When I first wrote Bad Behavior, I titled the novel Couples Counseling due to its focus on couples therapy sessions for Grant and Sophie. Dr. Hunter Hayes obviously has his hands full with these two. Before publication we changed the title so it sounded less self-help!
As a romance author, I’m obviously fascinated by romantic relationships. What attracts one person to another? What makes romantic relationships succeed or fail? Why is communication so hard sometimes? How can a couple heal their fractured marriage?
There are some helpful answers out there I want to share today. The guru of couples counseling is Dr. John Gottman, researcher and author. Here’s one of his best books:
John Gottman’s research methods are intriguing: he has couples live in his lab for a few days while hooked up to heart rate monitors and other physical measurements. When couples argue, they become physically distressed, making it difficult for them to work together to resolve the conflict. During an argument, if one partner’s heart rate goes over 100 beats a minute, they both have to retreat to their corners to calm down before resuming the discussion. LOL!
Gottman’s research has focused on heterosexual couples but there is some evidence his principles can work for homosexual couples too. He found that although the woman may appear more distraught in an argument, often times the man is more distraught (pounding heart, tense muscles, adrenaline rush). He becomes flooded by distress, has no idea how to handle it, and may view fleeing as his only recourse. Sometimes the woman pursues him, which makes him withdraw more, and a pursue/withdrawal pattern can ingrain itself.
Women can help lower men’s distress by using “soft start-ups” (e.g. “Remember that light fixture you were planning to replace, honey? When are you thinking of doing that?” instead of “You never do anything you say you’ll do!”) and by making repairs (apologizing, bringing up a private joke, compromising).
For the couple to be happy, men need to make repairs too, and accept influence from their wives. Problems in a relationship can be solvable or “perpetual”–enduring unsolvable problems for which it helps to have some dialogue to understand each partner’s perspective.
This book is chock full of more interesting findings, and I encourage you to check it out. My characters Grant Masden and Sophie Taylor certainly learned many of these strategies from their psychologist Hunter in Bad Behavior. How will their relationship endure the challenges I throw their way in book three, On Best Behavior? Mwa ha ha!
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