Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Gottman's Principles 6 and 7

GRADE: 50/50 (It is fascinating to look back at family relationships and evaluate. I am tempted to analyze sometimes and that is a dangerous thing for me! I enjoyed reading your paper!)
Lena Baron
Assignment 12
Principles 6 and 7
Overcome Gridlock
Create Shared Meaning

Overcome Gridlock: “Gridlock is a sign that you have dreams for your life that aren’t being addressed or respected by each other.” – John Gottman

After a long time of digging for an example of gridlock within my marriage I have decided to move away from my marriage and talk about my parent’s marriage which is filled with gridlock and unmet dreams. This is not a fun topic for me. Mostly because I can’t take the steps that Gottman suggests to solve my parent’s issues. However, I can learn from them and if the chance arises, I can try to give suggestions. In the end, my parents need some serious time in Gottmans’s Love Lab.

Gottman says “to navigate your way out of gridlock, you have to first understand the cause.” He goes on to say, “gridlock is a sign that you have dreams for your life that aren’t being addressed or respected by each other.”

I believe one of the main differences between my marriage and my parent’s marriage is that my husband and I recognize each other’s dreams and if and when possible, we work to help each other fulfill those dreams. Not all dreams are completely attainable. However, the key is the fact that we’ve validated each other in our dreams. My parents on the other hand seem to be so deeply engrained in their habits of bringing out the four horsemen that it leaves no room at all to even see the other person for who they really are and what they really want, let alone why they want it.

At the end of his book Gottman brings up a vitally important point that I believe would be crucial in healing my parent’s marriage and opening up a path for them to see each other’s dreams. He talks about criticism and what causes a spouse to be chronically critical, he says, “the other source of criticism in marriage comes from within. It is connected to self-doubt that has developed over the course of one’s life, particularly during child-hood. In other words, it begins as criticism of oneself.” He goes on to explain, “if you consider yourself inadequate, you are always on the lookout for what is not there in yourself and your partner. And let’s face it: Anyone you marry will be lacking in certain desirable qualities. The problem is that we tend to focus on what’s missing in our mate and overlook the fine qualities that are there-we take those for granted.”

Both of my parent’s grew up in difficult family situations. My father was sickly and small throughout his childhood. He then got bone cancer in his twenties and lost his leg. He never fully recovered from this emotionally and has always been self-critical, which I believe has led to him never fully embracing my mother’s good traits. My mother grew up in a stress-filled home where her father was sick and her mother worked full time. They never had any money and I don’t think she ever felt validated for the work that she did for her family. This self-concept moved right over into her marriage.

As a product of my parent’s marriage, I have unfortunately mastered the art of being self-critical. I can speak from personal experience that if a person becomes entrenched in the habit of self-criticism, it will most definitely distort their view of those around them, especially their “other-half”, being their spouse.

I also find this especially true with my children. I have a 6-year-old son. He is a wonderful child with a kind and obedient heart. However, he is a child, and children are practicing through trial and error how to become an obedient and responsible adult. They are also known for being egocentric. In the end, this means that they are often naturally difficult and ungrateful. My husband on the other hand has accomplished the task of becoming a thoughtful and responsible adult. This means that he is able to offer assistance and gratitude when appropriate. I have often asked myself why I am not able to have as peaceful of a relationship with my son as I have with my husband.  I believe that it is because my husband doesn’t invoke my feelings of inadequacy as my son does. After reading Gottman’s book, I have realized that I am most critical with my children during the times when I feel the most inwardly self-critical (a.k.a clueless as a parent.) So how do I overcome this? How could my parent’s overcome this? How do we get to a point where we can see another person’s dreams as well as our own? Could it possibly be as easy as finding gratitude, as Gottman suggests?

After sharing a wonderful exercise on how to go about seeking out the positive he goes on to say, “As you stretch the period of thanksgiving one day beyond a week, and then another day, and then another, you’ll receive a great gift: You will begin to forgive yourself. Grace and forgiveness will enter your world. This is what the spiritual “Amazing Grace” is all about. You begin to enjoy your own accomplishments, rather than consider them inadequate.” He continues, “The more you can imbue your relationship with the spirit of thanksgiving and the graceful presence of praise, the more meaningful and fulfilling your lives together will be.”

Truly, I believe that forgiving themselves and finding the good in each other will be the first step towards healing in my parent’s marriage. It is interesting that this lesson is in the very back of Gottman’s book… In my opinion, Gottman could have named his book “Seven Principles to Forgiveness.”

Create Shared Meaning:
My husband and I have a deep sense of Shared Meaning within our marriage and family. We were able to naturally move into a few rituals because they were family rituals that we both grew up with. For example, we both grew up in families who ate dinner together as a family, without the television on. We both grew up going to church on Sunday. And we both celebrated the holidays with family.

As a couple, and as a family, Leif and I have continued these same rituals as well as establishing some of our own. On an every day basis Leif and I have a ritual of saying “I love you” at the end of a phone call with each other. We also give each other a kiss in greeting or goodbyes. As a family, one of my favorite rituals is the natural (unspoken, not planned) ritual that we have of celebrating when anyone walks in the door after being apart for a while. Another ritual we have more on a weekly basis is that we go grocery shopping together.

Leif and I have a fun ritual that started when our oldest child was around two years old. We creatively decorate a cake for the child who’s celebrating a birthday. We’ve had a lot of fun with this and it has created a special bond as a couple and as parents. As a family, we go out every year just after thanksgiving to cut down a Christmas tree. When it comes time to decorate the tree, I give the kids each a new Christmas book that they can look at while we get the tree wrapped in lights. Going back to the daily rituals, I will mention that bedtime is filled with rituals. Papa (Leif) tells a story, we read scriptures, pray, Mama feeds the baby after lights-out, and hopefully the ritual of getting out of bed to go to the bathroom again is forgotten.

We have a family Mission Statement and a Family Motto. The mission statement is a scripture: Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God; That your incomings may be in the name of the Lord; that your outgoings may be in the name of the Lord; that all your salutations may be in the name of the Lord, with uplifted hands unto the Most High. Our Motto is, “We Are All on the Same Team!” This has given us a clear base for our goals and philosophies as a couple and as a family.

Finally, I will mention a few of the Symbols of our family. First, Jesus Christ is the prominent symbol in our home and family. Much of what happens within our home revolves around the teachings and influence of Jesus Christ. The LDS Temple is another symbol that reminds us of the promises we have made as a couple as well as the blessing we are promised from the Lord. We have a curio case that holds all of our twins’ belongings and memorabilia as well as an oil painting of the girls. We also have a flower garden dedicated to them and their memory. These are all symbols of the journey and lessons that we have traveled because of our girls.

As I finished this book by John Gottman I found myself preparing to read it again. I hope to organize a bit and follow a few of the exercises that Gottman gives throughout the book. Ultimately, I would love to feel confident in his Seven Principles to teach it to my small town community. I feel like it could be a gift to many couples. Thank you for sharing it with us! 

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