Gottman Therapy: The Method That Helps Couples Communicate Better

By: Sarah Fader

Updated February 24, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC

What Is The Gottman Method?

The Gottman Method for Healthy Relationships is a form of therapy that helps couples, and it comes from the studies that psychologist John M. Gottman did in his private clinical practice. John Gottman and his wife, psychologist Julie Gottman, conducted 40 years of research to help figure out what it takes for relationships to last a long time. In researching how relationships could achieve longevity, the Gottmans found that nine components came together to build and sustain healthy relationships.

They called the combination of these components "The Sound Relationship House." It's a scientific approach that helps people learn how to let go of defensiveness and work together to understand each other better. Relationships are inherently challenging because we're all unique. Your perspective is different from your partner's. Even if you disagree, you can attempt to care about each other's feelings. Empathy goes a long way in a relationship. The Gottman Method teaches couples how to show one another that they're invested in the relationship. It shows people how to communicate effectively and show appreciation for the other person. When couples learn the Gottman Method, they're committing to understanding their partner better and having a relationship that lasts a long time.

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The Goals Of The Gottman Method

When you enter couples' therapy, you want to work on strengthening your relationship with your partner. When you see a therapist who practices the Gottman Method, they want your relationship to get stronger as well. The Gottman method has a specific set of goals. The primary goals of the Gottman method are to stop the conflict, increase positive communication, mutual respect, intimacy, and to promote understanding between the two partners in an intimate relationship. Another goal is for each partner to feel a sense of empathy towards one another. When you care about your partner's feelings, and they feel loved, that makes a relationship stronger. Showing empathy toward your partner is essential. When your partner feels like you genuinely care about their feelings, they're likely to reciprocate that care.

The Sound Relationship House Theory

As stated above, the Sound Relationship House Theory is comprised of nine components. Together, the following elements will help you maintain a healthy and fulfilling relationship where you and your partner will feel heard, supported, appreciated and loved:

Build Relationship Love Maps

How well do you know your partner internally? It's crucial to understand their history, what makes them happy, what makes them feel stressed or anxious, how they like to receive affection, and their hopes and dreams.

Share Fondness and Admiration

Instead of being contemptuous toward one another, focus on admiring and respecting your partner in a relationship. Show affection and admiration for them. Your partner will feel special and reciprocate that love toward you.

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Turn towards Them Instead Of Away

It's okay to ask for what you want and need in a relationship. When you're honest with your partner and tell them what you need, you're likely to get your needs met. Take a moment and think about what you need and ask for it. Connect with your partner. The small moments during your day to day life can build a foundation for a stable future with each other.

The Positive Perspective

When you're positive and attempt to solve problems together, it creates a good environment for a healthy relationship. Looking at things from a positive perspective is helpful for some reasons, and when you need to repair situations, looking at it positively rather than thinking the worst is the most productive route to go.

Manage Conflict

The word "manage" is essential in this sentence because it's not about resolving the conflict, but about handling it positively. There's a difference between handling problems and solving them. Inevitably, problems will arise, and it's about how you manage those issues because although some things can't be resolved, they can be managed.

Make Life Dreams Come True

This principle is about creating an environment where each partner can speak candidly about their dreams for the future. They can talk about what they want in life, their aspirations, and their values with each other openly. Each partner will feel heard, understood, and supported in pursuing what makes them happy.

Create Shared Meaning

Each person has a unique narrative when it comes to how they see their life, and they'll also have a unique way of understanding their relationships. It's important to have respect for each other's perception because you may not view things the same way all the time. You can have a different narrative, but both stories are valid.

Trust

Trust is the foundation of a romantic relationship, and it happens when both individuals have their partners best interest at heart. They aren't just saying that they want the best for their partner; they're showing through action that they have their partner's back. You can demonstrate that you're there for your partner by showing up for them emotionally. People learn to trust each other over time; it's something that two people build together in a relationship.

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Commitment

When you commit to a relationship, it means that you know that you and your partner are in it for your entire lives. You're committed to being together. You respect and admire the person's positive attributes, you're grateful for them, and you get gratitude in return. Rather than harping on the negative, you focus on the positive. You deal with problems together so that you maintain an open dialogue and don't become resentful in the future. Through doing these things, you show each other that you're in it for the long haul.

How It Works

The Gottman Method is about observing your relationship in real-time, and the foundation of it is in loving the other person. It's about positivity and love. The Gottman's found through their research that negativity has a profound effect on the mind and they wanted to make sure that couples grew together rather than apart. They saw that when they were favorable towards one another, they felt more intimate. The Gottman method helps to nurture a positive outcome even when there are challenges. Everyone has individual perspectives in a relationship, but it's about coming together, respecting each other's point of view, and making compromises when they're necessary. You're never going to agree on everything because that's not possible. But you can take active steps to try to understand how your partner sees things. When you do that, they'll feel valued, and be more likely to work to see your point of view actively.

What To Expect In Gottman Couples Counseling

When couples engage in the Gottman method, they start with the therapist providing an assessment. It's a joint therapy session where the therapist has each member of the couple complete a survey about their relationship. After that, they receive feedback on the assessment. The couple and the therapist talk about how often they'll meet for therapy and what their goals are. They decide what areas they'd like to work on, whether that's conflict management, intimacy, becoming better friends, or repairing past resentment or hurt feelings towards each other. They also focus on preventing relapse of issues in the relationship.

Who Benefits From The Gottman Method

Deciding to go to couples counseling can be a difficult one. Couples who are committed to bettering their relationship have the best results from counseling. The Gottman Method can help couples who want to reconnect with each other when they're feeling distant. It can support couples who are having difficulty with communication or find themselves in conflict frequently can benefit from the Gottman method. Some issues that can be addressed using the Gottman method are divorce or separation, financial problems, communication issues, frequent arguments, and emotionally distant couples.

How To Find A Gottman Method Couple Therapist

A Gottman method couples' therapist will have a Master's degree or a Doctorate level degree and be licensed to practice as a therapist, just like any other therapist must maintain licensing. They must also have training in the Gottman method. Some mental health professionals may know of the Gottman method, but there are specific training levels that a Gottman relationship therapist needs to have. They must understand the principle of the Healthy Relationship House, and they will have completed specialized training where they learn how to provide the relationship assessments used in this method, and they must have completed a certification program in the Gottman method so that they understand every aspect of how to practice it effectively.

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Couples Counseling

If you and your partner decide to go to couples counseling, that's a brave step. Be proud that you're actively taking steps to remedy the problems in your relationship. Don't be shy, if you want to help your relationship take that first step and start looking for a counselor; your relationship matters. You and your partner deserve to have a healthy connection where you value one another. Couples counseling is an excellent place to work on the problems in your relationship, learn to communicate effectively, and start appreciating each other on a deep level. Whether you work with an online therapist like one here at BetterHelp or with one in your local area, you deserve to be well and to maintain a long, healthy relationship with your partner.


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