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Nominated by for "Relationship Blog of the Year" 2012 & 2013. The Gottman Relationship Blog provides practical tools and skills to strengthen relationships, all based on 40+ years of research performed by Dr. John Gottman.

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  • 05/13/13--17:28: The Four Horsemen: Contempt

  • Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we would like to continue our series on Dr. Gottman's four horsemen with horseman #3: Contempt. If you are just joining us, or have forgotten what we have covered in this series so far, you can click the links below for a quick refresher. Links to more recent postings (on Criticism and Defensiveness) are also available on the right side of the page under "Blog Archive:"

    Contempt is the worst of the four horsemen. In Dr. Gottman’s four decades of research, he has found it to be the #1 predictor of divorce.

    When we communicate in this state, we are truly mean.  Treating others with disrespect and mocking them with sarcasm are forms of contempt. So are hostile humor, name-calling, mimicking, and/or body language such as eye-rolling and sneering. In whatever form, contempt is poisonous to a relationship because it conveys disgust. It's virtually impossible to resolve a problem when your partner is getting the message that you're disgusted with him or her. 

    Contempt is fueled by long-simmering negative thoughts about the partner, in the form of an attack from a position of relative superiority. Inevitably, contempt leads to more conflict rather than to reconciliation. 

    Take Jan for example. Coming home from a long day with the children to find her husband on the couch, she asks him for help in making dinner. When he tells her he is tired, she snaps:

    "You’re ‘tired’?! Cry me a river… I've been with the kids all day, running around like mad to keep this house going and all you do when you come home from work is flop down on that sofa like a child and play those idiotic video games. I don’t have time to deal with another kid…just try, try to be more pathetic…”

    Or imagine Luke and Emma at dinner, after she tells him she’d rather he not go out with his friends that night, he lashes out: 

    "You don’t want me to go out with my friends tonight? Surprise! When have you ever been okay with me going anywhere? Would you like to tie me to something in this living room to ensure that I never leave you?"

    Dr. Gottman has found that couples who are contemptuous of each other are more likely to suffer from infectious illness (colds, the flu, and so on) than other people! Contempt is the most poisonous of all relationship killers – destroying psychological, emotional, and physical health. Anderson Cooper of CNN reacts to Dr. Gottman's findings on contempt in this short clip:

    Don't be alarmed! The Gottman Institute has developed very effective skills and tools to combat contempt in relationships. We will show you the antidote to contempt on Wednesday, and give you the opportunity to practice in this Friday’s Weekend Homework Assignment. Until then, join the conversation on our Facebook page!

    All for now,
    Ellie Lisitsa
    TGI Staff

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    Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we would like to continue Monday's discussion on Horseman #3: Contempt. According to Malcolm Gladwell in his bestselling book Blink:
    “If Gottman observes one or both partners in a marriage showing contempt toward the other, he considers it the most important sign that a marriage is in trouble." Clearly, contempt is a serious problem.

    We wish we could offer you a quick fix, but the truth is that fighting contempt is a difficult task. 
    The antidote to contempt lies in building a culture of fondness and admiration.

    If you feel that fondness and admiration are almost entirely gone from your relationship, we suggest that the two of you take more serious action – perhaps have a conversation (without criticism, defensiveness, and contempt!) about looking into couples therapy. If you would like a place to start, we have developed a referral network of wonderful Gottman-trained therapists called The Gottman Referral Network.

    When your partner shows you contempt, they are communicating scorn, disdain, or disgust. They are communicating feelings of superiority by showing that they feel that you are inferior to them, below them, and undeserving of respect. No one deserves to be looked at or spoken to with contempt, so remember, when someone shows you contempt or disgust it says much more about them than it does about you!

    However, if you feel that your relationship is far from being in serious trouble, but can still recognize yourself and/or your partner in our examples from Monday’s post, you’ll be glad to hear that  Dr. Gottman has developed a variety of tools that can help you to fight contempt by working towards building a strong foundation of Fondness & Admiration in your relationship. Today, we would like to teach you about "The Oral History Interview."

    Dr. Gottman discovered in his research that, for couples in crisis, the best test to measure the strength in their fondness and admiration system is to focus on how they view their past. If your relationship is in deep trouble, you’re unlikely to elicit much praise from each other by asking about the current state of affairs. Talking about the happy events of the past, however, helps many couples reconnect. If you revive fondness and admiration for each other, you are more likely to approach conflict resolution as a team, and the growth of your sense of “we-ness” as a couple will keep the two of you as connected as you felt when you first met!

    Below is a questionnaire designed by Dr. Gottman to help you rediscover your fondness and admiration for each other. Completing this questionnaire will help you to remember the early years of your relationship - how and why you became a couple.

    Note: Your marriage or relationship doesn’t have to be in deep trouble to benefit from this exercise. By focusing on your past, you can often remember and reconnect with your history of positive feelings! 

    You will need a few hours of uninterrupted time to complete this exercise. You can ask a close friend or relative to serve as interviewer or you can read the questions out loud and talk about them together. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions - they are merely meant to assist you in recalling the love and perspective on the relationship you have had.

    The History of Your Relationship:
    1. Discuss how the two of you met and got together. Was there anything about your partner that made them stand out? What were your first impressions of each other?

    2. What do you remember most about your first date and the period of your new relationship? What stands out? How long did you know each other before you got married? What do you remember of this period? What were some of the highlights? What types of things did you do together?

    3. Talk about how you decided to get married. Who proposed and in what manner? Was it a difficult decision? Were you in love? Talk about this time.

