2-13-2020 – e-News

John Gottman is a psychologist who formerly worked at the University of Washington. During his time there, Gottman studied marriages and the contributing factors that led to marital stability, instability, or eventual divorce. He videotaped thousands of married couples simply sitting together in a room discussing everyday things, like what to do about a pet or some scheduling issue. In other words, nothing serious or controversial. But here is the thing: after watching about an hour’s worth of tape, he can then predict with 95% accuracy whether or not they will be married in the next 15 years!
One hour of tape! 95% accuracy! What is he seeing? Two key things.
He sees signs of the couple’s overall feeling about the relationship. Gottman says, “People are in one of two states in a relationship. The first is what I call positive sentiment override, where positive emotion overrides irritability. It’s like a buffer. Their spouse will do something bad, and they’ll say, ‘Oh, he’s just in a crummy mood.’ Or they can be in negative sentiment override, so that even a relatively neutral thing that a partner says gets perceived as negative. In the negative sentiment override state, people draw lasting conclusions about each other. If their spouse does something positive, it’s a selfish person doing a positive thing. It’s really hard to change those states, and those states determine whether when one party tries to repair things, the other party sees that as repair or hostile manipulation.” Everyone has ups and downs, but when a couple goes hard on the negative, it’s very hard to correct.
He can tell very quickly if negative sentiment override is present by looking for four things, which he calls the Four Horsemen:
defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism and contempt. Contempt is the worst and most dangerous sign. Gottman says, “Contempt is closely related to disgust, and what disgust and contempt are about is completely rejecting and excluding someone from the community. The big gender difference with negative emotions is that women are more critical, and men are more likely to stonewall. We find that women start talking about a problem, the men get irritated and turn away, and the women get more critical, and it becomes a circle. But there isn’t any gender difference when it comes to contempt. Not at all.” Contempt is universal and universally deadly to a relationship.
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, a day designed to celebrate love. Flowers, candy, cards and gifts will flow in abundance. People will post pictures on Facebook and Instagram declaring their love and showing the world how happy they are. That’s all good. Please do all that and more. But above all, pay attention to what’s really going on under the surface, in your heart.
In Ephesians 5:25-31, Paul wrote, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’”

Your heart is everything. Every man and every woman can love like that! If God has your heart, He can change you. If God has your spouse’s heart, He can change them too. Any and every relationship can be redeemed and sustained when our hearts belong to God. So, in addition to the Valentine’s Day festivities, spend some time seeking the heart of God for your marriage and pray for your spouse to do the same.

Pastor Jim
Information on John Gottman taken from Malcolm Gladwell, Blink. (Little Brown and Company: New York, 2005), 18-34.
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