French President Francois Hollande visits the U.S. (Creative Commons)
It’s Valentine’s Day so I was thinking about how relationships endure and how they don’t. Given that François Hollande has just finished his official visit to the USA, I was brooding about the Franco-American relationship, its status today, and its long history – a history that was referred to by both Hollande and Barack Obama in their various speeches over the past few days. I scouted round with Google and found some insightful research. It was on the website of the Gottman Institute whose program is dedicated to understanding relationships by using top-notch research on marriage and “down-to-earth therapy” to help couples. In an article in Psychology Today (March 1, 1994) entitled “What Makes Marriage Work,” John Gottman, co-founder of the Institute, finds that couples resolve their conflicts in different ways:
- Validating. Couples compromise often and calmly work out their problems to mutual satisfaction as they arise.
- Volatile. Conflict erupts often, resulting in passionate disputes.
- Conflict-avoiding. Couples agree to disagree, rarely confronting their differences head-on.
Gottman points out that in years gone by psychologists probably would have thought that conflict-avoiding and volatile relationships would be destructive. However, his findings indicate that these three styles can be equally solid and predict a bright future for a relationship.
Over the past few days, there have been a variety of articles and reports documenting the French President’s visit. I have picked out these three from the New York Times and from NPR/PRI. Three articles related to François Hollande’s visit give us three different points of articulation of the relationship. In the article on the sanctions in Iran and French businesses seeking economic opportunities there, we go to International relations and we see a somewhat volatile side of the relationship as Obama warns that “we will come down [ ... ] like a ton of bricks” on anybody violating the sanctions.
On a more familial note, in the world of state dinners and who sits where at the table, the relationship seems to be more validating as the Obamas and their staff work out where to put Mr Hollande, who has not leading lady with him.
Finally, we turn to economics and business as François Hollande makes his visit to Silicon Valley and here the relationship seems to resolve some of its differences by avoiding head-to-head conflict.
Taken together, the articles offer us an evolving and revolving viewpoint on the healthiness of France and the USA’s relationship.