The Relationship Cure: A 5 Guide for Building Better Connections with Family, Friends and Lovers

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Leading relationship expert and bestselling author Dr. John Gottman, who has won numerous awards for his groundbreaking research, presents a revolutionary five-step program for repairing troubled relationships — with spouses and lovers, children and other family members, friends, and even your boss or colleagues at work. Drawing on a host of powerful new studies, as well as his 29 years of analyzing relationships and conducting relationship ...
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Overview

Leading relationship expert and bestselling author Dr. John Gottman, who has won numerous awards for his groundbreaking research, presents a revolutionary five-step program for repairing troubled relationships — with spouses and lovers, children and other family members, friends, and even your boss or colleagues at work. Drawing on a host of powerful new studies, as well as his 29 years of analyzing relationships and conducting relationship therapy, Gottman provides the tools you need to make your relationships thrive.

Introducing the empowering concept of the "emotional bid," which he calls the fundamental unit of emotional connection, Gottman shows that all good relationships are built through a process of making and receiving successful bids. These bids range from such subtle gestures as a quick question, a look, or a comment to the most probing and intimate ways we communicate. Gottman's research reveals that people in happy relationships make bidding and responding to bids a high priority in their lives, and he has discovered the fascinating secrets behind mastering the bidding process. Those who do so tend to "turn toward" bids from others, whereas most problems in relationships stem from either "turning away" or "turning against" bids for connection.

Gottman's simple yet life-transforming five-step program, packed with fascinating questionnaires and exercises developed in his therapy, shows readers how to become master bidders by effectively turning toward others. Presenting fascinating examples of bidding, he teaches readers how to assess their strengths and weaknesses in bidding, as well as those of the importantpeople in their lives, and how to improve where necessary. He draws on the latest research to show readers how their brain's unique emotional command systems, as well as their emotional heritage — their upbringing, life experiences, and enduring vulnerabilities — affect how they make and receive bids, and how to make adjustments. He then introduces a set of enjoyable and remarkably effective ways to deepen connections by finding shared meaning and honoring one another's dreams. The final chapter offers specially tailored programs for life's most important relationships: with lovers or spouses, children, adult siblings, friends, and coworkers.

The Relationship Cure offers a simple but profound program that will fundamentally transform the quality of all of the relationships in your life.
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Editorial Reviews

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The Barnes & Noble Review
Whatever your motivations for coming to this book, you're about to become more observant in the ways of human behavior. Dr. Gottman contends that our basic happiness is based on our everyday attempts at emotional communication, which he calls "bids," and how others respond -- or fail to respond -- to those approaches.

Here's an example: You've just finished a big project, and you're telling your friend/relative/spouse about it. "I finally finished painting the kitchen," you say. The response you get back:

  • "What a big job. I bet you're glad it's done."
  • "Have you seen my glasses?"
  • "It took you long enough."

Gottman characterizes these responses, respectively, as a turning-toward, turning-away, and turning-against -- and you already know which one you'd rather hear. He integrates this basic idea with the concept of the seven basic emotional command systems of the brain. These systems, first labeled by neuroscientist Jakk Panksepp, are the Commander-in-Chief, the Explorer, the Sensualist, the Energy Czar, the Jester, the Sentry, and the Nest-Builder. Ideally, they all function smoothly in each person's brain; in reality, we have different comfort zones with the different systems. Understanding these systems, as well as your family’s emotional heritage, add up to a lot more knowledge for improving emotional communications.

The Relationship Cure also provides plenty of case histories, sample dialogues, and self-quizzes to make the learning fun. (Ginger Curwen)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780609608098
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/22/2001
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 319
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 9.57 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

John M. Gottman, Ph.D., is the cofounder and co-director of the Gottman Institute, along with his wife, Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman. He is also the James W. Mifflin Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle and the recipient of numerous national and international awards for his groundbreaking relationship research. His work has been featured on many national television shows, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, 20/20, Dateline, and Good Morning America. His previous books include the national bestseller The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (2000) and Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child (1997).

John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman founded the Gottman Institute to provide educational materials, therapist and couples workshops, and therapy to couples and families.

Joan DeClaire is a freelance writer specializing in psychology, health, and family issues. She lives in Seattle.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

How We Connect Emotionally

A work team at one of Seattle's floundering Internet companies has a problem that's common in many workplaces: They can't communicate with their boss. If you catch a few team members at a local tavern after hours, you're likely to hear an exchange something like this:

"Joseph is the coldest fish I've ever worked for."

"I know what you mean. The other day I saw this picture of a little boy on his bulletin board and I said, 'Cute kid. Is that your son?' And he goes, 'No.' "

"And that was it?"

