from gottman.com blog by Kyle Benson 1/12/2021
ever thought about the Relationship Thermostat?
to keeping things comfortable is to address the uncomfortable issues that pull
you two apart.
research on newlywed couples discovered that stable and happy couples are more
responsive to slight changes in negativity than ailing marriages.
every relationship has a connection thermostat that signals how well the
relationship is doing. Ideally, you want to find that balance between hot and
cold so you can feel secure, connected, and cherished.
is, like a house, the thermostat is bound to change from time-to-time based on
what happens on the outside. Every relationship is going to feel hot or cold.
sensitive you are to the emotional temperature changes and work together to
return to the comfort zone of connection, the better chance your relationship
has at staying positive and healthy.
relationship, my thermostat has a burning point of volcanic anger and a
freezing point of ice-cold distance and indifference. When I am too hot, I am
critical, defensive, and contemptuous. I become emotionally flooded and say
things I don’t believe about my partner and our relationship. It’s like my body
is on fire and if my partner gets closer, I’ll burn her.
When I am
too cold, I preoccupy myself with work and offer less spontaneous acts of
affection throughout the day. I ask less questions and keep to myself more. And
when my partner expresses something, I am less engaged. At my freezing point, I
appear apathetic when she is hurting. That is not the partner she needs in
those painful moments.
has her own hot and cold points, but with different behaviors.
us, we rarely get to these extremes because those temperature points are
difficult and painful.
One of the
hard lessons we had to learn to keep our emotional connection temperature at a
more loving level was the importance of addressing things earlier.
secret of stable relationships: Address things early
knowledge came from Dr. Gottman’s research, “In marriages that wind up happy
and stable, newlywed [spouses] notice lower levels of negativity…In other
marriages, [spouses] adapt to and try to accept this negativity, setting their
threshold for response at a much higher (more negative) level.”
relationships that struggle, there is a tendency to tolerate a hotter or colder
connection temperature. Dr. Gottman shares, “It’s as if they are saying to
themselves, ‘Just ignore this negativity. Don’t respond to it unless it gets
much worse.’ Our research shows that this kind of adaptation to negativity is
goes on to say that, when partners adapt to hotter or colder connection
temperatures, it also increases their “threshold” for determining when things
are problematic. This means that those partners will feel like help is not
needed since they’ve increased the acceptable range of negativity.
place to start in order to understand your emotions, your partner’s emotions,
and the best way to navigate those within your relationship is by creating a
map of emotions together.
Mapping Emotions Together
relationship, I like to imagine our thermostat is like our home’s thermostat.
If we get emotionally hotter than 73 or colder than 68, that is a cue that we
need to readjust our thermostat and reconnect.
Dr. Gottman’s research indicates that healthy couples are more nuanced to
changes in the emotional connection. Most importantly, they see the change in
relational temperature as a cue to check-in with their partner or open up. They
turn towards one another.
tools to reset your relationship’s thermostat
temperature in your relationship is uncomfortable, that is a cue that a repair
is needed to reset at a more connecting level.
Discuss Cues of Your Relationship’s Thermostat
to start with discussing what the relationship feels like when things are going
well. Talk about how it feels in your body, the thoughts you have, as well as
how you engage one another. In my
marriage this includes more humor, physical affection, and a felt sense of
being understood when discussing an issue. Outside of conflict, there are lots
of positive interactions, and during conflict, we are probably close to the
magic 5:1 ratio since we tend to use speaker-listener roles. Then talk about
how you think you two get to this place and what helps keep this temperature. Discuss
Disconnection Cues: Use Drs. John and Julie Gottman’s “Relationship Poop
Detector” to determine cues that your relationship’s temperature is too hot or
too cold. This includes the Four Horsemen, feeling distant and isolated, or not
being affectionate and intimate. The more awareness you have of what pulls you
apart, the easier it will be to say, “oh no, we are too hot. Can we talk and
reset our temperature please?”
together and dialogue about what’s changed the thermostat using conflict
blueprints: To prevent negativity from making things too hot or cold, use the
Gottman Conflict Blueprints such as the Gottman-Rapoport and The Aftermath of a
speaker, remember to help your partner understand your side and give them a
recipe to be successful with you.
listener, remember to soothe yourself so you can hear your partner and seek to
understand before problem-solving.
Proactively Check Your Relationship’s Temperature:
waiting until your relationship is sweating with negativity or shivering from a
cold loneliness, proactively check each other’s emotional temperature daily,
“How are we doing today from your perspective? What’s going well? What is
something we can do better?”
not wait more than 3 days to address an issue that is making the relationship
too hot or too cold. The secret to keeping things comfortable is to address the
uncomfortable issues that pull you two apart.