Subtitle — I’m sorry but we are too immature to attend your lecture series.
Several friends and advisors have recommended the book Why Marriages Succeed or Fail by John Gottman. We’ve even been invited to attend the lecture he’s giving on his theories of marriage in Seattle later this month. He’s supposed to be a great speaker and quite an expert in the field. Besides, if so many people are recommending that we read “improve your marriage” books, maybe they all know something we don’t. Maybe the universe is conspiring to keep us together or something.
So we thought, “What the hay? Let’s save our marriage.” We decided to read the book first and then decide if we wanted to spend the $70+ it would cost to buy lecture tickets and pay a babysitter.
To start out, I should say that this book does not contain theories. Theories are contained in much less scientific books, books written by other psychologists and therapists who are relying only on their anecdotal evidence of what makes marriage last.
This is not the case with John “5 to 1” Gottman, as Dan has lovingly nicknamed him. No, John Gottman has spent 20 years researching couples scientifically to determine what makes a marriage last. He is like a surgeon or, if you will, a medical doctor. He’s sort of like a scientist or someone who conducts experiments in a laboratory. It’s like he relies on evidence scientifically rather than guess-work. He’s groundbreaking, like someone covering new territory that’s never yet been explored, like an explorer, embarking on new terrain scientifically. He is ecdotal, rather than those other people, who are anecdotal.
The preceding paragraph is a paraphrase of the first 30 pages of the book, scientifically. I have come to be a firm believer that psychology books should never be read aloud, especially by two people with warped senses of humor who analyze form neurotically.
Like most parenting, marriage, weight-loss, or other psychology or self-help books I’ve read, this one is extremely repetitively, redundant. In this case, the dude goes out of his way to the point of insanity to lay a foundation that his work is done scientifically.
WE GET THE POINT. We appreciate the point. We are comforted by the point. Dan is so convinced of the importance of the point that he begins sprinkling the reading with the word “scientifically” every few sentences. The funny part is, I can never quite tell when he has added “scientifically” or when John “5 to 1” Gottman has thrown it in to sound…well…scientific.
He then explains a major premise of the book. There are three types of marriages that can be successful. He explains how they work. He gives examples of how they work. The couples in the marriages work through their problems by saying things like “I see” and “hmmmm” and “but I really feel…” There are many examples given of each style of conflict resolution. You should read it yourself. We did and we are most definitely not getting divorced. We’ve decided to cleave, multiply and replenish. Thank you John.
Our favorite part of the book, the part that had us literally rolling on the floor laughing, came when he started to talk about the fact, scientifically, that marriages will only succeed if the couple maintains a ratio of 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction. “5 to 1”. Okay. Got it. I am sure that this is true. I trust the scientific method that produced these findings.
But there’s more. It’s like if there were 5 good things in the marriage, there could only be one bad. To look at it from another angle, if you had 5 bad interactions with your spouse, you would need to fabricate 25 positive ones to make up for it. If you buy a bunch of grapes at the store and 10 of the grapes are rotten but only 48 are fresh, you can pretty much expect the entire bunch to self-implode in a matter of days.
Every time the guy would come up with yet another “5 to 1” analogy, we would both lose it. Tears, streaming down our faces.
We kept thinking he was done with that topic but then he’d give ANOTHER analogy. When he got to the analogy about the nutrients found in soil, scientifically in a “5 to 1” ratio, we couldn’t take it any more. Laughing so hard I could barely speak, I told Dan that it seemed to me the whole thing was kind of like worm sweat. If you have 5 particles of water in a droplet of worm sweat, you can only have one particle of salt or somebody’s gonna find that worm and run it over with their BMX. Dan fell to the floor on his face and began crying like a small child, scientifically.
Then we did some marital self tests. These are the kind of tests that use multiple negatives so by the end of reading a question, you’re not sure what “yes” actually means. They are the kind of scientific questions that you probably shouldn’t answer together, questions like:
-Is your spouse understanding and compassionate?
-Is love not important in your marriage?
-Do you think it is important for a married couple to care about each other’s feelings?
-Would it be not okay with you if your spouse did not find separate living quarters?
-Do you not think spice (spouse plural?) should not interact in any way or not throughout their marriages?
We didn’t not pass the tests and we found enough truth and were sufficiently thought-provoked that we are going to continue reading the book.
I actually think it’s a great book scientifically. We’re just too immature to attend a lecture where the dude may quote from his book, say “5 to 1”, use a double-negative or the word “scientific.” We’re like 14 year old boys with a penchant for flatulence who can’t get over the fact that their 7th grade science teacher’s name is mister McFar(t)land.
As we were kissing goodnight a couple of days ago, in a sincere attempt to incorporate what we’re learning, Dan asked, “If we kiss 5 times, can we slap each other?” Then the laughing and the snorting. We figured if we laughed 5 times, we should probably only snort once.