How Marriages Change
John M. Gottman University of Washington
In this chapter I present a theory about the mechanisms through which marital relationships change over time. The theory explains both the improvement and the deterioration of marriages. I share my own thinking here, for there is no direct guide for the mostly biological and empirical grounds that I employ. My supposition has some implications for the study of depression and aggression through the relationship of negative affect blends and one of the major constructs of the theory, Diffuse Physiological Arousal (DPA). The link here can be made theoretically through the Henry and Stephens ( 1977) model.
The theory I have constructed is designed to have cross-cultural universality and to pertain to the wide variety of marriages that are found in various cultures. To accomplish such a feat, it is necessary to tap into those processes that are basic to marriage among our species. For this purpose, I have selected as the domains of variables for investigation the interface between social processes (particularly those that have to do with emotion and the regulation of emotion) and physiological processes (particularly those that have to do with the expenditure or storage of energy in the body and the readiness of the body for emergencies). The selection of these domains was really motivated by past research I and others have done on marital interaction in which we have found that emotional processes are able to account for a good portion of the variance in marital satisfaction.