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  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • February 2018
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Jane and her husband take steps to strengthen their marriage

After 28 years of marriage, my husband (“Joe”) and I found ourselves in unchartered waters when the youngest of our 4 children left the nest. We aren’t quite experiencing the sadness of empty-nest syndrome, but it has given us time together without all the distractions and noise that having a house full of kids can bring. This has allowed us to see how we interact and communicate with each other on a daily basis, and we didn’t particularly like what we saw and heard. We realized we weren’t quite equipped to fix things on our own and, if we wanted to get out of the same old rut of arguments, and talking over each other, we’d have to look for outside help. Some say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. With that in mind, my husband and I decided to stop repeating the same mistakes in hopes of building a stronger and healthier marriage.

Since we are both business owners, with very busy schedules, we decided a weekend workshop where we could spend the entire time learning and practicing new skills, without the distractions of our jobs, would be best. We heard about a workshop being put on by Gloria Jean Bannasch from GJB Health Services called The Art and Science of Love. This workshop was developed by doctors John and Julie Gottman, founders of the Gottman Institute. Dr. John Gottman has studied the relationships of couples for over four decades. Dr. Gottman identified the skills and patterns that successful, happy couples, have in common and how they differ from those of couples who were unhappy or who divorced. All of John Gottman’s research knowledge, and Julie Gottman’s therapeutic knowledge, has been packed into a two-day weekend workshop; with the goal of helping couples become better friends and increasing their positive feelings for one another.

Day one was an eye opener! We learned the four ways of interacting that are the best predictors of divorce: criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling. It was not a surprise that we had used all four of them during our 28 years of marriage. We also talked about and worked on managing our “emotional bank account,” making sure we were making more deposits than withdrawals. The use of that metaphor made it much more relatable for us.

What we liked most about the weekend was that, even though it was done in a group setting, we were not expected to interact with the group about any of our personal issues. For that we broke off into individual rooms, to practice the techniques we had been taught, with Gloria checking in with us to see if we needed assistance. As a group, Gloria gave us presentations that showed us the science behind John Gottman’s research and the results he obtained. After hearing about Gottman’s in-depth research methods, with over 3000 real couples (many of whom were followed for 20 years), we were able to see the value in the information we were being given. We came to appreciate the Gottman method, and the ways the research had been used, to give us a set of tools for improving our relationship. Gloria also presented us with plenty of examples on how to communicate things to our partners in ways that are most likely to be heard in a constructive way. When we were working through “The Aftermath of a Fight or Regrettable Incident,” Gloria and her husband demonstrated how to use the technique by “processing” a real event from their marriage. Jerry and Gloria, talked about how “triggers” (childhood events, personalities and experiences), can play a role in behavior and in a person’s response.

Below is what my husband and I found most educational during our couple’s workshop with Gloria Bannasch from GJB Health Services:

Joe: I really like that they described a good relationship as a house, needing a sound foundation and strong structural walls. It gave me more of a visual on what a healthy relationship needs to look like. Knowing that many of our arguments are perpetual (unresolvable) issues gives me a better understanding of why they keep coming up and how we can dialogue our way through them when they do come up. I also learned what to do when I am overwhelmed or “flooded”, as Gottman calls it, and just can’t process any more information. It’s OK to disengage temporarily until I can come back to the topic.

Me: I liked learning how to build rituals that will keep us better connected. No matter how small these rituals are, they are important. As “Joe” said, they will only continue to strengthen the “foundation and walls” supporting our relationship. I also learned more about conflict resolution because, not only did we learn how to address and solve conflicts, but we also took a conflict from our past and worked through it.

The Art and Science of Love workshop gave us individual time to work on something that directly affects us, and it was very helpful. We learned a lot from that. We also learned when we can’t solve a problem we can usually find a compromise for it and how to achieve that compromise (or at least a partial or temporary one).

People invest in a lot of things in their lifetime, such as careers, business, financial investments and properties, but the investments you make in the relationships in your life will bring the biggest rewards. We both feel the weekend with Gloria was very beneficial and continue to use many of the skills we learned at the workshop in our day-to-day interactions. My husband and I feel we are much closer, and, by working as a team, we look forward to the next 28 years! 

GJB Health Services

711 N Lynndale Drive Ste. 1-A, Appleton


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