“Long before Gottman became one of the world’s foremost researchers of marriage and divorce—before appearances on Oprah and Good Morning America, four National Institute of Mental Health awards, and forty-some books, including the New York Times bestseller The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work—he was a mildly awkward, unlucky-in-love, Brooklyn-raised MIT mathematics graduate drawn to UW-Madison by a burgeoning interest in psychology. It was 1966, and unbeknownst to Gottman, another shy, Jewish math geek from New York was schlepping around campus—my father….”
University of Wisconsin alum and relationship researcher John Gottman
On Wisconsin, Summer 2016
As I eventually wrote in this piece, this assignment was borderline serendipitous for me. When my editor called to ask me to write a profile on UW PhD John Gottman for UW-Madison’s alumni magazine, I was literally staring at one of his books on my desk, which had arrived via Amazon that very afternoon. There were so many other connections, too—like that my husband and I were participating in a couples clinic not unlike those that made Gottman famous; that my parents found love on the same campus, at the same time, that Gottman was there; that my dad and he share so many characteristics—that I decided to go an unusual route and write the profile as an essay instead. With my editor’s encouragement, I shared a little bit of my personal life—something I haven’t really done in a magazine article, with a handful of exceptions (that weren’t nearly so uncomfortable). I think it worked out for a piece that turned out to be part profile, part personal essay, and part service journalism.
—Maggie Ginsberg is an award-winning freelance writer in Madison, Wisconsin