Tom Nugent 2017-01-30 11:33:57
‘THE EINSTEIN of LOVE' One-of-a-kind Research Gave Psychologist John Gottman, BA’62 (Metro), the Keys to Couples Therapy Dubbed “The Einstein of Love,” by Psychology Today, nationally recognized couples therapist John Gottman, BA’62 (Metro), says that building a satisfying — and lasting — relationship with your chosen partner is “not really rocket science.” However, determining how to help struggling couples absolutely is a science. Gottman is an internationally renowned expert on “marital stability” whose scientific approach to helping married couples stay together has vaulted him into the ranks of the “Top 10 Most Influential Therapists” of the past quarter-century. He’s also a hugely accomplished researcher — an acknowledged pioneer who has authored more than 200 academic articles and 40 books on topics related to making human relationships work well. Gottman is acknowledged as the first to establish math-based observation techniques that can be used to predict — with 90 percent accuracy — whether a marriage will last beyond a few years. But the 74-year-old psychologist Gottman doesn’t really say how he feels about being known as “The Einstein of Love.” Instead, he tells a story about another name that some very unpleasant people once gave him. Brain. “Hey, Brain, give us your lunch money — or else!” Those “unpleasant people” were adolescent bullies at a public high school in Bergenfield, N.J. — and they made life miserable for Gottman, then a shy and sensitive youth who happened to have a dazzling gift for mathematics. “It was a real nightmare,” the award-winning author-researcher-therapist recalls, “and I was absolutely miserable. And, there’s no doubt that it left me with some major vulnerabilities … emotional scars that to this day can still trigger negative feelings in me, if I’m not careful. “But I also learned from that deeply challenging experience. I learned about how those triggers work, and how they can be very harmful to a human relationship … by setting off regrettable incidents that can harm or even end a marriage, if they aren’t managed well.” It was a lesson that has served him in good stead, he says, during a brilliant, 40-year career as a psychologist, researcher and marriage counselor. His pioneering studies have changed the way we think about human relationships, while providing a set of strategies that have been proven effective at helping couples to preserve and enhance their marriages. MASTER TEACHER A renowned speaker on all things love-related, Gottman runs workshops to teach his theories and methods to other psychology professionals. Armed with his keen understanding of emotional trauma and how it affects later relationships — along with his gift for mathematics — Gottman went on to enjoy a remarkable scientific odyssey in which he was able to combine complex math equations with direct observation of married couples in order to lay bare the hidden dynamics that determine the success or failure of most marriages. Gottman’s insightful findings broke new ground in both the science of psychology and the art of marriage counseling, while also transforming him into a widely influential guru in the world of relationship therapy. As the director of The Gottman Institute — which trains professional therapists and counsels troubled couples — the former FDU math major now ranks as one of America’s most-listened-to marriage experts. The magazine Psychotherapy Networker acknowledged as much in 2007, naming Gottman to its “Top Ten” list of influential therapists. Describing his contributions to the field, the editors praised his study of how human beings relate to each other. They noted, “Gottman’s research showed that it wasn’t only how couples fought that mattered — but how they made up. [His work proved that] marriages become stable over time if couples tend to reconcile successfully after a fight.” Gottman's pioneering studies have changed the way we think about human relationships, while providing … strategies for helping couples to preserve and enhance their marriages. A frequent commentator on daytime television programs — including “Good Morning America,” “Today” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show” — and a major opinion-shaper in print (The NewYork Times, People, Psychology Today and his best-selling book Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work), the peripatetic Gottman travels the globe frequently to lecture at symposia dedicated to improving human relationships, especially marriage. His heady research employs complex algorithms and precisely calibrated physiological metrics in which he measures such phenomena as pulse rate and skin temperature (while videotaping married couples in conversation during overnight stays at his apartment-like “marriage laboratory” on an island off the coast of Washington state). But Gottman is quick to dismiss the idea that understanding the dynamics of marriage is like “trying to understand quantum field theory. “If you think about it, you soon realize that a healthy, lasting marriage depends on two basic skills,” he says. “First, you have to be able to listen to your partner. I mean, really listen … while asking the same kinds of questions you might ask as a tourist in a foreign country. ‘Where’s a great place to eat dinner?' 