Is the Gottman Method Effective for Couples?
What is the Gottman Method?
The Gottman Method was developed by husband and wife Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman. The Gottman Method of couples therapy aims to “disarm conflicting verbal communication; increase intimacy, respect, and affection; remove barriers that create a feeling of stagnancy; and create a heightened sense of empathy and understanding within the context of the relationship.”
Couples in counseling with the Gottman Method start out with an assessment. First together, then individually, couples are interviewed and complete questionnaires. They then receive detailed feedback on their relationship.
Together with the therapist, the couple decides on the frequency and duration of future sessions.
The assessment and framework will shape the type of interventions best suited for the couple. Interventions are meant to help couples strengthen their relationships in three different areas: friendship, conflict management, and the creation of shared meaning.
Gottman Menthod’s Sound Marital House
The Gottmans believe that a good relationship is like a house. It has structure, different levels, and a strong foundation. The house metaphor includes seven “floors” that a couple can move through to improve their relationship. Each floor is an opportunity for growth. In addition, there are two “weight-bearing walls,” which are essential for holding the couple together.
- Build Love Maps
This is the foundation. Are you attuned to your partner? Are you aware of their feelings? Do you know what’s going on in their world?
- Share Fondness and Admiration
This is about being positive towards your partner. Acknowledge and compliment. Show affection.
- Turn Towards Instead of Away
If struggling with something in the relationship, do you tend to fight or turn towards one another even with difficult conversations?
- The Positive Perspective
This is about seeing all the positives in your partner and viewing the negatives as circumstances that affected them, not flaws.
- Manage Conflict
Here, you learn to understand that some problems can be solved, while others cannot. Conflict is also natural. It’s not about resolving conflict but learning to manage it.
- Make Life Dreams Come True
Allow space for your partner to voice their hopes and goals for the future and offer support. You could support them emotionally or have a hand in making their dreams a reality.
- Create Shared Meaning
Are you able to create purpose with your partner? Be intentional with your life and what’s important to you and your partner.
- Trust and Commitment
Trust and commitment are the two walls of the “Sound Relationship House”. These are what help the couples move through the 7 floors. Trust is what the partnership needs to feel like they are working together as a team. With commitment, the couple has agreed to be there for each other even when it’s tough. They are willing to put in the work to get to a better place in their relationship.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
The Sound Relationship House is what makes a happy, healthy relationship. On the other hand, “The Four Horsemen” is used to illustrate communication styles that could lead to the demise of a relationship This metaphor depicts the end of times and symbolizes conquest, war, hunger, and death. The metaphor is purposely dramatic and dark. Gottman believes the following negative behaviors are what can predict the end of a relationship. And there is research to back that up.
This is attacking your partner’s character. “You’re selfish.” “You’re lazy.”
Antidote: Talk about feelings using “I” statements. Express your needs in a positive way.
This is the refusal to take responsibility for your actions and how it affects your partner and the relationship.
Antidote: See your partner’s point of view. Apologize.
This type of communication is really just being mean. With this, you are disrespectful to your partner. You mock and belittle them.
Antidote: Focus on your partner’s positive qualities. Express gratitude for their positive actions.
This is about withdrawing from your partner and not engaging in communication with them.
Antidote: Take a few minutes of time after an argument to decompress before coming back together to finish the conversation.
The 5 to 1 Ratio
Gottman also believes that healthy relationships have 5 positive interactions for every negative one. It is okay to have some negativity so long as it’s outnumbered, ideally 5:1. The closer you get to a ratio of 1:1, the more risk of a divorce or breakup, according to Gottman.
Is the Gottman Method Successful?
Considered a more practical approach, the Gottman Method teaches couples relationship skills proven effective based on more than 40 years of scientific research.
The number one thing that’s different with this method is that it’s research-based. While most other models are theoretical, the Gottman Method is evidence-based, meaning clinical trials have been conducted and confirmed its validity. Studies have found both workshops and counseling sessions to be effective. And the greatest success was seen in couples who combined them together.
Who Should Use the Gottman Method?
The Gottman Method is designed to support couples regardless of economic, racial, sexual orientation, and cultural sectors. Outcome research has shown the Gottman Method to be an effective form of couples therapy for same-sex couples.
The Gottman Method addresses relationship issues such as:
- Recurring conflict and arguments
- Poor communication
- Emotionally distanced couples
- Specific problems such as sexual difficulties, infidelity, money, and parenting
Even couples with “normal” levels of conflict may benefit from the Gottman Method of couples therapy. Couples who don’t feel like their relationship is problematic can gain insight into their specific dynamic and improve their relationship.
- Proven results that are backed by research
- Understand the difference between solvable and perpetual problems in the relationship
- Develop communication skills to manage conflict
- Replace negative patterns with positive ones
You can learn about other approaches to couples therapy such as Emotionally Focused Therapy or Imago Therapy through The Couples Center. The Couples Center offers in-person and online therapy sessions individually or through workshops. Find a therapist today, who can help you and your partner elevate your relationship.