In Session with “Couples Retreat”

Kick off your flippers! We’re headed to Eden West to take a deep dive into Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau’s 2009 vacation comedy Couples Retreat. There’ll be kayaking, jet skiing and, of course, couples skill building. It’s the Pelican Package, only instead of Monsieur Marcel, you’ll be guided on your journey by Drs. Sam and Fran.
We discuss the Gottman Institute’s “Four Horsemen,” as it relates to conflict in relationships, and how they apply to each of the couples from the movie. For example, it may not be a good sign if you describe your relationship as “average, great.”
Plus, for the first time, we take a look at the world of couples therapy. What strategies do we see employed by the therapists in the movie, and which of these are used in real-life couples therapy? Hint: it’s not swimming in shark-infested waters. And, oh yeah, are there actually luxurious therapy resorts?
If you or Grandpa Jim-Jim have read this far into the summary, we’ll take that as a firm, tentative yes that you’ll be downloading and listening.

Glossary of Terms

Criticism– attack on partner’s core character

Contempt– lack of respect for partner (e.g., mocking, rolling eyes), assumes moral superiority

Defensiveness– finding excuses and playing the victim when perceived to be unjustly attacked (often a response to criticism)

Stonewalling– shutting down or withdrawing from a conversation, refusing to interact (often a response to contempt)

Rapport– trust and relationship between therapist and patient or client

Harsh startup– starting an argument by attacking your partner (opposite of gentle or soft startup)

Emotional bank account– metaphor used to describe the amount of trust in a relationship

“I” Messages:– statements that focus on your own beliefs and feelings, rather than on the characteristics or actions of the listener

Self-soothing– using techniques to calm yourself down or regulate your emotions when feeling overwhelmed


Why do couples get divorced? Find out why here

Learn more about the Gottman Method and the research behind it

Want to learn how to spot the Four Horsemen? Watch this video

Check out other research from the Gottman Institute on same-sex relationships and parenting

Learn how to effectively communicate by using “I” Messages

Find ways to build an emotional bank account