"Yeah. So I'm standing there wondering, 'Well, who is it then? Your nephew? Your stepson? Your love child?' "

"He's just so out of it. And to think we were so jazzed when we heard he was going to head the team, with that vaunted success record of his."

"He's smart, all right. But what good has it done us? We still haven't launched the site."

"That's because he has zero people skills. Have you noticed how all the other managers try to avoid him?"

"Yeah, that's what's screwing us up. We have no real standing in the company. I was hoping he could take our ideas up the ladder and we'd finally get the resources we need. But he never asks for our input. He never even asks if you've had a nice weekend."

"Remember when we moved to the new building and he decided to do away with private offices? He said we'd have an open floor plan to 'enhance communication.' What a crock!"

"Stop it, you guys. I feel sorry for him."

"Sorry for him? Why? He's the one with all the stockoptions!"

"Well, I think he wants to be a better boss-he just doesn't know how."

"Oh yeah? How can you tell?"

"I don't know. It's just a guess. Maybe he knows how disappointed we all feel in him. And that makes it even harder for him. I can't read his mind, but I bet that's what's going on."

Next meet Kristine, age fifty-four, an advertising executive whose mother was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Kristine would like to help with her mother's care, but Mom lives several states away, near Kristine's sister, Alice. Here's a typical phone call between the sisters:

"How's Mom?" Kristine asks tentatively.

"She'll be better once the insurance pays her hospital bill," Alice responds. "That's all she talks about."

"But that was last December. The insurance still hasn't paid?"

"No, not that hospital stay. I'm talking about this last time, when she had that seizure."

"What seizure?"

"Didn't I tell you?"

"Tell me what?"

"She was in the hospital last month after a seizure. They ran some tests."

"I can't believe you didn't tell me about this. Why didn't you call?"

"It was just so hectic. And it's impossible to get hold of you with your voice mail or whatever. Besides, there's nothing you can do from the East Coast."

"But, Alice! I've asked you to call me when these things happen!"

"Well, it really doesn't matter now. They put her on some new medicine and she's doing much better. We got through it fine. There's no need to worry."

But Kristine does worry. And she's angry as well. She tells herself that Alice isn't cutting her out of the loop on purpose; she's just caught up in her own concerns. But now that Mom's health is going downhill, Kristine and her sister have got to cooperate better than this. Otherwise, Kristine might miss her only chance to be there when Mom needs help most. And if that happens, she and Alice could hold grievances against each other for the rest of their lives.

Now meet Phil and Tina, a couple in their thirties who seem to have it all. Solid jobs, two beautiful kids, lots of good friends-and they love each other. Trouble is, they haven't had sex in six months.

Seated together on a small sofa in a therapist's office, the couple describes how the problem started.

"Tina's company was going through this big reorganization," Phil explains. "And every day she'd come home exhausted."

"It was a real drag," Tina remembers. "I was spending all day in these long, tense meetings, trying to defend people's jobs. When I got home, I couldn't shake the stress. I didn't want to talk to anybody. I felt so anxious. Phil tried to be nice, but . . ."

"I wanted to help her, to tell her it was going to be okay, but I couldn't do anything right. It wasn't like we had this huge, catastrophic breakdown or anything. It was more about the little stuff. I'd kiss her on the back of her neck or start to rub her stomach when we were in bed-things that used to get her attention. But now I was getting nothing in return. Zip. It definitely threw me off balance."

"And I felt that if I didn't get all hot and bothered the minute he touched me, he was going to be wounded or something," Tina explained. "It just made me so tense."

Phil got the point. "She has all these people leaning on her at work. And then she comes home to this guy who's feeling insecure, who's whining about his needs. It was such a turnoff for her."

So, to preserve his pride, Phil quit trying. "I got tired of the rejection," he explains to the therapist. "I don't know how long we can go on like this. It's tough to keep putting yourself out there only to be shut down all the time. Sure, I love her, but sometimes I'm afraid we're not going to make it."

"It's not working for me, either," Tina says through tears. Then, after a long silence, she adds, "I miss making love, too. I miss the way it used to be."

"Well, maybe that's a place to start," Phil says quietly. "Because you never told me that before. You never gave me that information."

Phil couldn't have said it better. Whether people are struggling to save a marriage, to cooperate in a family crisis, or to build rapport with a difficult boss, they usually have one thing in common: They need to share emotional information that can help them feel connected.

