Honey vs. Vinegar – What works in Good Marriages

At this time, I am participating in learning and understanding the principles of Dr. John Gottman‘s work. I am currently reviewing and reading the first level of his home study course and wanted to share what I am learning as I go along. In this article, I want to highlight what works in a good marriage and so I summed it up by saying “Honey vs. Vinegar.” I think you will see why.

1. Good relationships have dialogue instead of gridlock with ongoing issues. In other words, arguments happen but how you argue determines whether your marriage will last, not whether or not you stop arguing (which is not going to happen). He found in his research that ONLY 31% of conflicts in a marriage will be resolved, whereas a very HIGH 69% will never be resolved. In other words, get used to it and have some humor about it thus we can see where the term “Honey Do” came from.

Example: “Honey, do you have a moment…” vs. “How many times…” or “Why isn’t…” or “I can’t believe you didn’t…”

2. Since women are generally the one’s who bring up what isn’t being done or needs to be done around the house, here is one for the men. The men who accept influence from their wives are in much happier marriages than those that do not. It is all about respecting each other.

Example: “Yes, I see your point.” or “That is a good idea.” vs. “What do you know?” Or someone who just ignores their partner altogether, whenever they offer a suggestion.

3. Acknowledgement for dealing with past obstacles. Taking the time to give each other some sort of positive reinforcement. What I like to refer to is “The One Minute Manager,” and its timeless advice: Catch them doing something right.

Example: “I really appreciated the way you handled the funeral arrangements for my father. I don’t know how I could have coped without you.” or “Thank you for making dinner tonight, I am absolutely exhausted.” vs. “Oh I hate pot roast, why did you make that, you know I hate it?” or another finding something wrong with the right “Yes, you did make those arrangements but I would have chosen the ebony colored coffin, not the cherry wood.”

Dr. Gottman says the ratio of positive to negative should be 5:1. That is a whole lot of sweetness going around.

What I see that happens is that couples come into therapy who have built up resentments for years, sometimes it only takes months and it is apparent that the collapse is on the verge of happening.  This isn’t futile but it requires some serious thinking about your relationship, values, and what you want for your future. If you are coming into therapy thinking that you are right and it is they who are wrong, and continue to approach therapy with this motto, the relationship is going to be futile.

Yes, I can empathize, I’ve made these mistakes myself in the past. It is annoying when the partner is not holding their weight and you feel like you are doing all the work. I get all of this, believe me I do. However, is this what you want? If so…if you are really really sure, that there is no one better for you then this person…then therapy means you, (even though you are sure you are right) you have to be open to the fact that your technique needs to be looked at. Both of you need to have some discussions, together in therapy about how to work on this challenge within yourselves. Otherwise, coming in week after week, saying the same thing and getting the same results…means you are wasting your money and time.

When I read this part of the home study guide, I thought about movies I had seen about southern women.  It might be stereotypical because it is a movie but the terms “Hon,” or “Shug,” or “Sweetie,” or whatever term of endearment seems to pop up over and over again never seems to be an issue in pulling the partner in. I find that couples who use terms of endearment are those I have known to last a very long time.