Gottman Couples Therapy

My partner and I are always having issues, is this a sign we are meant to end the relationship? According to an article from Psychology Today, 40-50% of marriages in the U.S., at least, ends in divorce, and that’s not counting the couples who stay married but are estranged. The majority of partners only stay in the relationship due to one reason or the other, not because they are happy. Although, some partners stay in a failing relationship with the hope of saving it. Gottman couples therapy is one of the many methods to reviving a failing and unhealthy relationship.

Gottman couples therapy is a form of psychological assessment that helps in building and increasing a relationship bond in general. It is a method of approach that involves equipping the couple with different forms of problem-solving skills basically. Its goal is to increase intimacy, manage conflicts, create better understanding, clear doubts of uncertainty, increase empathy in the relationship in general.


The Gottman couples therapy method is a unique approach to couples therapy/counseling that is aimed at creating a healthy relationship. Generally, it is based on the sound relationship house theory. This theory was introduced by Dr. John Gottman to help equip couples with the knowledge needed to stabilize a relationship.

The following are ways Gottman method suggests for creating a healthy and happy relationship;

Build Love Maps

Do you really know your partner? How well do you resonate with his or her history, stresses, worries, downs, ups, joys, and emotions?
Without really knowing your partner, the relationship becomes unbearable because lack of understanding settles in, uncertainty and even doubts become the new normal.
This theory helps partners to understand and learn more about each other’s psychological world.

Sharing Fondness and Admiration

Each partner needs someone to share fondness and admiration with and it will suck if that someone is not your partner. Expression of affection and respect is the antidote for contempt. At this level, constant sharing of fondness and admiration brings partners together.

Turn Towards Instead of Away

You need attention, you need care, you need listening ears, speak up to your partner. Don’t shy away or be mute about your needs. Instead of running away when a problem arises, face them. State your do’s and don’ts. Rub minds with your partner because the small happy moments are actually the building blocks of a relationship.

The Positive Perspective

A problem cannot be solved from a negative perspective because everything your partner says or does only propagates the problem. The goal of problem-solving improves with a positive mindset. Partners should groom their mindset positively without being biased or negative to enable repair attempts.

Manage Conflict

Conflict is a natural aspect of the relationship and it is bound to happen basically. But at times conflict tends to have a positive effect on the relationship. And generally, this creates more understanding and awareness. Couples should understand and learn how to solve and manage conflict and their other problems in general.

Make Life Dreams Come True

Am I supporting my partner’s dreams? Is he or she free to talk about their dreams to me? A relationship should be an environment that does not create room for second-guessing oneself. It should be an environment where each person can be honest and free as this enables sharing of dreams, goals, ambitions, aspirations with your partner cheering you on. This is the beauty of good companionship.

Create Shared Meaning

Couples should learn more about the values, visions, narratives, myths, and metaphors of the relationship. Creating shared meaning promotes togetherness in the relationship. It creates a connection that defines the partners as a team rather than just a couple.

The Weight-Bearing Walls of Trust and Commitment

Without trust and commitment, the sound relationship house will not hold together. In a healthy relationship, two people come together to love, support, and grow with one another. Knowing your partner is down for you and has your best interests is important. This creates a trustworthy environment.
Couples must treat their relationship as a lifelong journey for better or worse. Both partners must be willing to appreciate each other and reduce comparison. It means appreciating your partner’s good qualities and agreeing to solve their negative qualities.


Gottman Couples Therapy supports friendship and a positive mindset as the foundation of a healthy and happy marriage in general. There are several books written by John Gottman that shed more light on sustaining a healthy relationship.

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

This book was written in 1990 by John Gottman. It entails the seven principles to improve marriage and the four horsemen to watch out for. He believes that emotional intelligence needs to come to play in navigating a marriage such as understanding your partner. Reading the signs, paying more attention to them, showing more love and affection in order to help endure challenging moments.
The seven principles are overcoming gridlock, solving your solvable problems, letting your partner influence you, creating shared meaning, turning towards each other instead of away, nurturing your fondness and admiration, and sharing love maps.
The four horsemen are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.
Identifying the horsemen will lead to elimination and this yields a better and healthy relationship.


