Andrew (perspectivism) wrote,

bidding for attention

Relationship research:

"Friendship is overlooked, although it is equally important to men and women. All of the masters of marriage (couples in happy, long-term relationships) we've studied talk about friendship in marriage and how loving and lovemaking is an extension of that friendship. Seventy percent of the passion, romance and sex for men stems from friendship and the percentage is even higher for women."

He adds that couples in happy marriages tend to have less conflict because they do a better job of repairing the damage from a fight or disagreement. Some people are effective in making repairs and others are clumsy or ineffective. But that's not important, says Gottman. "It's really a matter of whether they had enough emotional savings in the bank that makes repair attempts work, and that comes from the quality of the friendship between the couple."

One of best ways of nurturing friendship is to keep what he calls a richly detailed "love map."

"That's my term for the imaginary place in your head where you store all of the relevant information about your partner's life - their dreams, aspirations, worries and fears. Couples with love maps remember the major events in each other's history, and they keep updating their information as the facts and feelings of their spouse's world changes," he explains.

"Love maps are about knowing your partner and being known. One of the most important things in marriage is being and staying interested in your partner and keeping your partner interested in you. No gimmick -- flowers, candy or a candlelight dinner -- works unless your partner is genuinely interested in you and their face lights up when you enter the room."

Gottman believes his research showing that men should be willing to share power and be influenced by their wives is widely misunderstood

"It is not a matter of just saying 'yes dear.' What we said was that men need to look for areas of common ground with their wives. This is not being a wimp. It's a way for a man to say, 'Yes, I agree with you on this, but not that.'

"Only about one-third of American husbands accept the influence of their wives. This creates a paradox. A man can't be powerful unless he allows himself to be influenced. There is a reciprocity. The competent man accepts influence and becomes influential. In abusive relationships, men have little or no influence over their wives. They rule by fear, not influence. A good marriage needs give and take."

Why are so many men unwilling to allow their wives to influence them?

"It's probably cultural," says Gottman. "We see it in the ways parents respond to a child's request. The first response is to say, 'No,' even to the most innocent request. We have been raised with a culture of saying 'No' and a culture of criticism. When you take this culture into a family it is very destructive. We need to have a substitute culture of pride, honor and praise."

When psychologist John Gottman first began videotaping couples interacting in an apartment laboratory, he was disappointed with the seemingly trivial nature of their conversations.

"But after a while we finally realized that these conversations weren't as mundane as they first seemed," says the University of Washington marital and relationship researcher. "We were seeing how people were making bids for emotional connection with their partner and how they responded to those bids."

These transactions - making and responding to emotional bids for connection - are at the core of Gottman's new book, "The Relationship Cure," to be published later this month by Crown Publishers.

These bids can be a question, a look, an affectionate touch on the arm or any single expression that says, "I want to feel connected to you," he says. A response to a bid can be a turn toward, away or against someone's request for emotional connection.

Gottman says people don't get married, make friends, or try to maintain ties with siblings to have those relationships fail. Yet many fail because people don't pay enough attention to the emotional needs of others.

For example, research from his apartment lab showed that husbands who eventually were divorced ignored the bids from their wives 82 percent of the time compared to 19 percent for men in stable marriages. Women who later divorced ignored their husband's bids 50 percent of the time while those who remained married only disregarded 14 percent of their husband's bids.

Gottman says his research also shows that bids and turns help regulate conflict between people. Many conflicts are about the "conversation that never took place but needed to," a conversation that was fundamentally about emotional connection.

All of these bids are needs that are expressed by an individual's emotional command system, a concept recently developed by Jaak Panksepp, a Bowling Green State University neuroscientist. He found that there are at least seven specific systems in the brains of all mammals that coordinate the emotional, behavioral and physical responses needed for functions related to survival, such as rest, self-defense and procreation.

Gottman and his co-author, writer Joan DeClaire, gave these systems descriptive names: Commander-in-Chief, Explorer, Sensualist, Energy Czar, Jester, Sentry and Nest-Builder. The Commander-in-Chief, for example, is the emotional command system that coordinates functions related to dominance, control and power, while the Sentry directs matters pertaining to worry, fear, vigilance and defense. People, says Gottman, differ in how much they like to have each of these systems activated, and understanding how your comfort levels differ from other people's can be significant when you make a bid for connection. (Gottman Institute press releases)
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