The disgruntled workers at the Seattle Internet company need to know that their boss shares their dream of launching a successful site. They need to know that he appreciates their work and ideas. But when they turn to him for this emotional information, he fails to respond. In fact, he can't even react sociably to their attempts at friendly conversation. He doesn't inspire confidence that they'll be able to achieve their goal. As a result, the team members feel demoralized and they doubt whether they can make the launch.

A similar dynamic is happening between the sisters whose mother is sick. Kristine has asked Alice to keep her informed about their mother's condition. But she's after more than medical information. She wants to feel as though she is part of the family, especially in this time of crisis. By failing to call when their mother is hospitalized, Alice shows that she doesn't really consider Kristine a part of the world she inhabits with Mom. Alice may blame the miles between their homes, but the emotional distance Kristine experiences seems even wider.

Phil and Tina are like many couples I see in marital therapy. Whatever conflicts the couples may have-sex, money, housework, kids-all of them long for evidence that their spouses understand and care about what they're feeling.

Sharing such information through words and behavior is essential for improving any significant relationship. This includes bonds with our kids, our siblings, our friends, our coworkers. But even our best efforts to connect can be jeopardized as a result of one basic problem: failure to master what I call the "bid"-the fundamental unit of emotional communication.

This book will show you five steps you can take to achieve this mastery and make your relationships work:

1. Analyze the way you bid and the way you respond to others' bids.
2. Discover how your brain's emotional command systems affect your bidding process.
3. Examine how your emotional heritage impacts your ability to connect with others and your style of bidding.
4. Develop your emotional communication skills.
5.Find shared meaning with others.

But first let's make sure you understand what I mean when I talk about bids. A bid can be a question, a gesture, a look, a touch-any single expression that says, "I want to feel connected to you." A response to a bid is just that-a positive or negative answer to somebody's request for emotional connection.

At the University of Washington, my research colleagues and I recently discovered how profoundly this bidding process affects relationships. We learned, for example, that husbands headed for divorce disregard their wives' bids for connection 82 percent of the time, while husbands in stable relationships disregard their wives' bids just 19 percent of the time. Wives headed for divorce act preoccupied with other activities when their husbands bid for their attention 50 percent of the time, while happily married wives act preoccupied in response to their husbands' bids just 14 percent of the time.

When we compared how often couples in the two groups extended bids and responded to them, we found another significant difference. During a typical dinner-hour conversation, the happily married people engaged one another as many as one hundred times in ten minutes. Those headed for divorce engaged only sixty-five times in that same period. On the surface the contrast may seem inconsequential, but taken together over a year, the additional moments of connection among the happy couples would be enough to fill a Russian novel.

We also found that this high rate of positive engagement paid off in tremendous ways. For example, we now know that people who react positively to one another's bids have greater access to expressions of humor, affection, and interest during arguments. It's almost as if all the good feelings they've accumulated by responding respectfully and lovingly to one another's bids form a pot of emotional "money in the bank." Then, when a conflict arises, they can draw on this reservoir of good feeling. It's as if something inside unconsciously says, "I may be mad as hell at him right now, but he's the guy who listens so attentively when I complain about my job. He deserves a break." Or, "I'm as angry as I've ever been with her, but she's the one who always laughs at my jokes. I think I'll cut her some slack."

Having access to humor and affection during a conflict is invaluable because it helps to de-escalate bad feelings and leads to better understanding. Rather than shutting down communication in the midst of an argument, people who can stay present with one another have a much better opportunity to resolve issues through their conflicts, repair hurt feelings, and build positive regard. But this good work must begin long before the conflict starts; it's got to be grounded in those dozens of ordinary, day-to-day exchanges of emotional information and interest that we call bids.

And what happens when we habitually fail to respond positively to one another's bids for emotional connection? Such failure is rarely malicious or mean-spirited. More often we're simply unaware of or insensitive to others' bids for our attention. Still, when such mindlessness becomes habitual, the results can be devastating.

I've seen such results in my clinical practice at the Gottman Institute, where I've counseled many people who describe their lives as consumed by loneliness. They feel lonely despite their proximity to many significant people in their lives-lovers, spouses, friends, children, parents, siblings, and coworkers. Often they seem surprised and greatly disappointed at the deterioration of their relationships.

"I love my wife," one client says of his faltering marriage, "but our relationship feels empty somehow." He senses that the passion is waning, that the romance is drifting away. What he can't see are all the opportunities for closeness that surround him. Like so many other distressed, lonely people, he doesn't mean to ignore or dismiss his spouse's bids for emotional connection. It's just that the bids happen in such simple, mundane ways that he doesn't recognize these moments as very important.