    4. How well do you remember your wedding? Talk to each other about your memories. Did you have a honeymoon? What was your favorite part of the wedding or honeymoon?

    5. Do you remember your first year of marriage? Were there any adjustments you needed to make as a couple?

    6. What about the transition to parenthood? What was this period of your marriage like for the two of you?

    7. Looking back over the years, what moments stand out as the happiest period in your relationship? When was a good time for you as a couple? Has this changed over the years?

    8. Many relationships go through periods of ups and downs. Would you say this is true of your relationship? Can you describe some of these low and high points?

    9. Looking back over the years, what moments stand out as really hard times in your relationship? How did you get through these rough periods? Why do you think you stayed together?

    10. Have you stopped doing things together that once gave you pleasure? Explore this idea together and discuss why you stopped.


    Remember, this exercise is not meant to be a quick-fix, one-time solution to any problems in your relationship! Considering and discussing some questions in this exercise from time to time may be enough to salvage and strengthen your fondness and admiration for each other over time – to remind yourselves of the things you find wonderful about your partner, and to remember to cherish each other through the years.

    All for now,
    Ellie Lisitsa
    TGI Staff

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    Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we would like to continue Wednesday's discussion on Fondness and Admiration, which are two of the most crucial elements in a rewarding and long-lasting romance. Remember: The antidote to contempt lies in building a culture of fondness and admiration.

    Although happy couples may feel driven to distraction at times by their partner's personality flaws, they still feel that the person is worthy of honor and respect. Even though sharing fondness and admiration is crucial in a relationship, these positive sentiments often dwindle overtime through conflict, resentment, or simply the absentmindedness that can come as a result of life's many distractions.

    Sharing fondness and admiration in your relationship is not complicated, and can be done even if you think those positive feelings are buried too deep beneath recent conflicts. Positive thoughts invoke positive feelings, and the goal is to turn both into positive actions that help to heal and bring companionship back in your relationship.

    Showing your appreciation for your partner can be done in little ways throughout the day. In our research, we found that the masters of relationships displayed a way of scanning their environment to find ways of appreciating their partner. When you take the time to notice what your partner does that makes your life easier, makes you smile, or reminds you of why you were attracted to them in the first place, let them know! People seek validation for the things they do, because we love for our actions to be accepted and appreciated. Filling your relationship with fondness and admiration also goes beyond appreciation - it involves using the things you know about your partner to show that you care and want them to be happy.

    Using Love Mapsto express fondness and admiration shows your partner that you not only make the effort to know things about their life, but that you also love and admire them. Showing affection and appreciation through the use of your Love Maps can take many different forms. Here are some examples to help you understand the concept:

    1) Mary knows that her husband Phil has been working on a very demanding and stressful project at work. Because of this, he has been coming home late and has been more tired than usual. One night as they’re getting ready for bed, Mary takes Phil’s hand and tells him how proud of him she is and how much she appreciates his hard working-nature and everything he does to support their family. Phil visibly relaxes and tells her how nice it is to hear her say that - he had been afraid that she would be mad that he hadn’t been around the house enough and that he is glad that she understands that he is doing this for his loved ones.

    2) Earl has a favorite mustard potato salad recipe passed down from his mom, but his wife Peggy grew up with her mom always making traditional mustard potato salad. So every time Earl makes potato salad, he makes a special bowl of potato salad just for Peggy. This simple act means much more to Peggy than potato salad should, because it shows her that he knows what she likes and cares enough to continue this tradition just for her.

    3) Fred has always been very self-conscious about his body, but in the past few months he has worked out really hard and is close to his goal weight. His girlfriend Suzie knows that weight is something Fred has struggled with for years. She has always loved his body, but she gives special attention to letting him know that. When she hugs him she makes remarks on how strong his arms are getting, when he’s walking around she lets him see her long glances and tells him how attractive he is to her, and when she sees him on the scale she tells him that he gets handsomer everyday regardless of what he’s gained or lost. Suzie’s affectionate remarks reassure Fred, giving him the confidence that his own self-esteem is lacking, as well as letting him know that she loves him no matter what his body looks like.

    4)  Emma has wanted to spend more time with her husband Matt, but in his free time he’s been golfing a lot with his friends, something that Emma doesn’t know how to do. So one afternoon when they are both free, she asks him to take her to the driving range and show her proper form. He’s surprised at first because she has never expressed an interest in golf, but when she tells him that she knows how good of a teacher he is and that has always been impressed by his talent and his commitment and love for game. He is delighted to know that she wants to be a part of something so important to him. This show of admiration and affection fills Matt with good feelings for Emma and makes him excited to teach her.

    Showing that you care is a simple and important part of sustaining friendship and positive emotions in a relationship. Each of us seeks to be understood and loved, and it is essential to a relationship to receive affection and appreciation from our partners. 

    Letting your partner really feel your fondness and admiration for them takes a certain measure of selflessness, as well as a conscious effort to become truly involved in your partner’s life and to understand their needs. When your partner is worried about a personal situation at work, letting them know how proud you are of them and how much you support them will have a deeper effect than telling them how good they look in their new outfit. To build support and trust between yourselves, keep in mind that the two of you are a team. Show your partner that you are on their side! Use what you know about your partner in order to let them truly understand how much you love and respect them.

    Making plenty of deposits into your emotional bank account by expressing fondness and admiration for your partner this weekend! Have a great one.

