John Gottman, Ph.D. is widely recognized as the pre-eminent researcher and teacher of marital therapy. His research, conducted over a 40 year period at the University of Washington in Seattle, has led to the most comprehensive and evidence-based theoretical and practical understanding of the dynamics of what makes couples succeed or fail and what works to help couples get back on track. This research has revealed what it takes to “make marriage work”: managing conflict, increasing emotional connection and supporting each partner’s dreams. The following long quote from the Gottman Institute’s website (www.gottman.com) distills the essential components of creating relationships that last by paying attention to what they call The Sound Relationship House, or the nine aspects of successful relationships:
Build Love Maps: How well do you know your partner’s inner psychological world, his or her history, worries, stresses, joys, and hopes?
Share Fondness and Admiration: The antidote for contempt, this level focuses on the amount of affection and respect within a relationship. (To strengthen fondness and admiration, express appreciation and respect.)
Turn Towards: State your needs, be aware of bids for connection and respond to (turn towards) them. The small moments of everyday life are actually the building blocks of relationship.
The Positive Perspective: The presence of a positive approach to problem-solving and the success of repair attempts.
Manage Conflict: We say “manage” conflict rather than “resolve” conflict, because relationship conflict is natural and has functional, positive aspects. Understand that there is a critical difference in handling perpetual problems and solvable problems.
Make Life Dreams Come True: Create an atmosphere that encourages each person to talk honestly about his or her hopes, values, convictions and aspirations.
Create Shared Meaning: Understand important visions, narratives, myths, and metaphors about your relationship.
Trust: this is the state that occurs when a person knows that his or her partner acts and thinks to maximize that person’s interests, and maximize that person’s benefits, not just the partner’s own interests and benefits. In other words, this means, “my partner has my back and is there for me.”
Commitment: This means believing (and acting on the belief) that your relationship with this person is completely your lifelong journey, for better or for worse (meaning that if it gets worse you will both work to improve it). It implies cherishing your partner’s positive qualities and nurturing gratitude by comparing the partner favorably with real or imagined others, rather than trashing the partner by magnifying negative qualities, and nurturing resentment by comparing unfavorably with real or imagined others.
Combining the knowledge and wisdom of nearly forty years of studies and clinical practice, Gottman Method Couples Therapy helps couples break through barriers to achieve greater understanding, connection and intimacy in their relationships. Through research-based interventions and exercises, it is a structured, goal-oriented, scientifically-based therapy. Intervention strategies are based upon empirical data from Dr. Gottman’s study of more than 3,000 couples. This research shows what actually works to help couples achieve a long-term healthy relationship.
Gottman Method Couples Therapy was developed out of this research to help partners:
• Increase respect, affection, and closeness
• Break through and resolve conflict when they feel stuck
• Generate greater understanding between partners
• Keep conflict discussions calm
Nancy R. Soro, Ph.D.