Chat with John Gottman, author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

Kherrity: Join John Gottman, author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work to find out how you can help your marriage or long term relationship withstand the trials of time.
John_Gottman: Hello everyone! What's different about my approach to relationships is that it's based upon research with both the masters and disasters of marriage. So instead of the advice coming from my experience, it comes from hundreds of couples of all ages. Does anyone have any questions?
zena_19_98: How can you rebuild trust that has been slightly broken?
John_Gottman: Can you be more specific, Zena?
zena_19_98: Okay -- my husband has lied about small things, which makes me not trust him on the bigger ones.
John_Gottman: I think the way to rebuild trust is to confront him and tell him directly that it makes you not trust him. Unless you have a total-honesty policy, it will undermine your ability to trust him on bigger things.
John_Gottman: Next question?
chelseahas2cuties: I have been married seven years and have two small kids under age three. My husband and I have grown apart … well, I grew up and he didn't after the girls were born. I love him, but I am no longer in love. I don't want the marriage to end but it doesn't feel much like a partnership right now. Any suggestions?
John_Gottman: Chelsea, this is a very common pattern with first time parents. In 70 percent of all marriages, there is a drop in marital satisfaction by the wife.
chelseahas2cuties: How do I make it better for us?

John_Gottman: In 30 percent of the cases it doesn't happen. Your husband needs to make the same kind of change that you've made as a mother. He hasn't grown up with you. Reach out and contact him -- rebuild your knowledge of one another and make time for the relationship, not just as parents but as husband and wife.
chelseahas2cuties: But I don't even enjoy being around him anymore, we have nothing in common except the girls.
John_Gottman: Chelsea, that's a very serious complaint. If you want to stay married I suggest therapy -- if all you have in common is your girls you'll need to rebuild the relationship from the ground up. Being here is a start but you need to consider that your marriage is in a state of crisis.
Karicarey: I am married to a man who has very low self-esteem and has or currently uses Internet porn.
John_Gottman: Kari, does his use of this bother you?
Karicarey: Very much so, it interferes with anything intimate.
John_Gottman: How is his low self-esteem a problem for you, Kari?
Karicarey: He never knows what needs to be done, and he really expects me to love him like I love my kids (from a previous marriage). I can't seem to do that.
John_Gottman: Kari, the problem sounds like it's deeper than low self-esteem. First of all, it sounds like he's not really a partner with you if he doesn't know what needs to be done in your relationship.
Karicarey: He is not my partner, and I've really tried explaining what I and we need.
John_Gottman: He is relying on you like a child would a mother -- for guidance. And you see his use of porn as a betrayal. You need to confront him on both issues and see what is going on or you won't be able to have an intimate relationship.

Karicarey: We have gone to marriage therapy and I have confronted him.
John_Gottman: Kari, how did he respond?
Karicarey: He told me it was something I had to learn to deal with.
John_Gottman: Kari, when you confront somebody in therapy and they don't budge an inch, the marriage is in serious crisis and you should think about why you are staying with him.
anatoledo: I have a selfish husband (name one that isn't). He seldom helps with my 10-month-old. I feel like a single mom. I just feel I'm better off alone. How do I know I'm not?
John_Gottman: Ana, the assumption that he is selfish is very common in marriages after a long time of not getting your requests met, and it's a very dangerous way of thinking for a relationship. You need to talk to him about exactly what you need -- if he's not going to be a partner or an involved father, then the marriage is in serious trouble.
anatoledo: He has not changed a diaper in the ten months of my child's life.
John_Gottman: How are the other parts of your relationship, Ana, is he an involved husband?
anatoledo: He's not very interested in the same things I am. I had an intellectual boyfriend before who mistreated me. Now, I have a non-intellectual who does the same, but in a different way. Could it be that I'm an overprotective first-time mom?
John_Gottman: Ana, it sounds like you're not getting much from this marriage on any level. You need to really take a look at why you're staying with him.
anatoledo: Thank you. I just feel sad for my child who adores the sight of him -- even if my husband has never sacrificed a minute for him.

Lisas_Mail: What are the warning signs that a marriage won't make it? I'm considering marriage, but I'm REALLY afraid of divorce.
John_Gottman: Lisa, the warning signs are if there is less positivity than negativity, less affection, humor, interest. During conflict, there are four signs a marriage won't make it. First is criticism, second is defensiveness, third is contempt (any suggestion of superiority to you) and fourth is stonewalling or emotional withdrawal from the relationship.
marvinmarshtion18: My folks started fighting recently. It was shortly after we found out I am sick. How can I help them to stop?
John_Gottman: How old are you, Marvin?
marvinmarshtion18: I just turned 18.
John_Gottman: Tell them that it upsets you when they fight. Talk to them individually instead of together and tell them how much it upsets you and that you wish they would try to get some help. And don't blame yourself, Marvin, it's not your fault.
marvinmarshtion18: Okay. I'm scared of what will happen to their marriage when it is over.
John_Gottman: I'm sure everyone is very stressed out, Try to find your own sources of support -- they may found be outside your family. It's not your responsibility to take care of your parents' marriage. Take care of yourself, Marvin. You cannot help them cope. Get the support you need. Look into whether the hospital has a support group -- which would be good for all of you. Good luck, Marvin :)
wondermom97: My husband is so wrapped up in his work and the people at work that it's destroying our marriage. How can I save it?
John_Gottman: Wondermom, you have to tell your husband how unhappy you are with his being so involved with his work that he doesn't have any time or energy left for his family.