    All for now,
    Ellie Lisitsa
    TGI Staff

    PS: Don't forget to enter the "Let's Stay Together Giveaway" here by Sunday, May 19th. Win a copy of Dr. Gottman's The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, an autographed copy of What Makes Love Last?, and more!

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    Happy Monday! Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we continue our series devoted to Dr. Gottman's Four Horsemen with the last, but certainly not least, horseman: Stonewalling.

    If you've completely forgotten about The Four Horsemen over the weekend, we have provided you with a short clip below for an explanation from Dr. Gottman himself: 

    occurs when the listener withdraws from the interaction, shutting down and closing themselves off from the speaker because they are feeling overwhelmed or physiologically flooded. Rather than confronting the issue, someone who is stonewalling will be totally unresponsive, making evasive maneuvers such as tuning out, turning away, acting busy, or engaging in obsessive behaviors. It takes time for the negativity created by the first three horsemen to become overwhelming enough that stonewalling becomes an understandable "out," but when it does, it frequently becomes a habit.

    Trying to communicate with someone who is acting in this way can be frustrating, and if the stonewalling continues, completely infuriating.

    When you are making every effort to address a problem, whether you are attempting to talk about something that is upsetting you, explain your feelings about an ongoing area of conflict, or try to reach a resolution - 
     and your partner is pretending that you aren’t there - you are likely to reach a level of upset or anger so high that you psychologically and emotionally “check out” as well.

    The first part of the antidote to experiencing this extreme unpleasantness is to

    The second step is to practice
    physiological self soothing.

    If you learn to do these things when your conversations become fights and tempers flare, you can keep your relationship from experiencing repeated and deeply destructive stress and save yourself and your partner from going nuts.

    Sound promising? Read on.

    When to stop:
    When things escalate to a level where you sense yourself reaching your boiling point (that feeling of a kettle whistling inside of you, and steam ready to come out of your ears), it’s time to take yourself off the flame! The same goes for your partner.

    Let each other know when you're feeling overwhelmed, and say that you need to take a break. This break should last at least twenty minutes, since it will take that much time for your bodies to physiologically calm down.

    How to self-soothe:

    It is crucial that during this time you avoid thoughts of righteous indignation ("I don't have to take this anymore!") and innocent victimhood ("Why is he always picking on me?"). Spend your time doing something soothing and distracting, like listening to music, reading a book, or taking a walk around the block.

    The Four Horsemen typically come as a sequence of interactions that start with criticism and spill over into defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. As Dr. Gottman emphasizes in his New York Times bestselling book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, the really important thing to keep in mind is that even in happy, stable, and successful marriages and relationships, the four horsemen all occur. No couple is perfect! The difference is that in those marriages they don’t occur as frequently, and when they do, those couples are more effective at repairing them. 

    Look forward to our posts this Wednesday and Friday, in which we will delve further into our discussion of stonewalling, flooding, and physiological self-soothing. In the meantime, join us on Facebook for daily relationship tips and reminders!

    All for now,
    Ellie Lisitsa
    TGI Staff

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    On Monday we introduced Stonewalling, Dr. Gottman’s fourth and final horseman. It is our goal this week to help you understand this particularly destructive communication style and learn to manage it. Today, we will begin by sharing some cold, hard facts. 

    As we have written previously on The Gottman Relationship Blog, masters of relationships maintain a 5:1 ratio of positivity to negativity during conflict discussions. Positive interactions include displays of interest, affection, humor, empathy, and affirming body language (like eye contact and head nodding). While it may be intuitive that negative exchanges outweighing the positive is a sign of relationship trouble, Dr. Gottman's 5:1 ratio also suggests that negativity is healthy as long as the ratio is maintained and the four horsemen are not present.

    Cycles of non-constructive arguing and a lack of positive affect are major predictors of stonewalling, particularly predicative of stonewalling being used as an attempt to self-soothe or de-escalate, but backfiring and resulting in relationship deterioration. When these cycles  grow more and more intense, and physiological arousal begins to skyrocket, the following dynamics emerge:

    • For both partners, there is: (a) a decrease in the ability to process information (reduced hearing, reduced peripheral vision, problems with shifting attention away from a defensive posture); (b) an increase in defensiveness; (c) a reduction in the ability for creative problem solving; and (d) a reduction in the ability to listen and empathize.
    • Men are consistently more likely to stonewall than women. They will withdraw emotionally from conflict discussions while women remain emotionally engaged.  85% of Dr. Gottman’s stonewallers were men.
    • When women do stonewall, it is quite predictive of divorce.
    • Men are more likely to rehearse distress-maintaining thoughts than women, which may prologue their physiological arousal and hyper-vigilance, often causing their partners to flare up in response, until one by one, each partner is brought to a point of emotional detachment and avoidance.
    • Male stonewalling is very upsetting for women, increasing their physiological arousal (things like increased heart rates, etc.) and intensifying their pursuit of the issue.

    (Note: Many of these findings come from a 1985 study by Drs. Gottman and Levenson, called "Physiological and Affective Predictors of Change in Relationship Satisfaction," which you can access here).

    To summarize: stonewalling is bad! Here is a good rule: When the two of you are in conflict, and someone checks out, check in with them and take a break. In other words, when stonewalling starts, STOP. Attempts to continue will not make productive headway for either of you, but rather will intensify your shared conflict and emotional distress.

    You’ve probably realized this by now. We’ve all had experiences trying (so hard!) to speak and not being heard. What’s important to take away from this posting is an awareness that stonewalling is both natural and deadly. It is a normal defense mechanism, and it goes something like this:

    If I can just shut it out, if I can pretend not to see it or hear it, the problem won’t be there anymore. If I can just get through this, it will poof and disappear.

