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The Happiness Project: Love

February 8, 2010

Katie has started following Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project–both her blog, in which she evaluates a combination of philosophical mantras, psychological research, and personal experiences concerning happiness, and her NY Times best-selling novel. Gretchen has split her book into twelve themes of happiness, corresponding with the twelve months. I’m taking 2010 to read this book one chapter at a time, one month at a time.

This month, appropriately, discusses love, specifically within a marital relationship. Quite a bit of the conversation revolves around John Gottman’s Love Lab project in Seattle. Gottman is a behavioral therapist that suggests, among other things, that healthy couples have five positive interactions per one negative interaction. Gottman was one of the first theoreticians we studied in MFT; we used his “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” to define levels of conflictual relationships between couples. For example, he noticed that quite a few spouses criticized their partners, through nagging (which Gretchen calls herself out on) or blaming statements (among others). Whereas some couples are able to leave conflict at criticism through repair efforts, others create a positive feedback relationship through defensive and contemptuous behaviors. Gottman behavioral therapy guides couples through the “Sound Marital House”, with focus on creating cognitive room (learning more about each other), designing a fondness and admiration system, turning towards your partner instead of away, positive sentiment override, dialogue with perpetual problems(Gottman suggests that a good percentage of arguments happen over the same subject/theme), physiological soothing, making dreams come true, and creating a shared vision.

(As a practitioner, I use Gottman ideas with every couple; specifically, I would strictly use Gottman with couples that I felt needed a “marital tune-up” and combine Gottman with other marital therapies with couples with deeper emotional pain and betrayal. Just in case you were curious.)

Gretchen closes the chapter by thinking of proofs of love that she receives from her husband Jamie and has given to other people. I wanted to take this next week to do the same. Katie and I have been married over a year and a half now, and our marital relationship has redefined perspectives of love and the ways that we prove our love to each other. So from everyday, Tuesday through Valentine’s Day, I want to give little snippets of new things that I’ve learned about love through my relationship with Katie.

Anyone else sharing this project with Gretchen? What are your experiences with discovering your own happiness project, especially relationally (with spouses or otherwise)?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 9, 2010 8:54 am

    What many of us lacked as children and need as adults is mirroring and acknowledgement. To that end, I have made my intention to acknowledge my wife’s goodness on a daily basis. Lest I forget amidst the chaos of taking care of the children or as a result of my own exhaustion, I set my phone to trigger an alarm to remind me several times a day.

  2. singingjeremiah permalink*
    February 9, 2010 2:13 pm

    Thank you so much for your advice! And in the midst of all your busyness, how much time does it take out of your day to send a quick little text or phone call to your wife?

    Gottman therapy includes “Five Magic Hours”, in which he suggests taking five hours out of a week devoted to increasing the emotional availability and quantity of time spent together. For example, couples can take 5-10 minutes each day with parting and reunion rituals, including expressing affection and talking about the work day. He also suggests (and I admit that I’m not the best with this) taking two hours out of the week to have a marital date night. His suggestion of finding one thing that you appreciate/admire about your spouse is something that I want to become habitual about.

    Again, thank you so much for reading my blog and blessings on your marriage and professional career. (I love that you’ve incorporated Eastern techniques into your work.)

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