The Gottman Method
Evidence-based therapy for couples.
Gottman Method Couples Therapy, developed in the 1980s by Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman, is a research-based method that assists couples in developing relationship skills based on the Sound Relationship House Theory.
The goal is to help couples achieve a deeper sense of understanding, awareness, empathy, and connectedness in their relationships that ultimately lead to a heightened sense of intimacy, care, and compassion.
This renowned therapeutic method helps couples:
- Identify and address natural defenses that hinder effective communication
- Manage conflict and bring back playfulness
- Create shared meaning, connect deeper, and strengthen their bond
Here’s a look inside some of Gottman’s theories
MYTH: Infidelity is the major cause of divorce.
Reality: The most frequent causes of divorce are a high degree of conflict and loss of intimacy and connection.
Escalation of criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling can lead to divorce.
The number of positive interactions between partners in stable relationships during an argument is 5 to 1. Couples who are heading towards divorce have 20% fewer positive interactions than negative ones.
MYTH: Couples start off happy but over time they stop building each other up.
Reality: Gottman’s research has found that people in long-term relationships become more important to one another and small acts of kindness have a big impact.
MYTH: Men are more task-oriented and women are more emotional.
Reality: Research demonstrates that in families, men and women are equally as task-oriented and both are just as emotional.
MYTH: A healthy relationship is not possible unless all of your past issues have been resolved first.
Reality: The success of your relationship will depend on how these issues are managed, not on them completely disappearing.
Conflict in a relationship is not a bad thing and we do not want to avoid it. Conflict in our relationships is an opportunity to learn more about our partners, grow with them and deepen our connection. By learning the appropriate skills, we can do it effectively and creatively.
John Gottman’s research found that 69% of the conflicts we have with our partners are perpetual. This means that the arguments that you are having today will likely be the arguments you are having five years from now. We do not look for resolution with these arguments, rather we look to manage them.
MYTH: A failure to communicate is one of the main reasons for couples to argue.
Reality: Actually, there are many causes of conflict in a relationship. However, conflict can be used to deepen intimacy and increase trust if approached properly.
Communication styles between partners can have a huge impact on how conversations go. Dr. Gottman found that the way the conversation starts is often how the conversation will end.
MYTH: If your expectations are high it will lead to disappointment, therefore, you’re better off lowering them.
Reality: Gottman found that those who expect to be treated well in a relationship get treated well and those who lower their expectations also get what they expect which is less.
Gottman’s Four Horsemen:
Gottman Couples Therapy identifies four toxic behaviors that will cause a partner to have feelings of disconnection, isolation, and loneliness. When one or both partners continue to feel isolated and disconnected from their partner the relationship will suffer and may even begin to unravel.
Criticism: Blaming your partner’s personality or character for what’s wrong with the relationship. When you use criticism, you imply that there is something wrong with your partner. Using words such as “you always” or “you never” are common ways to criticize. Your partner is most likely to feel under attack and respond defensively.
Defensiveness: Warding off criticism by counterattacking or by feeling like an innocent victim. Unfortunately, this keeps partners from accepting responsibility for problems and escalates negative communication.
Contempt: Any statement or nonverbal behavior that makes you superior to your partner. Insults, putdowns, name-calling, mocking your partner, rolling your eyes, and sneering in disgust are all examples of contempt. Contempt is the most serious of the horsemen because it will destroy the fondness and admiration between couples.
Stonewalling: Emotional withdrawal from the interaction. The stonewaller might physically leave or they might stop engaging in the conversation and appear to shut down. They may look like they do not care (80% men) but that is typically not the case. Usually, they are overwhelmed and are trying to calm down. This typically does not work because it is assumed that they do not care enough about the problem to talk about it.
Gottman’s Sound Relationship House:
The Sound Relationship House is a model for a healthy relationship and describes nine specific areas that need to be nurtured in order for the relationship to thrive. Making sure that you are attending to these areas increases the likelihood of positive interactions, contributing to a successful relationship.
Build Love Maps: This is an understanding of your partner’s inner psychological world. A roadmap of what your partner’s world is like emotionally—their hopes, dreams, sources of stress, ambitions, stories of their childhood, worries, and so on.
Share Fondness and Admiration: This is the antidote for contempt and focuses on the degree of affection and respect each partner brings to the table. You want to look for ways to say ‘thank you.’ Couples are intentionally building respect which will strengthen fondness and admiration.
Turn Towards: When we are in a relationship with another person, we want to connect with them. We need to pay attention to their needs by acknowledging their bids for connection. We also need to pay attention to our own needs and ask our partners for what we need in a gentle way.
The Positive Perspective: If the first three levels are strong, we will have a positive effect on our partners when problem-solving and working through issues. We will see them as a friend and not an adversary.
Manage Conflict: Although some conflicts may be solvable, the majority are perpetual meaning the argument you are having today will be the same argument you will be having five years from now. Conflict in any relationship is normal. As long as we approach them positively and with a sense of mutual respect, we will be able to successfully problem solve and learn a great deal about our partners.
Making Life Dreams Come True: Do you know your partners’ life dreams? Do you support them? Talking openly about your hopes, dreams, values, convictions, and aspirations in a safe and non-judgmental way helps couples move through issues on which they are gridlocked. When you explore your values within a position of gridlock you can begin to successfully manage conflict.
Create Shared Meaning: You want to prioritize your time together as a couple. You want to bring back the first victims of a committed relationship because they usually come at the end of a long to-do list which are; fun, playfulness, silliness, adventure, romance, passion, sex, and kissing. You want to create rituals surrounding celebrations, holidays, dinner time, connection, and conflict.
Trust: This is one of the support beams of the Sound Relationship House. You build trust by showing your partner that you have their best interests at heart and take those interests into consideration along with your own.
Commitment: This is the other support beam of the Sound Relationship House. Commitment means believing and acting on the belief that this relationship with this person is a lifelong journey, for better or worse. It’s built on cherishing what you have with your partner, honoring your partner’s positive qualities, and nurturing a sense of gratitude when considering your partner in relation to others. Commitment is also about focusing on your partner’s positive qualities and not their negative ones.
Relationships built on a solid foundation stand the test of time, whatever conflicts may arise. The Sound Relationship House model teaches you how to build your relationship from the ground up, focusing on an understanding that fosters mutual respect, admiration, trust, and commitment.