Clients like these typically have trouble at work, as well. Although they're often skilled at forming collegial bonds when they first start a job, they tend to focus totally on the tasks at hand, often to the detriment of their relationships with coworkers. Later, when they're passed over for a promotion, or when they discover they have no influence on an important project, they're baffled. And they often feel betrayed and disappointed by their colleagues and bosses as a result.

Such feelings of disappointment and loss also crop up in these clients' relationships with friends and relatives. Many describe peers, siblings, and children as disloyal, unworthy of trust. But when we dig deeper, we find a familiar pattern. These clients seem unaware of the bids for connection that their friends and relatives have been sending them. So it's no wonder that their loved ones feel no obligation to continue their support.

People who have trouble with the bidding process also have more conflict-conflict that might be prevented if they could simply acknowledge one another's emotional needs. Many arguments spring from misunderstandings and feelings of separation that might have been avoided if people would have the conversations they need to have. But because they don't, they argue instead. Such conflicts can lead to marital discord, divorce, parenting problems, and family feuds. Friendships fade and deteriorate. Adult sibling relationships wither and die. Kids raised in homes filled with chronic conflict have more difficulty learning, getting along with friends, and staying healthy. People who can't connect are also more likely to suffer isolation, as well as dissatisfaction and instability in their work lives. Any of these problems can create a tremendous amount of stress in people's lives, leading to all sorts of physical and mental health problems.

But our findings about the bidding process give me a tremendous amount of hope. They tell me that people who consistently bid and respond to bids in positive ways have an astounding chance for success in their relationships.

We've written this book to share these discoveries with as many people as possible. We hope that reading it will help you to form and maintain the kind of strong, healthy connections that lead to a happy, fulfilling life.

Copyright 2001 by John M. Gottman, Ph.D., and Joan DeClaire
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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2001

    Great Advice for Overcoming the Communications Stall!

    The Relationship Cure is one of the four best books I have read about developing, nurturing, and sustaining relationships. I hope that everyone I know reads this book! The book's focus is drawn from observations of people speaking with their family, friends, and lovers. From this work, the authors have skillfully located the mechanisms that can be used to improve connection and communication, and provide much practical coaching on what the reader should work on. Anyone who follows the advice in this book will live a life filled with much richer human connections. Think of reading this book as like having an emotional intelligence coach. The book begins by looking at the fundamental ways that connection is pursued. People say and do things to get attention and make their needs known, which the authors call bids. 'People make bids because of their natural desire to feel connected with other people.' How you respond determines how well the connection develops. You can use words (like questions, statements, or comments) or actions (touching, expressions, gestures, and sounds). As step one, you are encouraged to look at your own bids for connection. You want to avoid being 'fuzzy' about your purposes. This can come from being ambiguous, being a poor communicator, being negative, or not acting like it is important. When you respond to bids, use a positive stance, pay attention, interact in a high energy way, and be playful. Avoid reacting mindlessly. You are especially warned against harmful ways to respond (not being mindful of your reactions, starting on a sour note, employing harmful criticism, being overcome with emotion, having a crabby way of thinking, and avoiding conversations you need to have). The book also explores the style you use to think about communication. You will be able to see which of 7 types you most closely fit with (commander-in-chief, explorer, sensualist, energy czar, jester, sentry, and nest-builder). You will also find how to tell if you are over or under doing it, and how to adjust. You next look at the emotional heritage of how you learned to respond to others in your family. Again, there are tools to help you change where that would be helpful. Another section looks at reading others' emotions, naming your own feelings, using richer metaphors, and ways of active listening. Next, you are encouraged to find places where you can share meaningful, positive connections with others . . . even if you have differences in other areas. After you have this overview, chapter eight looks at how to apply all of these perspectives to marriage, parenthood, friendship, siblings, and co-workers. The book's strength is that it uses examples that you can identify with. Then, rather than leaving you hanging with what not to do, the book goes on to provide alternative ways to handle the same situation. There are too many to memorize easily, but you will soon get the hang of how to compose a reaction that will be better received. In fact, you probably run into fruitless conservations with certain people so often that it would help to draft out some possible alternatives in advance. I also found the self-diagnosis exercises to be helpful. I think you will, too. After you have finished reading this book, you must practice applying it. I suggest that you start with someone who is fairly easy to communicate with already. Later, you can go on to work with those who you have more problems with, as you develop your skill. This book will be especially valuable to men who want to communicate in more effective ways with women. Realizing that women put out more bids for connection in many situation, this book will help men realize better ways to respond. I was impressed with how well the advice worked in my family as I followed it during the days following my initial reading of the book. Of all the things I have tried out that I have read in books, these suggestions worked our far better

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