    If you tend to avoid conflict by thinking along these lines, something else may poof and disappear: your relationship. But don’t panic! There’s no cause for alarm, because there will be no poofing or disappearing if you know just one thing: a healthy way to cope with the urge to stonewall and emotionally withdraw. That way is Physiological Self-Soothing, which we will explain in our blog post this Friday!

    All for now,
    Ellie Lisitsa
    TGI Staff

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    On Wednesday, we promised to follow our cold, hard facts about Stonewalling with a healthy alternative. Here is something warm and soft for you instead:

    The Practice of Physiological Self Soothing

            Think of a neutral signal that you and your partner can use in a conversation to let each other know when one of you feels flooded with emotion (for more about flooding, refer to our March 1st post from The Research series on Physiological Self Soothing.) This can be a word or a physical motion, e.g. "Collywobbles!" or "Hocus-pocus!" or simply raising both hands into a Stop position. Come up with your own! If you choose a ridiculous signal, you may find that the very use of it helps begin to diffuse tension.

            When you have moved apart to take your break, attempt the following: imagine a place that makes you feel calm and safe. A sacred space where nothing can touch you. It may be a place you remember from childhood - a cozy corner you read in, your old bedroom, or a friend's house. It may be a beautiful forest you explored on a trip. It may be a dreamscape. As you imagine yourself in this sanctuary, lose yourself in the peace of mind that it brings you. Meditating on a haven in your imagination can be a perfect, relaxing break from a difficult conversation.
            Practice focusing on your breath: it should be deep, regular, and even. Inhale and exhale naturally. As in Eastern practices - from yoga to contemplative meditation - you may find yourself calmer and more centered if you stop for a moment, and allow the noise around you to temporarily fade away.

            Tense and relax parts of your body that feel tight or uncomfortable. Feel the warmth and heaviness flow out of your limbs. Take your time. This technique is similar to a focus on breathing, but you may find one or the other preferable. Work with either of these techniques to feel your stress flow away.

    Think of these as starting points for the creation of an island of peace within yourself. You can return to this place again and again, whenever you like.

    Your (and your partner’s) mental health play a large role in determining the health of your relationship. Don’t forget to take care of yourselves! Devote enough time and energy to self-care (getting enough sleep, nutrition, exercise, time for pursuit of your passions), and watch the frequency and intensity of fights between the two of you drop dramatically.

    Remember: the ability to self-soothe is one of the most important skills you can learn. Practicing it can help you not only in romantic relationships, but in all other areas of your life.

    Wishing you a wonderful Memorial Day weekend,
    Ellie Lisitsa
    TGI Staff

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    Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we would like to take the opportunity to inform you about some very exciting upcoming events. In less than two weeks, we will be packing our bags and boarding an airplane for Tampa, Florida! 

    Tampa, FL
    On Thursday, June 6, Dr. John Gottman will be presenting a 1.5 hour lecture entitled “How to Build Trust, Love, & Loyalty in Relationships” at The Tampa Convention Center. In this presentation Dr. Gottman will draw upon his four decades of break-through research with more than 3,000 couples and dispel myths about relationships. He will teach specifically what successful couples do to create a long-lasting relationship and what the benefits of a stable, committed relationship actually are.

    In this presentation, he will discuss:
    • Relationship and divorce prediction: With a three-hour assessment, Dr. John Gottman has been able to predict with over 90% accuracy, which couples will divorce, which couples will stay together happily, and which couples will stay together unhappily.
    • The importance of nurturing friendship and intimacy in ones’ relationship.
    • Understanding that a positive perspective occurs when the friendship in ones’ relationship is strong.
    • The importance of managing conflict constructively.
    • The significance of creating shared meaning – building a shared sense of purpose and finding ways to make one another’s life dreams come true.
    • They key ingredients for building trust, loyalty, and commitment and making love last a lifetime. Our newest research reveals the dynamics of betrayal and how to safeguard (or heal) your relationship.

    This presentation is for anyone who wants his or her relationship to attain its highest potential. The talk is based upon Dr. Gottman’s NY Times bestselling book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, and has been presented as a keynote address at conferences and to international audiences. His style of presentation is clear, informative and full of humor and he is loved by audiences everywhere. He has appeared on Anderson Cooper, Oprah, Good Morning America, Today, CBS Morning News, and is often cited as "the" relationship expert in The New York Times, Time Magazine, and USA Today. Registration: $30. Click here for more information and to register for this lecture. 

    On Friday, June 7th and Saturday, June 8th, Drs. John and Julie Gottman will be presenting a Gottman Method Couples Therapy Level 1 Training. In this workshop, Drs. John and Julie Gottman will provide you with a research-based roadmap for helping couples compassionately manage their conflicts, deepen their friendship and intimacy, and share their life purpose and dreams.

    In this inspirational two-day workshop, you’ll learn:

    • Research-based strategies and tools to help couples successfully manage conflict.
    • Skills to empower couples to dialogue about their worst gridlocked issues by uncovering their underlying dreams, history, and values.
    • Methods to help couples process their fights and heal their hurts.
    • Techniques for couples to deepen their intimacy and minimize relapse.
    • New assessments and effective interventions to help understand couples struggles.

