What Predicts Divorce? The Relationship between Marital Processes and Marital Outcomes

By John Mordechai Gottman | Go to book overview

Preface

When I was a young clinical psychology intern at the University of Colorado Medical Center, I did some supervised therapy with married couples. I found it to be fast-paced, exciting, and dynamic. I had no real idea of what I was doing, but I thought that perhaps I had some intuition in this area. I recall that I made one suggestion to a supervisor that we video-tape a couple attempting to resolve an issue unrelated to their marital problems so that we could better assess their strengths and weaknesses. My supervisor thought this was not a good idea and would not permit it, but I resolved to try this idea once I was a professor doing my own unsupervised therapy. As a beginning assistant professor, once I had my first case I suggested the idea to a couple who was unable to resolve their own conflicts. I told the couple that I had never done this before, but they were quite willing to try it. I made three tapes of them, two in my new laboratory. One tape was a videotape of them working on a standard group decision-making task called the NASA moon shot problem. The task was to decide by consensus how to rank order a set of items for their survival value for a life and death trip on the moon to a rendezvous point with the Mother ship. The second tape was a discussion of a major issue in their marriage. The third tape also was a discussion of this issue I asked them to have at home, with no one else present.

I was amazed by these tapes. The couple was a superb team when they worked on the Moon shot problem. They had a lot of fun; they laughed, were affectionate, and were cooperative. They got very high scores on the problem and their group processes were admirable. However, once they began working on their own marital problems, the picture changed. They pouted, sulked, and whined, and became stubborn, angry, hurt, and bitter. At home things were even worse.

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