Gottman Couples Therapy

Gottman Couples Therapy is based on scientific research by Dr. John Gottman. The crux of the therapy are Gottman’s seven principles for strengthening relationships. He calls the principles “The Sound Relationship House,” and they build sequentially to create a better relationship.


The Seven Principles

1. Build Love Maps
By asking open-ended questions, each partner’s inner world is “mapped out.” This helps partners understand each other.
2. Share Fondness and Admiration
This is an antidote for contempt that can easily creep into a partnership and destroy it. It involves creating a habit of scanning the environment to see what the partner is doing well or right, instead of picking up on their mistakes. This develops affection and respect.
3. Turn Towards
Each individual learns to turn toward their partner when the partner expresses a desire for emotional connection. It requires each person to develop an understanding of how the other asks for this connection.
4. The Positive Perspective
The fourth principle is created when the first three are in operation. If one or more of the first three principles is weak and wobbly, this 4th principle cannot exist.
5. Manage Conflict
Couples identify their core conflict issues and become aware of repetitive, negative patterns in the relationship. The pair must discover what triggers and escalates their conflicts and become aware of how the triggers relate to each person’s past experience.
Conflicts are divided into two types. The first type includes resolvable issues. The couple learns and practices four steps of effective problem solving. The second type involves chronic and non-resolvable problems. To address this, couples learn to “dialogue” about the issue with a 5 to 1 ratio of positive-to-negative words and emotion ("5 parts honey to 1 part vinegar").
6. Make Life Dreams and Aspirations Come True
It is not enough for partners to resolve conflicts. According to Dr. Gottman the absence of conflict leaves a vacuum that needs to be filled with adventure, fun, and play. This principle is also about helping the partner realize significant life dreams.
7. Create Shared Meaning
Couples create shared meaning by how they prioritize time, use their resources, by the stories they tell each other, and the beliefs and culture expressed or shared. Each must support the contributions of the other.

Dr. Gottman completed seven studies to determine what factors predict divorce, and his therapy stems from the results. Two of the studies have been replicated at separate universities.

It is difficult to find negative feedback about participating in a Gottman relationship workshop or private couples retreat. There is a home relationship workshop available on DVD.


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