    Participants will receive a 300-page clinical manual featuring new relationship assessment questionnaires and clinical interventions designed to help couples break the cycle of criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. Apply Gottman Method Couples Therapy to help couples strengthen:
    • The Friendship System: the foundation for intimacy, passion, and good sex.
    • The Conflict System: the basis for helping couples identify and address solvable problems, and understand and manage irresolvable differences.
    • The Shared Meaning System: the existential foundation of the relationship that helps couples discover their shared purpose for building a life together.

    Registration: $399. Click here for more information and to register for the training event. We will then pack our bags (again) and fly to Washington, D.C.!

    Washington, D.C.
    On Thursday, June 13th, Dr. John Gottman will deliver the same “How to Build Trust, Love, & Loyalty in Relationships” address at The Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. Registration: $30. Click here for more information and to register for this speaking event.

    On Friday, June 14th and Saturday, June 15th, Drs. John and Julie Gottman will be presenting a Gottman Method Couples Therapy Level 1 Training. Click here for more information and to register for the training event. 

    These will be the ONLY Level 1 Trainings presented by the Gottmans in the United States this year. Do not miss this opportunity to train with the world’s leaders in couples therapy on the East Coast. Questions? Please do not hesitate to contact Lori Cambas at:

    All for now,
    Michael Fulwiler
    TGI Staff

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    Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we'd like to share an article from our friends at, an organization dedicated to "Helping People Find Therapists & Advocating for Ethical Therapy." The following article does an excellent job summarizing our research and approach to couples therapy. Embedded within the article, we have provided links to previous blog postings so that you can refer to our prior writings and navigate specific topics we have discussed with ease. We hope that today's posting can serve as a resource for you to refresh your memory as we move into new territory next week! See the original article here.

    An Introduction to the Gottman Method of Relationship Therapy
    By Kate McNulty, LCSW, Gottman Method Topic Expert Contributor
    May 30, 2013 

    John Gottman, a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Washington, entered the field of psychological research with a background in advanced mathematics and statistical analysis. In the course of his 40+ year career he has developed mathematical models, scales, and formulas to identify the elements of stability in relationships and the interactive patterns that cause couples to divorce. Gottman was drawn to this research topic due to his own puzzlement at how people develop happy relationships.

    Gottman’s studies pointed to relationship difficulties caused by the “Four Horsemen,” named after the famous Albrecht Durer engraving Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

    These factors predictive of divorce include: 

    1. Criticism of the partner’s personality
    2. Defensiveness
    3. Stonewalling, or refusing to interact
    4. Contempt

    Couples who function effectively treat each other with consideration, and are supportive of each other.

    The goals of the Gottman Method include increasing closeness and friendship behaviors, addressing conflict productively, and building a life of shared meaning together. The Gottman Method involves customizing principles from the research to each couple’s particular patterns and challenges.

    The Seven Principles include the following concepts:

    Build Love Maps: This refers to an ongoing awareness of our partners’ worlds as they move through time: how they think and feel, what day-to-day life is like for them, and their values, hopes, aspirations, and stresses.

    Express Fondness and Admiration: Couples who function well are able to appreciate and enjoy most aspects of each partner’s behavior and learn to live with differences.

    Turn Toward One Another: Conversational patterns of interest and respect, even about mundane topics are crucial to happiness. Couples who turn toward successfully maintain a 20:1 ratio of expressing interest or acknowledgement vs. ignoring conversational gambits. This is referred to as the “Emotional Bank Account.” Couples who are highly successful keep a 5:1 ratio in conflict discussions, even Turning Towards while arguing.

    Accept Influence: Members of a couple who take the other partner’s preferences into account and are willing to compromise and adapt are happiest. Being able to yield and maintain mutual influence, while avoiding power struggles, helps couples keep a balance of power that feels reasonable and builds trust.

    Solve Problems That Are Solvable: Couples who can find compromise on issues are using five tactics. They soften start up so the beginning of the conversation leads to a satisfactory end. They offer and respond to repair attempts, or behaviors that maintain the emotional connection and emphasize “we/us” over individual needs. They effectively soothe themselves and their partner. They use compromise and negotiation skills. They are tolerant of one another’s vulnerabilities and ineffective conversational habits, keeping the focus on shared concern for the well-being of the relationship.

    Manage Conflict and Overcome Gridlock: The Gottman Method helps couples manage, not resolve, conflict. Conflict is viewed as inherent in relationship and doesn’t go away. Happy couples report the majority of their conflicts, 69% are perpetual in nature, meaning they are present throughout the course of time and are dealt with only as needed. These recurrent themes become part of the couple’s shared landscape and are kept in perspective, not dwelt upon.

    Create Shared Meaning: Connection in relationship occurs as each person experiences the multitude of ways in which their partner enriches their life with a shared history and helps them find meaning and make sense of struggles.

    Gottman is profiled in Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller Blink for his ability to predict a couple’s likelihood of divorce with 94% accuracy after just a few minutes of observation. Psychotherapy Networker, a professional journal, recognized Gottman as one of the ten most influential therapists of the past 25 years.


    In the spirit of our friends at, we'd like to share our own resource for finding a therapist trained in Gottman Method. To begin your search for a Gottman-trained therapist near you, follow the link below:

    Find a Therapist!
    The Gottman Referral Network (GRN) is the primary resource for couples worldwide who are seeking professional help from Gottman-trained therapists. GRN members have received training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy, an approach based on 40 years of research with thousands of couples. Free to access, this database puts you directly in touch with experienced clinicians who use Gottman relationship-building techniques.

    GRN therapists are equipped to provide support to couples, individuals, children and/or families on many issues in addition to couples therapy, including anxiety, depression, addictions, trauma, abuse, blended family issues, and more. Therapists listed in our network are licensed mental health professionals who work independently from their own private practice offices. 