wondermom97: I have, but it seems I'm talking to a wall.
John_Gottman: A wall is an obstacle, not a husband.
wondermom97: He also has a lady friend at work. He says that all they're all friends. I do trust him but it seems that she keeps getting involved in his life. He also says he doesn't love me like he used too.
John_Gottman: Wondermom, chances are you're living in an abusive relationship in which your husband's lack of involvement in your marriage, and involvement with someone else (whether sexual or not) reduces you to a state of powerlessness. If you continue to accept this role, you have only yourself to blame.
wondermom97: He still wants to live together, for our son's sake.
John_Gottman: Wondermom, you're not doing your son any favors by showing him the pattern of a relationship in which you do not have any shred of dignity.
CYNDI.J: What are the signs that a marriage is going well? I feel my husband and I have a good, strong marriage. Every once in a while, he starts going out with his friends and staying out late without calling -- a huge pet peeve of mine. He only does it like every other month or so, and I have to tighten his leash again. Why does he do that? He lies about it to me, knowing very well that I always catch him. At these times I feel like I'm dealing with a seven-year-old, not an adult. He will go out with his friends three times in one week. He tells me that he's going out with one friend when he is actually going to meet up with other friends. I don't tell him he can or can't go, so I see no reason for the lying. I'm his wife, not his mother.
John_Gottman: Cyndi, one of the signs of a healthy relationship is both people treating one another with affection and respect. It sounds like yours has these qualities, but the area of respect is problematic to you. I would talk to him about this issue and how it undermines your ability to treat him as an equal.

CYNDI.J: Well, if he is going to misbehave, he's going to get in trouble. I end up laughing about it most the time, but it irritates me.
John_Gottman: We find that most relationships have perpetual problems like this one. But if you can laugh about it, that's a sign that it's something you can live with.
Kdmal: My husband and I dated for seven years and have been married for five. I've been going to marriage counseling by myself since May. My husband won't go. He feels we can work on our problems by talking -- when I talk, he listens, and changes for one week -- than he's back to normal. I'm at the end of my rope. Why won't he listen or realize that I'm really unhappy?
John_Gottman: Kd, this is another example of a stubborn guy. We've seen a lot of them lately in our laboratory. It's a Mexican standoff, unless you do something that makes it clear to him that you won't live this way.
cameo72: My husband was married once before. He has two children from that marriage, whom I adore. The problem is that we recently found out that he is also the father of a four-year-old boy. We have decided only to support this child financially. We have been married for two years and have no children of our own. I desperately want one but it never seems we'll be able to afford it. I take this out on him and I know there is nothing he can do, but I feel that I will never be able to put his past behind us and enjoy a family of our own.
John_Gottman: Cameo, I don't understand why you can't have a family with him in addition to being a stepparent. Millions of women do this every day.
cameo72: We are paying a tremendous amount in child support and I guess I hold this against him because I have to sacrifice.
John_Gottman: Cameo, in my experience money is rarely the issue -- the real issue is an emotional one. Somehow you are not feeling accepted, valued, respected or in control of the family planning process. Instead you're feeling victimized by it.

Jenhs: My first year of marriage was very difficult (we just celebrated our third anniversary). Much of the trouble I had was related to expectations -- what I expected him to be. I have made a lot of progress in this area but I wonder how can I forgive him for not being exactly who I wanted him to be?
John_Gottman: Jen, it sounds to me like you are very disappointed in him. Think about what your dream is about the kind of relationship that you want and talk to him honestly about those dreams.
Jenhs: Of course I love him, that is why I stayed. I think much of my problem was of my own doing. I had hoped he would grow up and be more responsible, take care of the house, help with chores and the bills.
John_Gottman: Jen, we often see this pattern where people feel they're not entitled to the dreams they have about relationships. Research has shown that the people who have higher expectations get what they want where as the people who lower their standards also get what they expect. My advice would be that instead of lowering your standards, you should talk to him about what you need -- you might be surprised. If you lower your expectations, the result is usually loneliness.
Jenhs: Thanks, John, that is good advice.
Jenallie: I am recently married ... husband is having severe insecurities. If for some reason I buy new clothes or do something new to my hair, he immediately starts accusing me of looking for someone new. I am at my wits' end. I have tried to talk to him about it. I am taking it as a direct hit to my character. Ideas?
John_Gottman: Jenallie, this is a very difficult problem. You need to find some way to reassure him but not allow his jealousy to control you. Try to explore what it is that pushes his insecurity buttons. Maybe he can tell you.
Jenallie: I am a very loyal friend and wife. I love him more than anything and wouldn't compromise our life for anything.
John_Gottman: If he can't tell you and it's hard to find out, then he'll just have to adjust to it. One of the characteristics of abuse is an attempt to control. Don't allow this to happen to you -- be gentle but firm. Thanks to all for being here and for your kind attention!

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