Turning toward vs. turning away

I listened to a teleconference recently with John Gottman, renowned author, researcher and therapist specializing in marriage. The topic was building trust. Lots of good stuff. One question I had for him at the end was to elaborate on his point about how conflict avoidance in the day to day lives of couples lays the groundwork for secret keeping. To illustrate he told a story about a young couple that had a new baby of about 4 months. The husband had been feeling a little neglected by his wife since the baby’s birth – less affection and sex and not much time to spend together as a couple. But he didn’t want to complain because of course he was happy about his new daughter. He attends a networking social function required by his work and strikes up a conversation with a new female coworker . They talk about work related topics and after a while they talk about their families.  She shares about struggles with her aging father’s health which she is managing from afar. He confides about his new daughter and how life has become so much more full and busy. It’s not a flirtatious conversation but he notes as he leaves that he really enjoyed having an adult conversation. It’s been a while since he and his wife have had the same and he misses it. He wonders if he should tell his wife about this conversation with his coworker and what it made him think and miss about them as a couple. Maybe see if she wants to get a babysitter and do something next weekend. But he knows she doesn’t like the idea of a babysitter and they’ve had a disagreement about that before. She will also probably be tired and a little irritated with him that he is ½ hour late. He decides that it’s better not to rock the boat right now. Keeping this to himself is what Gottman terms “turning away rather than toward”.  He is not confiding his inner emotional landscape to his life partner to avoid the potential for negative affect. A brick in a wall has been laid.

This entry was posted in CouplesCare.net. Bookmark the permalink.