John M. Gottman
University of Washington
John Mordechai Gottman, author of Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, conducted research to come to a solid conclusion as to what makes a marriage thrive. Gottman (1994) explains how there are underling emotional currents or maps that direct and shape a marriage; this was the motive behind his research. He wanted to find out what this hidden emotional current consisted of and how it can be controlled. He then wanted to use that information to save married couples. The author John Gottman (1994) states “I will show you how to detect these forces in your own relationship so that you can see the hidden emotional profile of your marriage as though through and X ray” (P. 15). Gottman (1994) continues to assure the reader that with a little help of his knowledge, you can control where your marriage will lie in the future. According to Gottman (1994), over half of all first marriages end with divorce, as well as 60 percent of second marriages. It would seem likely that second marriages would be more successful however, many people jump from divorce to a new relationship so rapidly that their problem just continues over to their second marriage. Gottman (1994) affirms that in 1989, a study based on U.S. Census records was conducted and “divorce among recent first marriages stood at a shocking 67 percent” (p. 16). John realized that this statistic was outrageous and wanted to find a solution to having a healthy marriage. Gottman strongly believes that one key factor in keeping a marriage healthy is simply a ratio of positive to negative acts. If there are five positive acts for every one negative act, that will even out and keep the relationship alive. When the negatives start outweighing the positives that is when the marriage starts falling apart and the individuals become unhappy and unsatisfied in their marriage. John Gottman (1994) implies that it is, in fact, healthy to have some confrontation and arguing. Some arguing is vital to your relationship because it can actually bring you closer together. It is when your marriage becomes overwhelmed with negativity and fighting that it is in danger. Gottman (1994) points out that there are three different styles of marriage that can all lead to a lifetime of happiness: the validating, the volatile, and the avoidant style. Though all very different from one another, they all have potential for a successful marriage. The marriage styles are what keep a relationship in balance, describing an individual’s personality and how they specifically work in a relationship, positively and negatively.
According to Gottman (1994), there are a number of ways to determine a couple’s marriage style: how they fight, “frequency of fights, the facial expressions, and physiological responses (such as pulse rate and amount of sweating)” (p. 35) along with what is said and the tone of their voice during their argument. Ideally, it is best to find a partner who has the same marriage style as you. Though, if you find that you and your partner share a mix of the marriage styles, Gottman (1994) believes that that works, too.
Gottman asserts that (1994) the validating style of marriage consist of effective communication, making their relationship a smooth sail. The couples in this type of marriage consider their partner to be their best friend and they don’t let negativity take over their thoughts. They are very tranquil and show empathy with ease.
The volatile style of marriage, Gottman (1994) describes how these couples fight and bicker a lot more than any of the other styles, but they also show more romance and spend a great deal of time making positive memories (keeping the five to one ratio). Handling the continuous back and forth of positive and negative emotions almost comes naturally to the volatile couple.
Gottman (1994) compares the the avoidant style of marriage to the “placid waters of a summer lake” (p.