge affect.  In our marriages and our friendships.  I guess it's totally an illustration of what the book of James says: "So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.  See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!" James 3:5

What a challenge.  I'm also reminded of Jesus' lesson teaching how the words that come out of our mouths are just a reflection of what's in our hearts (Matthew 12:33-37)  What a reminder that we need His promptings everyday to help us keep our hearts in check so that we don't spit out flaming arrows straight to the hearts of those around us!  I'm guilty of it I know, but thankfully He's not finished with me yet!

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I realized I haven't given a health update for a while. For those of you who are and have been praying for me, thank you SO much.  I really appreciate you all and that you've stuck with us.  Thanks too for those who've encouraged me in my blogging :)
I'm happy to report that I have been enjoying a stretch of doing really well.  My energy levels have been improving and we're hoping that that's a sign that my immune system is strengthening and killing the Lyme bugs!  I do have some symptoms and some flare ups but am able to manage them for the most part by pacing myself. I also was able to do a little helping in the office in the last couple of weeks - it was nice to be back!
Last week the students left, and after an amazing commencement celebration I couldn't help but look back and remember where I was at this time last year... on the sofa, for most of the day, ending with Ken bringing me a little plate of food from the banquet to eat at home.  And look at us now...!  SO thankful :)

Taken at the Commencement Banquet

Love from across the water

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