    Be sure to check out any and all of these great links! You can contact The Gottman Institute toll-free at (888) 523-9042 or call local at (206) 523-9042 if you have any questions. See all of our contact info here. As always, we invite you to join us on Facebook!

    Have a great weekend!
    Ellie Lisitsa
    TGI Staff

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    Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we would like to share a striking TEDTalks presentation from Esther Perel entitled, “The Secret to Desire in a Long-Term Relationship.” Fluent in nine languages, the Belgian native is one of the world’s most respected voices on couples and sexuality. Esther's lecture caught our attention after gaining over 1.7 million views since its posting earlier this year. 

    In long-term relationships, we often expect our beloved to be both best friend and erotic partner. But as Esther argues, good and committed sex draws on two conflicting needs: our need for security and our need for surprise. So, how do you sustain desire? Why does good sex so often fade, even for couples that continue to love each other forever? Can we want what we already have? Why does sex make babies, and babies spell erotic disaster in couples?

    We highly recommend taking 19 minutes to watch the clip above. Bonus points: watch it with your partner. Esther’s presentation style is articulate, insightful, and full of humor. After traveling the globe to study eroticism and romantic desire, she discovered that couples who maintain desire in their relationship possess what she calls “erotic intelligence.” These couples all seem to possess similar qualities:

    1.   They have a lot of “sexual privacy.” They understand that there is an erotic space that belongs to each of them. It is something that is sacred. Because of this, their eroticism is much more special and long-lasting when they share it with one another. We often write about building a Love Map of your partner’s world – their likes, dislikes, dreams, hopes, desires, etc. The same principle can be applied to building an erotic Love Map of your partner’s most intimate desires. Intimate conversation builds emotional connection.

    2.   They understand that “foreplay is not something you do five minutes before the real thing.” Foreplay “pretty much starts at the end of the previous orgasm.” One of Dr. Gottman’s most famous sayings is that, “Every positive thing you do in your relationship is foreplay.” The first step to improving your sex life is to think differently about sex. Once you start thinking of every positive thing as foreplay - a compliment at dinner, an extended goodbye kiss, extra help around the house - then the positive attraction builds and the negative stress fades. 

    3.   They understand that “passion waxes and wanes.” They know how to bring it back, because they have demystified one big myth - “the myth of spontaneity” that its just going to happen. According to Esther, committed sex is premeditated sex. Its “willful and intentional.” Sure, spontaneous sex is great, but with work and the kids, we understand you don't always have time for it. There is nothing wrong with planning out a time for making love. Leave sexy notes for your partner or send text messages while they’re at work to build the anticipation. It’s these little things that make the most difference in long-term relationships. 

    For more on intimate conversation, building erotic love maps, and maintaining desire in long-term relationships, check out our Gott Sex? Series. Reactions to Ester's lecture? Join the conversation on our Facebook page.

    All for now, 

    Michael Fulwiler
    TGI Staff 

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    Greetings from Washington, D.C.! To our regular readers, we apologize for the extended gap between postings. We spent last week in Tampa, Florida training over 300 wonderful therapists and we will be here in DC until Saturday. If you are in the DC area, we would love for you to join us on Thursday evening for an evening with Drs. John and Julie Gottman. You can find more information about the speaking engagement here

    We hope that by now you’ve had a chance to listen to Esther Perel's lecture, “The Secret to Desire in a Long-Term Relationship,” which we posted last week with a brief summary of her main talking points. We shared it with you because we find her perspective thought provoking - we hope that your thought has been provoked. With that said, we did not intend for it to stand on its own! We’d like to use Esther’s presentation as a jumping off point for further investigation.

    We’d like to give you a chance this week to take some time to reflect upon your own love life: What do you feel could be improved? What is going right? What kinds of things does your partner do that make you feel great? What makes you feel not so great? How have you tried to change things in the past? How have you felt about those attempts afterwards? Do you feel that you have been successful?

    Today, we'd like you to consider these additional questions: What feelings and thoughts did Esther's talk leave you with? Are there any that you would like to share with your partner? Do you feel comfortable bringing them up?

    Talking about intimacy and sex is not always easy. Most of us have that friend, the one who loves their bedroom adventures and wants to hear all about yours. Think Samantha in "Sex and the City," the lovable bachelorette who spends seemingly all of her time meeting for drinks with her girlfriends, with the aim of talking about every intimate detail of their love lives. Some of us ARE that friend! We feel happy connecting with our inner Samantha. While many of us enjoy sharing stories of our exploits, some of us feel uncomfortable - that these topics are too personal, that this is “too much information.”

    You don’t need to be a Samantha to have a healthy sexual relationship – or a healthy relationship to sex in general. But if conversation about intimacy with your partner doesn’t come easily to you, learning to communicate about it can make your sex life (and general existence) much, much better! After all, it is intimate conversation that builds emotional connection between couples.

    Sex is an important (and often confusing) part of romantic relationships. Having great sex can add fire to your shared passion, allowing you to express love, tenderness, and desire for each other. It can create room for playfulness, and strengthen other areas of your relationship as well. Cherishing each other, giving each other pleasure, and continuing your courtship throughout the years can bring the two of you to a whole new level of closeness.

    While our blog has touched on sexuality in relationships at times, we’d like to remind you of our Gott Sex? video series, The Gottman Institute’s primary resource for building intimacy and closeness in relationships. To read more about the steps you can take towards making the sex in your relationship more meaningful, intimate, and loving, we encourage you to take a look around!

