Did you know that January is the busiest month for divorce? With the strain of the holiday season – which will be further compounded this year by the impact of COVID-19 – January is the most popular time for couples to separate or petition for divorce.

But don’t fret – with a bit of expert insight, you can avoid the marital pitfalls and come out the other side unscathed.

Relationship researcher Dr John Gottman was able to predict, with 92% accuracy, which couples would break up and which would stay together, just by measuring how much contempt was used in a 10-minute conflict conversation. His work, dubbed the ‘Gottman Method,’ is based on his 40 years of research and practice with more than 3000 couples.

Trish Purnell-Webb and John Flanagan were the very first Certified Gottman Therapists in Australia, and are still the only Master Trainers and Consultants for the Gottman Institute in the country. Together, Trish and John help couples reconnect and overcome obstacles through the Burleigh Heads Psychology Clinic.

Trish and John’s new book, ‘365 Simple Ideas to Improve Your Relationship,’ outlines a daily tip and an easy-to-complete task for each day of the year, to help guide couples on their journey together towards contentment and fulfilment.

Trish and John’s tips for spotting signs of contempt

You can understand if you are living with a contemptuous partner if they regularly:

  • Roll their eyes
  • Smirk
  • Use a derisive or belligerent tone
  • Put you down (“You think you’re all that but you’re rubbish!”)
  • Use sarcasm (“Of course you are always so perfect!”)
  • Are disdainful (“You wish you were that smart”, accompanied with an eye roll)
  • Are cynical (“Oh sure, you say that now but I know you can’t be relied on”, followed with a smirk)

“Dr Gottman found that couples who had great relationships that were close, connected, and long-lasting spent time every day getting to know their partners just a little bit more, paying attention to how they were changing over time and developing a deeper understanding of their inner worlds and emotional landscapes,” says John. “Gottman called this ‘building love maps’.”

Trish and John recommend all couples take five minutes a day to ask their partner questions similar to the following, to help begin creating their partner’s love map. 

“Your partner’s answers can help you support their dreams, passions and hobbies,” says Trish.

How to create a Love Map

  1. Who is your favourite author, and why do you like him or her?
  2. What are you most looking forward to over the next year?
  3. If there is one thing you could accomplish in this life, what would it be and why?
  4. Who is your favourite relative right now, and why?
  5. Where do you most want to travel in the world, and why?

Trish and John have also come up with the following quiz, to help couples determine how well they know their significant other.

  1. You feel known by your partner                                                     Yes/No
  2. Your partner is available to you                                                     Yes/No
  3. Your partner accepts your influence in decision making               Yes/No
  4. When you fight you make up within an hour                                Yes/No
  5. You and your partner like each other                                            Yes/No
  6. You give your partner positive feedback every day                       Yes/No
  7. Your partner gives you positive feedback every day                     Yes/No
  8. You and your partner are consistently polite to each  other         Yes/No
  9. You have regular, enjoyable sex                                                     Yes/No
  10. You regularly have dates that are fun and/or romantic                Yes/No

7-10 Your relationship is likely to be in good health. Do not become complacent – make sure you continue to do positive things for and with your partner every  day.

4-6 Your relationship could use a tune up. Attend a  workshop, read a relationship book, or follow our 365 Simple Ideas to Improve Your Relationship.

0-3 Your relationship is most likely feeling disconnected, lonely, and unsatisfactory. Consider seeking a Gottman Trained Therapist for help.

Any couple seeking help, guidance or insight into their own relationship should attend the upcoming Art and Science of Love couples’ workshop in Brisbane, at the Royal on the Park hotel, March 27 and 28 2021, led by Trish Purnell-Webb and John Flanagan.




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