How The Gottman Method Can Help Couples

Updated March 15, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Karen Devlin, LPC

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When a relationship is going through problems, many will resolve their issues through some form of therapy. Many types of relationship therapy can help couples resolve their problems in the most civil manner possible.

One such method that's worth looking into is the Gottman Method.

What Is the Gottman Method?

The Gottman Method takes an assessment of the couple's relationship and then intervenes using the Sound Relationship House Theory, which we will discuss later. When you go through the Gottman Method, you start with the assessment, where you're interviewed individually and together. You'll take questionnaires about your relationship, receive feedback on it, and then see how you stack up.

After that, you will receive therapy, but you will get to decide, along with your partner and therapist, how frequent and how long each session will be. This allows for plenty of customization, depending on how much therapy you'll need.

Then, you'll have therapeutic interventions. These strive to improve three parts of your relationship:

  • Friendship. You and your partner should be friends in addition to being lovers. This will help improve the emotional connection the two of you have.
  • Conflict management. This will teach you how to deal with conflicts positively. Resolving conflicts negatively can make the situation worse.
  • Creation of shared meaning. The two of you have a goal, which will teach you how to strive for that goal together.

The intervention also teaches you how to prevent a relapse in arguing. Other goals of the Gottman Method include:

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  • Ending miscommunication. Miscommunication is a big reason why many couples have problems, and the Gottman Method wants to fix that.
  • The Gottman method wants to increase the overall intimacy and affection of you and your partner.
  • The Gottman method encourages empathy for you and your partner.
  • It wants to get rid of any barriers that are preventing your relationship from progressing.

If you are experiencing any issues in your marriage, it may be worth resolving them through the Gottman Method. With that said, who is this Gottman? Let's find out more about him.

The Creator of The Method

The Gottman Method was created by psychologist John Gottman, who has spent his life studying relationships. Some of his accomplishments include creating studies that predict the divorce rate and analyzing the stability of marriage. He has contributed to the movement of relationship counseling, which is designed to help improve marriages everywhere.

His Studies on Divorce

Seeing all the divorces that happened between couples, Gottman decided to study what causes couples to divorce. He discovered that couples divorce for many reasons, yet you could boil them down to four undesired behaviors. These include:

  • Disliking your partner's personality. Many partners have quirks or personality traits we dislike, but not communicating with your partner and learning to accept the flaws in their personality or take measures to improve them can lead to a divorce.
  • Contempt, usually from a superiority perspective. Everyone likes to feel superior, and when conflict arises, you believe you're the better one, and you condemn your partner for opposing you. Instead of realizing you can be at fault, too, you believe you have no faults.
  • Defensiveness. It's okay to defend your actions, but if you keep defending yourself no matter how strong the case is, it can stagnate the argument's resolution. People need to learn to accept it if they're in the wrong.
  • Stonewalling. This is where a person evades or ignores the person's criticisms. It's commonly used as a political tactic, but your relationship shouldn't be as crooked as a politician's. Most of the time, this is caused by feeling too overwhelmed by the criticism you're receiving.

With that said, what do positive couples exhibit? They exhibit:

  • Positivity. We all can be negative sometimes, but a positive couple will take a negative event and make something good at it.
  • Gentle handling of the conflict. When emotions fly, it just escalates the anger the couples will have for each other. You must keep a cool head, and that's how you will prevail.
  • Always supporting each other. This is something every couple should do, but many do not, instead of scrutinizing one another's actions.

Gottman studied newlyweds. In 2000, he interviewed 95 couples and asked many questions, such as history, beliefs about marriage, and general relationship questions. He looked at the answers' positive and negative feelings and used them to determine whether or not the couples would divorce in five years. As it turns out, he was quite accurate with his predictions, with an accuracy of about 87 percent.

One method that we mentioned before uses to measure marriage's effectiveness through the sound relationship house theory. Your relationship is your home, and a good home will be strong and sound.

The Sound Relationship House Theory

The Sound Relationship House Theory consists of nine principles that are signs of a good relationship. These are:

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  • Building love maps. In other words, you've made a good map of your partner's psychology, hopes, dreams, likes, dislikes, history, and anything else that composes them. And your partner has done the same to you.
  • Sharing fondness and admiration. This is self-explanatory. The more respect and love the couples have for each other, the stronger this will be.
  • Turning towards instead of away. In this principle, turning towards means to respond to your partner's ways of connecting with these ways usually comes in small tasks that seem unimportant but are huge building blocks.
  • A positive perspective. As you can imagine, this is when you look at conflicts through the lens of positivity.
  • Managing conflict. The wording here is quite interesting. Most would say "resolve" instead of "manage," but Gottman believes that conflict in a relationship is natural and can be good, so you should strive to manage it.
  • Making life dreams come true. This is when you and your partner discuss your hopes and dreams, and then you strive to accomplish them.
  • Creating shared meaning. This is when you learn about myths, metaphors, and other dreams about your relationship.
  • This is when you know how your partner behaves, and you try your best to maximize what they enjoy.
  • This is when you realize and act upon the fact that your partner is here for your life, no matter what the circumstances will be. When you're committed, you're bathing in your partner's positive attributes, and you try to avoid any negativity or negative comparisons.

If your relationship has these principles, you live in a strong house. If you don't, you should make changes to the house before a storm comes and knocks it down.

Can The Gottman Method Help Me?

If you have considered couple's therapy, you may wonder if the Gottman Method is right for you. Some may even feel like their situation is too unique for therapy. However, Gottman believes that conflict is either resolvable or not, and those who have perpetual problems may benefit from the Gottman Method.

The Gottman Method has been built around any marital situation regardless of whether you're rich, poor, same-sex, different cultures, different races, or so on.

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Here are some reasons why you may want to consider the Gottman Method:

  • You always have conflicts. One or two conflicts on occasion probably don't require therapy, but always fighting may mean you need therapy. However, even if you feel like you don't fight too often, the Gottman Method can still improve your relationship. Sometimes, therapy can be a vaccine for future conflicts rather than a cure for current ones.
  • You feel like your partner just isn't listening to you. Miscommunication is always a big reason why marriages fail, and by fixing your communication, you may be able to fix your marriage.
  • The Gottman Method is good for any marriage problem: finances, sexual problems, parenting, or any other form of conflict.
  • Even if you feel like your marriage is at its end, the Gottman Method may be able to help.

To summarize, the Gottman Method is effective for any situation, honestly. No matter your relationship issue, you may benefit from going to a therapist and applying the Gottman Method to you.

Seek Help!

There is no shame when it comes to seeking therapy for your relationship. Many couples do not want to work their problems out, so the marriage or relationship fails. Don't be that couple. If there's a conflict and the two of you cannot resolve it, having a third party help cool your heads and be more empathetic towards each other is a good idea. Seek counseling today, and you can work to improve your relationship.


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