Psychological Self-Help

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"Mindread" (see ch. 9) and
"psychoanalyze" the partner; name-
call, show contempt by mocking,
rolling eyes, insulting them, Yes-but
(see ch. 9) and counter-attack; do a
lot of interrupting
Listen carefully, give empathy and
positive responses, assume
responsibility for your own feelings ("I"
statements), overlook the insults and
focus on the complaint. State tentative
opinions, not absolute certainties
Show a determination not to "give
in," anger, and, eventually, deadly
Understand and forgive each other,
both give in about 75% of the time
Respond to criticism with
defensiveness, such as denying
everything, making excuses,
charging he/she is emotional
Respond to criticism as useful
information (not an insult), a little
empathy will work miracles.
Just not responding--tuning them
out--when you are fed up with the
attacks: stonewalling
Realize that stonewalling is an insult; it
says you are contemptible and not
worth listening to. You must listen for
the pain (and hear the unspoken plea
to improve the relationship)
Gottman found that in most marriages the wife is the one who tries
to maintain the relationship. So, when she is unhappy, she complains
and gets emotional. Men don't like negative emotions, so they try to
downplay the emotions and rationally solve the problem... or men
withdraw. His withdrawal makes the wife even madder. Sometimes
she will suggest a truce or some solution, but often in the heat of
battle both go on "emotional overload," feeling contempt for each
other. The couple gradually comes to think of and remember their
marriage negatively. The failing relationship typically dies a slow death
when the male shows little understanding, gets irate, and starts hard-
core blaming ("You're full of hate" or "You're so stupid"), which makes
it hard for the wife to give in or compromise. Finally, she grows bitter
too and the marriage fails. Fortunately, if caught soon enough, the
warring couple can learn to increase the positive feelings and actions
and decrease the negative. Gottman says the main task is not to solve
(or stop) every argument but to stop the escalating bitterness. So
good communication skills are needed, especially "I" statements and
empathy responses (chapter 13). Gender differences in communicating
are discussed in chapter 9 (Gray, 1993; Tannen, 1990). 
Once anger turns to bitterness and contempt, it is hard to change.
-Gottman (1979)
Stable marriages have a 5 (positive feelings or acts) to 1 (negative)
-Gottman (1994)
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