Well, men tend to feel the same way about women and their emotions. Women revel in exploring and describing their emotions, while most men have been conditioned NOT to do the same. In committed relationships where they are required to discuss and process feelings with their wives, men often feel like intrepid explorers in new terrain without a map or a working GPS system, uncomfortable and very vulnerable.
So the idea of going to a workshop on relationships, where talking about emotions is core, strikes fear and anxiety into the hearts of many men, and is often the last thing they want to spend their weekend doing. But The Art and Science of Love (ASL), a two-day Gottman Method relationship retreat workshop, is uniquely calibrated to the male psyche.
Why? Because first and foremost, it’s backed up by decades of concrete scientific research results and not some “woo-woo” theories from someone’s imagination. Next, because it’s gauged to learning skills and using tools to bridge communication gaps, and provides a road-map to traverse a path to a more fulfilling partnership. And finally, because it’s presented in an accessible, humorous, interesting format.
While the ASL workshop applies equally to same-sex couples, it is a deeply satisfying “nuts and bolts” approach for men who want clear answers as to how to make their wives happier and make them feel more loved. No public discussion of relationship issues or disclosure of personal information is involved, so men need not feel threated with involuntary vulnerability. And it’s NOT therapy…
Over the past 20 years, experts have been putting our intimate relationships under the microscope, studying our private reactions by looking at what goes on between partners and inside them: videotaping every grimace, shrug, and caress, audio-taping every expletive and sigh, and monitoring physiological reactions throughout. They’ve come to understand why some relationships happily endure, what can make some hellholes of unhappiness, and what, precisely, precipitates divorce, which still claims half of all marriages, usually within the first seven years.
Love Survival Skills
As a result, a growing number researchers and clinicians have come to the conclusion that most unhappy couples don’t so much need therapy as they do education. Education in how relationships work and in the specific skills that make them work well.
This thinking embodies a sea change in the mental health world. For one, it formalizes the idea that the best way to help people is to teach them crucial psychological skills, so-called “psychoeducation.” …[these] courses aren’t therapy, but they typically have a therapeutic effect.
“We have to get people out of the mindset that knowing how to do relationships is therapy, that there’s something wrong with them, said Howard Markman, Ph.D. (former student of Dr. John Gottman) People don’t feel bad about going to a ski instructor. Or taking lessons to drive a car. Why should learning how to operate a relationship be any different?”
So what then is The Art and Science of Love workshop? For the best description, let’s go to the Gottman Institute’s website:
- 2 days filled with engaging presentations and experiential activities designed to confirm, strengthen, or restore your love
- For couples of every age, ability, and sexual orientation
- Shown to achieve results similar to those of 6 months of marital therapy
- Produces positive results for 86% of those who attend
Based on over 40 years of research with thousands of couples, The Art and Science of Love workshop will give you new insights and research-based skills that can dramatically improve the intimacy and friendship in your relationship and help you manage conflict in a healthy, positive way. Along with the memory of re-connecting and the knowledge that “we can do this,” you will take home a box set of cards, tools, and tips to support your relationship in your everyday lives.
Our curriculum is developed from 40 years of research with more than 3,000 couples. It’s grounded on what actually works in relationships that are happy and stable, not idealistic notions or anecdotal evidence of what marriage ought to be. The workshop produces positive results for 86% of those who attend based on exit surveys…
This workshop is designed for ALL couples in a committed relationship. If you have a strong relationship, this workshop will provide you with insights and tools to foster further closeness, friendship, and trust. If your relationship is distressed, this two-day workshop will provide you with a greater understanding of your relationship and a road map for repair. No public discussion or disclosure is involved. All work is done as a couple and Gottman trained therapists are available to support one-on-one during exercises.
At the workshop, you’ll learn how to: foster respect, affection, and closeness; build and share a deeper connection with each other; keep conflict discussions calm, break through and resolve conflict gridlock; and strengthen and maintain the gains in your relationship.
So on the first day, expect a more lighthearted experience that teaches you how to build your friendship – “fondness and admiration” is what the Gottmans call it – through funny stories, lecture segments, role plays and breakout exercises. And on the second, more serious day, you will learn the finer points of managing conflict with your partner, also through practicing exercises you tailor to your own unique issues and arguments. During those breakouts, couples are instructed to find a quiet place away from others and work together privately. If for any reason you and your partner need help to get over a hump or you are confused about the task, you hold up a card signifying this, and roving therapists will immediately come and support you. Each person in the couple will get laminated cheat sheets to help guide them through practicing unfamiliar behaviors that will become the new relationship skills in your arsenal.
But the best way to understand the experience and effects of the Art and Science of Love workshop is to open the door a crack so you can peak into it. First let’s take a look at a few selected highlights of the workshop as reported by Michelle in her lengthy blog post “The Art & Science of Love – 15 Favorite Moments from Our Gottman Workshop Weekend”:
Tony and I are just getting back to reality after a glorious time away at The Art and Science of Love weekend…The entire workshop is centered around The Sound Relationship House. Using this as the framework, the teaching was meant to encourage us to change three things:
♥ Become better friends, increasing our positive feelings for one another
♥ Change the way we handle conflict
♥ Build a sense of shared meaning
Dr. John Gottman opened the workshop by simply saying, “Good morning, I know some of you are here voluntarily…” I had the sense it wasn’t going to be all business. I’m excited to share with you my favorite moments from this weekend’s workshop.
We don’t know as much as we think we do about our partners.
Before lunch on the first day we had a break-out session where we got to use the Love Maps card deck. I went into it thinking, “We’ve totally got this! I know Love Maps, Tony knows Love Maps, we’ve read about this and we’ve even written about this.” Turns out, we didn’t know as much as we thought.