'Who built that church?’ Instead of a foreign country, though, you’re actually a tourist on the landscape of your partner’s mind and heart. “The second skill you need is the ability to repair the damage after a fight, by reconciling in a way that restores all the positive aspects of the relationship.” “First, you have to be able to listen to your partner. I mean, really listen … while asking the same kinds of questions you might ask as a tourist in a foreign country.” Although Gottman’s first two youthful marriages ended in divorce, he’s been married to his current partner — veteran psychologist Julie Schwartz, who cofounded The Gottman Institute with him in 1996 — for the past 31 years. Born in the Dominican Republic after his Jewish parents fled Austria when Adolf Hitler invaded the country, Gottman spent his early years in Brooklyn, N.Y., in the 1950s. The family later moved to Bergenfield, N.J., where he managed to outlast the bullies at the high school. His luck began to change in 1958, he says, after his father told him: “I want you to go to college, but I don’t have any money.” Gottman got “a huge break” at FDU’s Metropolitan Campus, when Maria Castellani, chair of the math department — now professor emerita of mathematics — was struck by his astonishing talent for calculus and analytic geometry and hired him to teach both subjects part-time on campus. Says the “forever grateful” Gottman, who went on to earn a master’s degree while double-majoring in mathematics and psychology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and then a PhD in psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison after becoming “absolutely fascinated” by the subject as a graduate student:“FDU really saved me — because I couldn’t have afforded college if Professor Castellani hadn’t given me that job.” After earning his PhD in 1971, Gottman went on to lengthy teaching stints at Indiana University in Bloomington and the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champagne. By 1986, he had settled in at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he is now professor emeritus of psychology while training therapists and counseling couples at the nearby Gottman Institute. During the past four decades, Gottman has won numerous teaching and research awards, and he is universally acknowledged as having been the first psychology researcher to establish math-based observation techniques that can be used to predict — with 90-percent accuracy — whether or not a marriage will last beyond a few years. Enumerated in the book that he calls his “magnum opus” (Principia Amoris:The New Science of Love, published in 2014 by Routledge), Gottman’s relationship strategies are supported by numerous mathematical equations and physiological metrics aimed at making the art of relationships and the institution of marriage clear, simple and transparent. He downplays the scientific aspects, however, and insists that common sense and “a keen sense of morality” are the real keys to a happy married life. “Really, the married couples who are happy — the ones I define as ‘masters of marriage’ — are couples in which both partners say ‘I love you’ each day and mean it,” he says. “They compliment each other daily, and they hold hands in public. They don’t let their conversations turn into nothing more than talk about household errands. “They still have great conversations — the kind where you ask: ‘Who are you, and what are your dreams?’ ‘What do you want to be?’ ‘Whom do you admire in the world and who are your heroes?’ and ‘How do you want to change in the years ahead?’ “You don’t have to be a scientist or an expert on quantum mechanics to ask those kinds of questions — just a loving partner in a marriage where both of you cherish each other.” To find out more about The Gottman Institute, visit www.gottman.com. Ten Tips on How to Build a Lasting Relationship from the “Einstein of Love” After a fight, repair damage and restore loving respect. Be curious about each other — every single day. Express affection physically — often and sometimes in public. Keep building an inner “love map” of your partner’s best qualities. Don’t let household chores and errands dominate the relationship. Respond keenly to all of your partner’s bids for attention. Learn your “emotional triggers” and how to manage them. Share power with your partner in decision making. Overcome “gridlock” by finding creative problem-solving methods. Take a few moments each day to thank your partner for your life together.
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