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Tuned Out, Turned Off

Presents an excerpt of the article 'Avoiding Couple Karate: Lessons in the Martial Arts,' by Alison Brandt from 'Psychology Today' dated October 1982.

Today psychologists like John Gottman of the University of Illinois arelooking closely at how married couples behave with each other. In one experiment, Gottman and his colleagues paired happily and unhappily married men and showed them videotapes of their own and one another's wives sending verbal messages pregnant with non-verbal content, such as pleading or playfulness. The happily married men had little difficulty interpreting the intended nonverbal messages, whether sent by their own wives or by others' wives. The unhappily married men could often interpret the messages of other men's wives, but when it came to their own, they often drew a blank.

"It's not that these men are inexpressive emotionally," says Gottman. "What's happened is that in a relationship that's unhappy, they've withdrawn." This failure on the part of unhappily married men to respond to their wives' emotional signals, of course, eventually makes the wives less willing to do the work that appears necessary to keep marriages satisfactory for both partners. [So wives] grow hitter, and the marriages collapse.

To prevent that from happening, Gottman believes, married partners must somehow become more mutually accepting, less dependent but more intimate. In other words, become better friends.

--from "Avoiding Couple Karate: Lessons in the Marital Arts" by Alison Brandt, October 1982.

[Finally, some helpful hints on relationships. Gottman, now at the University of Washington, is still one of the leading researchers on what makes marriage worse.--P.D]