Alysha and I treated our spouses to a trip to Seattle for an Art and Science of Love Weekend Workshop taught by Drs. John and Julie Gottman.  We couldn’t think of a better way to express our love for Valentine’s Day than by deepening our relationships.  Well, we considered it a treat . . . they were a little trepidatious, not knowing what would be required of them as actual audience participants.  According to them it’s not easy being married to a therapist to begin with, being “therapized” on a daily basis, let alone an intensive workshop that took the therapizing to a whole new level.

Their fears were quickly allayed by John Gottman’s engaging style.  He captured their attention by discussing how he has studied couples over the last four decades.  Dr. Gottman described in detail how study participants were observed in an apartment, called the Love Lab, being hooked up to sensors that measured their heart rate, the sweat on their palms, and how much they shifted in their seats with the help of a “jiggle-ometer”.   Lab assistants tediously coded verbal responses made by the couples and identified how these linked to the physical data.  For example, when one partner is spewing contempt, the other might be flooding, with heart rate above 100 and unable to think and respond clearly.  By following up with couples who portrayed patterns such as these, we can now predict with >90% accuracy what couples will divorce at some point in the future.  Fascinating, to say the least.

But fascinating as this research was, the early data collection was done purely for research purposes.  It wasn’t until Julie Gottman, a clinical psychologist, urged her husband to find a way to use the research to help troubled couples.  By studying healthy couples (the masters of relationships) in addition to troubled couples (the disasters of relationships), the Gottmans were able to develop effective therapy interventions.  An hour and a half into the weekend workshop and our spouses were chomping at the bit to know more about these interventions, without one bit of therapizing from us.

The weekend is strategically designed to take couples on a tour of the Sound Relationship House, the model the Gottman’s developed based on his research.   We (and 196 other couples) completed exercises independently and privately, meaning even though there were over 400 people in the room, there was no public disclosure.  We worked through processing actual fights we have had and our own gridlocked issues, so we got a taste of what it is like to be a client.  One of the most poignant moments of the entire weekend was when John and Julie Gottman demonstrated The Aftermath of a Fight intervention using a real life example.  Their genuine emotional experience made the process safe for the audience by reassuring us that the masters of relationships have arguments too.

We left Seattle feeling closer and more connected to our partners, and energized beyond belief to bring The Art and Science of Love Weekend Workshop to our area.  Our training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy along with the rich personal experience we had celebrating Valentine’s Day with our partners in Seattle will guide us in bringing The Sound Relationship House tour to you later in 2013.  Stay tuned for details!

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, RD/LD