This is the first horseman. Generally, criticism is the expression of disagreement of someone based on perceived judgment or mistakes. Often times couples confuse complaints from criticism.
For example: “Baby you said you would pick me up by 2 pm but you didn’t show up nor call. I’m not happy about it. We agreed on calling each other if any emergency comes up.”
Criticism example: “You are self-centered and don’t consider other people’s feelings. I don’t believe you forgot to call me though. Basically, you don’t just think of me!”
When criticism becomes too much in a relationship it births contempt.


This is the second horseman. Contempt is a pattern of attitude and behavior toward a person. The attitude is birthed from anger, disgust, or mockery. It is fueled by long ill-thoughts about the partner which then start causing problems. Everything the partner does is wrong and he or she is not good enough. For example: Vivien is sitting on the couch enjoying America’s Got Talent show, her partner finds that scene very irritating and makes a fight out of it for no reason. Contempt ruins a relationship and should be eliminated as soon as possible.


This is the third horseman. The partner is quick to come up with a defensive response to avert the discussion and play the victim card.
Question: You did not later call the Richardson family to let them know we are coming?
Defensive response: Why didn’t you do it yourself? I’ve been busy and you sit here doing nothing.
Instead of approaching the discussion with a sense of understanding, the partner plays the victim card and shuts the other partner up. This act will lead to an unhealthy relationship.


This is the fourth horseman. Generally, stonewalling is the refusal to communicate in a relationship. Instead of communicating, they will rather avoid the conversation. The partner ignores, pretends to be busy, turning away when matters arise. This affects the couples because the other partner feels less.

There are other books on Gottman Couples Therapy such as; Why marriages succeed or fail, the relationship cure: A 5 step guide to strengthening your marriage, family, and friendships, 10 lessons to transform your marriage, and so on.


1. Client:

2. Date:

3. Therapist:

4. Duration of years/months together?

5. What are the issues that led you to decide on couples therapy?

6. What do you hope to accomplish through counseling?

7. What have you already done to deal with the difficulties?

8. What are some of the strengths you bring to the relationship?

9. What do you enjoy about your relationship?

10. Please rate your current level of happiness in the relationship?

11. Write the concerns that you have in your relationship with your partner?

12. Have you received prior couples counseling related to any of these problems? Yes/No

If yes, When?

a. Where?

b. By whom?

c. What was the outcome?

Thank you for completing this and please bring this during your first appointment.


Generally, there are three levels in the Gottman couples therapy training.
1. Level 1: Bridging the Couple Chasm
This is the first level in the training. It gives the couple new insight on how to resolve problems using research-based assessments and interventions.

2. Level 2: Assessment, Intervention, and Co-Morbidities
Basically, this level expands the couple’s strategies and interventions. It assesses both parties and trains them on multiple ways to manage conflicts.

3. Level 3: Practicum Workshop in the Gottman Method
In this level, couples examine videotaped cases of couples and get a better understanding of when and how to use the Gottman method. In addition, how to replace negative patterns with positive patterns to have meaningful interactions.


Objectives: Generally, this helps you explore the efforts made by an individual in the relationship with his partner.
Instructions: Write down the efforts and habits you will set for your relationship in the space given below. This activity is for all couples in general. Both partners have to do the same task and then share their responses with each other.


It takes time before a relationship hits rock bottom but if it happens or the signs are clear before it happens, Gottman couples therapy is one of the best methods that can be applied to resolve conflicts and save the relationship. Additionally, if you feel you need further help or guidance, seeing a professional can do much help.


Why do I and my partner often have misunderstandings?

Misunderstanding occurs as a lack of clear communication. This can be resolved by talking things out and addressing issues immediately.

Is divorcing the best way to end a failing relationship?

Yes, and no, a failing relationship can happen because of various reasons. Point out the reasons and work on it. See a therapist when needed.

Is my defensiveness seen as a horseman in my relationship?

Yes, your partner sees it as a belittling act and it fuels the failure of the relationship. Instead of being defensive every time you can explain yourself clearly.

Can my partner and I see one another’s answering while taking the assessment?

No, you can only see each other answers after the assessment. This enables a free flow of communication and problem-solving.

Can a connection be lost after a while in the relationship?

Yes, but it depends on the things you and your partner do. If the connection is lost, do things you guys enjoyed doing at the initial stage of the relationship. It will rekindle the connection.

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