    All for now,
    Ellie Lisitsa
    TGI Staff

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    There's a reason why most fairy tales and romantic comedies end with a first kiss, a proposal, or even a wedding. Falling in love is easy. It's staying in love that can be the challenge. With that said, you can build long-term happiness and stability in your relationship with the proper tools.

    So, how can you keep your romance going strong, long after the credits roll?

    In his most recent book, What Makes Love Last? How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal, Dr. John Gottman says it's possible to predict whether a relationship will succeed or end in the heartbreak of infidelity. But it's not all doom and gloom: with the right tools, he says, you can make sure your fairy tale is one of the happily ever afters.

    Once the hormonally driven "falling in love" phase is over and couples move into the next phase of settling down, the big question becomes, "Can I trust you?"

    At this point, Gottman explains, you are likely to start wondering:

    • "Do I come first?" 
    • "Am I more important than your friends?" 
    • "Am I more important than your mother?" 
    • "Can I trust you to really work for our family, to be faithful to me, to keep finding me attractive?" 

    As these questions come up, you begin to either build loyalty in your relationship, or what he calls a "Metric of Betrayal."

    "You have to feel that your partner has your best interests at heart," Gottman says. And your partner has to feel that way about you.

    "Even before there's any actual betrayal," he explains, "you start acting in a way that creates betrayal." Those actions, he says, involve comparing what you're getting to what you think you could get. "If you get into a habit where you start thinking you could do better, where you can imagine a better partner," says Gottman, "those negative comparisons lead you to nurture resentment about what is not there." The seeds are then planted for eventual discord, distrust, and betrayal.

    Alternatively, he says, you can act in a way that creates loyalty. "Loyalty is about nurturing gratitude for what you have," says Gottman. The key, he says, is cherishing your partner, "which involves both people making a conscious decision to minimize their partner's negative qualities and maximize the positive qualities. Masters of relationships have a way of scanning their environment to catch their partner doing something right." If you want to create trust, you must start with the basic building blocks, and you must build bridges.

    How can you work on building loyalty and trust in your own relationship? Dr. Gottman offers these tips:

    1. It's the "very small moments" that are important. Find little moments throughout the day to think about what it is you love, respect, and honor about your mate. Devote some effort to nurturing that way of thinking.

    2. Share those feelings with your partner! Take the opportunity to show your partner affection, and take advantage of sliding door moments. "Let them know how great they look this morning," says Gottman. Express how much you appreciate the effort they put into running an errand for you, or something you love about them. "Cherishing becomes a ritual of connection in your relationship."

    3. If you have doubts or concerns, bring them up! "Don't avoid dealing with feeling lonely, or like you're not as attractive to them as you used to be," says Gottman. Talk about it so you can resolve the issues.

    4. Reframe. If you have a complaint about your partner, pause for a moment to think about where they might be coming from. If, say, they can get a little controlling, maybe it will help you to remember that they're also very supportive and protective of you. If it's a constant issue, then it's something you need to talk about with them -- maybe they don't know they're doing it.

    Of course, sometimes they're just not the right partner for you. "You can't build trust with just anybody," says Gottman. "When you bring up an issue with your mate, they should be open to working on it, which, in turns, helps build even more trust. It's a real active process, it's a mental and emotional process, where you are both thinking how lucky you are to have each other."

    Note: Here's something for our clinicians, and those of you who'd like to get your hands on the science behind these tips!

    Have a great weekend, 
    Ellie Lisitsa
    TGI Staff

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    Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we would like to build off last week's discussion of maintaining desire in a long-term relationship by introducing a very important topic: emotional attraction.

    When you are emotionally attracted to your partner, you value them for more than just their physical appearance. For example, you might find it pretty sexy that your partner can carry out an intellectual conversation, or talk about a novel or current news story that you've both read. This kind of attraction goes much deeper than the physical - think of it as an expansion of  "looks aren't everything."  

    Emotional attraction means being attracted not just to your partner's body, but also to their hearts, minds, and dreams. You value them for who they are and what they stand for. While you may be sexually attracted to your partner’s physical appearance, developing deeper emotional attraction will make these feelings much stronger. 

    So, how do you make this happen?

    Your emotional attraction to your partner is largely determined by the ways in which you communicate. 

    If you are communicating well, you are likely comfortable opening up to your partner about your opinions without having to worry about being judged for them. This high level of intimate trust is reaffirmed in daily dialogue - specifically in a “How was your day, dear?” conversation - but you may be surprised to find out that this conversation doesn’t always have a positive effect!

    The Stress-Reducing Conversation:
    What this conversation does (or ought to do) is to help each of you to manage the stress in your daily lives, stress that is not caused by your relationshipso that this outside stress doesn't spill over into your relationship. 

    According to Dr. Gottman’s close friend and colleague, UW’s Dr. Neil Jacobson, one of the key reasons for couples’ relapse after problem-solving in marital therapy is "discord caused by stress from other areas of their lives."

    In other words, outside problems (at work, with friends, with family members) often end up coming into relationships to fuel the fires of conflict.

    Couples who are overrun by stress and fail to talk about it with each other see their level of emotional attraction drop, and subsequently see their relationships suffer. 

    On the other hand, those who talk about the stresses of daily life with one another and help each other to cope keep their relationships strong.

    Many couples have this sort of conversation at the dinner table or while undressing for bed. Sadly, this discussion does not always have the desired effect. Instead of decreasing stress, it actually increases it. While there is a time to talk about issues with your partner, discussing those that affect your relationship at this time is, to put it gently, inadvisable.

