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  • Adam Stanford

Gottman Method Couples Therapy

The Gottman Method is a form of couples therapy that aims to strengthen relationships and improve communication between partners. Developed by Drs. John and Julie Gottman in the 1980s, this approach is based on their extensive research on couples and relationships. The Gottman Method focuses on building a strong emotional connection between partners, helping them manage conflict, and improving their overall communication and intimacy.

John and Julie Gottman started their research on couples in the 1970s, and it was in the 1980s that they developed the Gottman Method. Through their work, they identified patterns in couples' interactions that could predict the likelihood of divorce or a long-lasting relationship. They found that couples who had positive interactions with each other were more likely to stay together, while those who had negative interactions, such as criticism and defensiveness, were more likely to divorce.

Their research has included studying the interactions of thousands of couples as well as conducting longitudinal studies on the outcomes of couples therapy. Over the years, the Gottman Method has evolved, incorporating new research and techniques to help couples improve their relationships. Today, it is one of the most widely used and respected forms of couples therapy in the world.

One of the key findings of their research is that the way couples handle conflict is a strong predictor of the success or failure of their relationships. The Gottmans identified four negative patterns of interaction, which they called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. They also found that successful couples had a ratio of positive to negative interactions of at least 5:1.

Success Rates of the Gottman Method

One of the unique features of the Gottman Method is the Sound Relationship House theory. This theory provides a framework for understanding the components of a healthy relationship, including building a strong friendship, managing conflict, and creating shared meaning.

The Gottman Method also emphasizes the importance of emotional intelligence in relationships. Emotional intelligence involves being aware of and managing one's own emotions, as well as understanding and empathizing with the emotions of others. This skill is essential for building a strong emotional connection with one's partner.

The Sound Relationship House Theory

The Sound Relationship House theory is a key part of the Gottman Method. It is a framework for understanding the components of a healthy relationship, and it includes seven levels:

  • Build love maps - This involves getting to know your partner's inner world, including their likes, dislikes, hopes, and fears.

  • Share fondness and admiration - This involves expressing appreciation and affection for your partner on a regular basis.

  • Turn towards each other instead of away - This involves responding positively to your partner's bids for attention, even if it's just a small gesture.

  • The positive perspective - This involves focusing on the positive aspects of your partner and your relationship, rather than the negative.

  • Manage conflict - This involves learning how to manage conflict effectively, without resorting to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

  • Make life dreams come true - This involves creating shared goals and working together to achieve them.

  • Create shared meaning - This involves creating a sense of purpose and shared values in your relationship.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in Relationships

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are negative patterns of interaction that can damage relationships. They are:

  • Criticism - This involves attacking the character or personality of your partner, rather than addressing a specific behavior.

  • Contempt - This involves expressing disgust or disrespect for your partner, and is the most damaging of the Four Horsemen.

  • Defensiveness - This involves denying responsibility or blaming your partner for problems in the relationship.

  • Stonewalling - This involves withdrawing from the interaction or shutting down emotionally, and is often a response to feeling overwhelmed or flooded.

The Role of the Therapist in Using the Gottman Method

The role of the therapist in using the Gottman Method is to guide couples through the process of improving their relationship. The therapist helps the couple identify their strengths and weaknesses, and teaches them skills to strengthen their emotional connection, manage conflict, and communicate effectively. The Gottman Method provides specific, evidence-based techniques to strengthen all seven levels of the Sound Relationship House.

These include exercises and techniques to facilitate compromise, promote active listening, and encourage empathy building to help the couple improve their communication and emotional connection.The therapist also helps the couple identify and address the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and teaches them how to replace negative patterns of interaction with positive ones.

Some of these include:

  • Love maps - This involves asking questions to get to know your partner's inner world, such as their favorite childhood memories and future hopes and dreams.

  • The magic ratio - This involves aiming for a ratio of at least 5 positive interactions for every negative one.

  • The stress-reducing conversation - This involves taking turns talking about a stressful event and listening to your partner's response without interrupting or offering advice.

  • The two types of apologies - This involves learning how to make effective apologies, including expressing remorse and taking responsibility for one's actions.


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