My favorite moment was when Tony pulled a card that said, “What are your partner’s hobbies?” After a long pause he said, “I don’t know… List making? Making baby food? Excel spreadsheets?” I could not stop laughing. “Really?” I said. “Those are the things you think I enjoy doing?” Clearly we had some work to do on building up our understanding of each other’s inner world. We laughed through most of this exercise.
Recipients of criticism and contempt have decreased immune systems.
One of the foundational findings in the Gottmans’ research is what they call The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The name came from the description of the four horsemen who precede the end of the world in the book of Revelation from the Bible. In marriage, they have found the presence of these “four horsemen” were reliable predictors of divorce. They are criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. I was stunned to learn that these behaviors and attitudes not only do harm to the marriage relationship, but being on the receiving end of criticism and contempt is actually damaging to a person’s health! Our words and attitudes toward each other have such a profound effect.
It is very American to view conflict as a symptom of a bad relationship. It’s not.
The day began with some reassurances. All couples argue. All couples have intense conversations. All couples have regrettable incidents. Masters and Disasters alike, no couple is without their share of disagreements. The goal isn’t even to minimize the number of them. Instead, the goal is to make conflict constructive and utilize it to help us understand our partner better. Conflict, then, is an opportunity to learn how to love our partner better over time.
The best thing to do during a heated fight is to take a 20-minute break.
Dr. John led us through the science of what is happening in our bodies when our brains perceive any sort of threat, which they do when we are in a fight. Because of adrenaline, increased heart rate, constricted blood flow, and other physiological changes that occur during a heated conflict, we are unable to truly problem solve. This is why learning to self-soothe and communicate the need for a break are so vital to successful problem solving. No matter how much we might want to fight well, sometimes our physiological response simply won’t allow it. We feel flooded, which leads to stonewalling as well as the other three horsemen. Flooding leads people to reject incoming information. Being soothed, taking that break, remembering that we are safe in our relationship leads to the ability to take in information. Sometimes we may need more than 20 minutes, but however long we might need, we should communicate that to our partner and should never take more than 24 hours to readdress a problem.
Be your partner’s best friend. Don’t side with the enemy.
Dr. Julie shared that the Masters of Relationship don’t experience less external stress than the Disasters of Relationship. But, the Masters know how to keep those external stressors from harming their relationship. They do this by practicing stress relieving conversations. She said that when our partners are sharing something that is bothering them, the best thing to do is listen empathetically. She said, “Empathy is guessing what your partner is feeling and being able to say ‘I get it.’” These stress relieving conversations are not problem solving sessions and they are not the time to pile on the things that are frustrating you about your partner. She encouraged us to be our partner’s best friend and never side with the enemy.
Make “I” statements instead of “You” statements
The next phase of the workshop was for processing a “regrettable incident.” The goal here was simply to listen to our partner’s perspective of what happened and not to find a solution. As we walked to a more private area together, I couldn’t think of one single thing Tony and I could use for this exercise. Don’t worry, Tony thought of one immediately! As we discussed it, we had to practice a very formal way of asking questions and listening to each other. We had to remember to talk about our perspective without using blaming language like, “You said this and it was totally out of line!” Instead, we’d have to say, “I heard these words and it made me feel upset.” We then had to practice validating each other whether we agreed with their perception or not. It was tricky. In the end we were both enlightened about the conflict we talked about, but it was difficult not to explain ourselves or get defensive while we were getting there. Ultimately, though, learning to use language that takes ownership was a great benefit. It certainly softens the impact when we aren’t blaming one another for what happened.
Finally, if you still think your husband will balk at investing a weekend learning the tools and skills that can lead to a lifetime of committed relationship happiness, take a look at these final testimonials we’ve provided you:
The main thing is that my spouse can hear me now. And, I am less defensive about listening to him.
M.D., Spokane, WA
Very uplifting and positive. It resulted in good feelings for myself, my wife, and our relationship.
R.B., Bellevue, WA
Don’t change a thing! I feel like a soldier who has survived advanced special forces training. It called forth a depth of strength, feeling, and recommitment that I never knew was possible for me.
Tremendous Healing!! We discovered we both had old beliefs or prejudices against each other that we thought were a gridlock. Barbara Johnstone helped us. When we shared our dreams – they were the same! (thanks be to God) Thank you for a great 2 days.
My wife had been asking me to attend this workshop with her for quite some time but I’d resisted, concerned that it’d be “fluffy” or that I’d be expected to participate in potentially embarrassing group exercises. It turns out that the workshop was nothing like what I’d feared. The Gottman method is based solidly on scientific research, which lent great credibility to the workshop for me. Coupled with the Gottmans’ casual approach and great humor, they had me within the first session! My wife and I now have a new set of tools and a new vocabulary to keep us connected and help us effectively deal with conflict.
T.S., Woodinville, WA
“My wife and I attended your weekend seminar in Houston last year at a difficult time for us. We had dysfunctional communication (made worse by years of not addressing it), amplified by the demands of raising three young kids, maintaining two careers, and having no family nearby to provide support. At one point, we were quite close to splitting up, but on the advice of our marriage therapist, thought we’d give your seminar a try. I’m happy to say that what happened that weekend planted a “seed of hope” that has continued to grow over the last year. We’re now happier in our marriage of nearly 10 years than we’ve ever been, and I thank you for the work that you do to help couples, and families. I’m sure our children would thank you as well, as they live in a happy house, and will undoubtedly be more inclined to have happy families of their own some day.” KS, Houston, TX
To register to attend the next scheduled Art and Science of Love workshop please go HERE. http://crwhouston.com/services/couples-workshops-and-retreats/