Thursday, November 13, 2014

I Am What I Choose to Become

In 2004 John and Julie Gottman published a study on relationships in which he contended that there are two simple aspects of relationship that can be seen and evaluated by an outsider that will indicate the probable success of  that relationship.  His study include not only marriage relationships but any relationship that one may intend to value long term.  He used the term 'masters' to refer to successful partners in relationship and the term 'destroyers' to refer to unsuccessful partners. 
“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained in an interview, “which is this: they are scanning the social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building a culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”
“It’s not just scanning environment,” chimed in Julie Gottman. “It’s scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or scanning him/her for what s/he’s doing wrong and criticizing versus respecting and expressing appreciation.”
"People who give their partner the cold shoulder — deliberately ignoring the partner or responding minimally — damage the relationship by making their partner feel worthless and invisible, as if they’re not there, not valued. And people who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them not only kill the love in the relationship, but they also kill their partner's ability to fight off viruses and cancers. Being mean is the death knell of relationships.
Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from theirs has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved. “My bounty is as boundless as the sea,” says Shakespeare’s Juliet. “My love as deep; the more I give to thee, / The more I have, for both are infinite.” That’s how kindness works too: there’s a great deal of evidence showing the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to upward spirals of love and generosity in a relationship."

Relationship Matters: Marriage Tips by Dr. John Gottman by Susie Itzstein March 2004

The characters in Dorothy Shamah's short stories Hand Me Downs are in the throes of becoming masters, although like all of us, on occasion they imitate the destroyers of Gottman's studies. They are, after all humans, humans growing into "the persons they choose to become".  April and Sy, Chris and Nueva, Tamara and Manley, each in his/her own way is attempting to formulate a long term resonate, loving partnership.  You may find it interesting to discover whether you think, based on Gottman's precepts, these characters have even the slightest chance. 
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