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In the New Year Jenny and I will be running what we have called ‘The Couples Course.’ It is a course for couples, married or unmarried, gay or straight, who are interested in learning the seven principles of what makes a relationship work and therefore last.

Identified by John Gottman the seven principles are empirically grounded. Gottman himself has become famous as the guy who can look at a five minute film of a couple arguing and predict with an astonishing 93.6% accuracy whether the couple will stay together or not, if they continue with their relationship in their current manner.

Gottman learned to do this by filming and coding interactions between thousands of different couples. To quote him, he studied both ‘the disasters and master’s of relationships,’ to find out whether he could identify what it was that couples who separated did differently from those who stayed together. This research work covers both married and non-married couples, straight and gay, and holds cross culturally as well. It is what allowed him to predict in a study with 93.6% accuracy, which couples would separate.

Importantly the prediction is based on couples continuing to inter-act and communicate in the same way. Change the inter-action, change the communication and you radically change the odds. So where a couple wants to stay together they can, by becoming masters of relationship. The masters of relationship use the seven principles to build what Gottman calls the ‘Sound Relationship House.’

At the bottom of the house are the foundations, which are based on knowing and understanding your partner. Making sure you keep abreast of their life, what is going on for them, and what is important for them now and in the future, is the basis of the first principle. Practically speaking it means creating a ‘love map’ as Gottman’s calls it.  In the couples course we will give the participants techniques and exercises to do this. Love maps are a way of developing what in Personal Construct Psychology – PCP, is called sociality, which is the capacity to understand other people in order to play a role with them. In this case as wife, husband, partner or whatever role title means most to you. Sociality is the sound basis of all mental health and what the Gottmans have done is produced a well elaborated structure for learning sociality and improving it in romantic relationships, so that they become relationships that last and sustain people through the years.

Using the Gottmans work as a basis and integrating it with PCP, the Couples Course offers the opportunity for couples to learn and practice all seven principles and increase their chances of a long and enriching life together. It starts on Thursday 23rd January and will run for nine weeks. Contact Richard or Jenny for further details.

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