    For starters, think about the timing of the chat. Some people want to unburden themselves when they’re barely through the door. Others need to decompress on their own for a while before they’re ready for discourse, but may want to talk before it gets late and they feel too tired. Talk to your partner and find out their preference!

    The cardinal rule in having a stress-reducing conversation is: only about stress outsideof your relationship. 

    This is not the time to discuss areas of conflict between the two of you, or point fingers of blame. It's also not the time to instruct your partner on how to fix the problems they're facing. It’s an opportunity to support each other emotionally regarding other areas in your lives. Remember: understanding must precede advice. 

    Though these conversations don’t center on your relationship, they directly improve it. They allow you to connect on an intimate level. How? Emotional attraction (and transitively, sexual attraction) grows when you feel your partner is listening to you, respecting and accepting your perspective, and expressing genuine care. 

    All for now,
    Ellie Lisitsa
    TGI Staff

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    In today's posting on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we'd like to build on Tuesday's post on emotional attraction by giving you easy, straightforward instructions for having a stress-reducing conversation. As you approach the "how was your day, dear?" conversation from a new perspective, draw on ideas from the following exercise.

    Note: This exercise draws on the technique of "active listening." The goal of active listening is to listen (not just hear) to the speaker’s words with empathy and without judgment. You certainly won’t be feeling emotional attraction to your partner if you feel like they aren't listening to you. This is all well and good, but when applied in couples’ therapy, it often fails because couples are asked to use it when they are airing their gripes with each other.

    However, we have found that this same listening technique can be extremely beneficial if specifically employed during discussions in which you aren’t your partner’s target. In this context, you’ll feel far more readily supportive and understanding of your partner (and vica versa) - strengthening your mutual love and trust. Here are eight guiding rules for having this discussion:

    1. Take Turns. Each partner gets to be the complainer for fifteen minutes.

    2. Don’t give unsolicited advice. The major rule when helping your partner de-stress is that understanding must precede advice. 

    3. Show genuine interest. Don’t let your mind or eyes wander. Try to stay intently focused on your partner. 

    4. Communicate your understanding. Let your partner know that you can and are empathizing with what they are saying.

    5. Take your partner’s side. This means being supportive, even if you think that part of his or her perspective is unreasonable. It's all about perspective! Don't lose sight of the forest for the trees - if your relationship is important to you, it is likely more important than your opinion about the intricacies of your mate's conversation with their boss. Again, understanding must precede advice.

    6. Express a “we against others” attitude. Let him or her know that the two of you are in this together. That you are a team. 

    7. Express affection. Hold your partner, put an arm on his or her shoulder, and say, “I love you.” 

    8. Validate emotions. Let your partner know that his or her feelings make sense to you by telling them just that. 

    Research has proven that emotional attraction is just as important as physical attraction in having great sex. If you are feeling emotionally rejected by your partner, chances are that you won’t be in the mood to make love. Try this active listening exercise this weekend and see how it affects the level of emotional attraction you feel for each other. You'll thank us for it. Good luck!

    All for now,
    Ellie Lisitsa
    TGI Staff

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    We’ve spent the last two weeks on The Gottman Relationship Blog discussing emotional intimacy, sharing tools to keep the fire alive in your relationship over the long haul. This week, we feel that it would be pretty helpful to touch on its role in conflict and conflict discussions.

    When you argue, fight, or disagree with your partner, do you feel emotionally intimate with them? This question sounds like a joke. It sort of is. The truly funny (and ironic) thing is that it doesn’t have to be.

    Our inclination to laugh stems from a universally accepted sociocultural belief that fighting is the antithesis of emotional intimacy. Our research suggests otherwise.

    In his research, Dr. John Gottman has demonstrated that conflict and emotional intimacy are not antithetical. In fact, to enjoy a lasting and healthy relationship, even the most functional of couples must engage in conflict discussions about areas of disagreement.  Having areas of disagreement is natural. 
    Negativity plays many prosocial functions – for example, culling out interaction patterns that don't work, renewing courtship over time, etc.

    As we’ve mentioned before on our blog, the presence of conflict in your relationship does not predict impending doom –
    it is the method in which you approach conflict discussions that determines your shared future. 

    This should come as somewhat of a relief. We don’t have to stop fighting to keep our relationships intact – we just have to learn, you might say, to fight "smart" (see Psychology Today’s recent article on "conscious combat" featuring Dr. Gottman's research). We must learn to manage conflict by keeping our hearts and minds intimately connected.

    As we have discussed on The Gottman Relationship Blog, most recently in our 4 Horsemen series, one of the greatest stumbling blocks encountered by couples in a conflict discussion is physiological 
    flooding. We’ve explained its mechanics and taught you tools for fending it off before it overwhelms you, but today we’ve got another tip: you don’t have to fight it alone.

    The following activity is designed to help you and your partner fight flooding together. We hope you find it helpful!

    Flooding Questionnaire: Fight Flooding as a Team

    With Dr. Gottman’s words in mind, “When you’re in conflict with somebody and you become flooded with fear or anger, all your best intentions can go out the window,” answer the following questions. If possible, jot down your thoughts and have your partner do the same. Share your answers and talk about their implications.

    1. What typically happens just before you start to feel flooded?

    2. Are there particular words, actions, or topics that seem to “trigger” you to flood?

    3. What would allow you to stay in an intense conversation without flooding? 

    4. How are upsetting topics introduced into conversations?

    5. Does either of you bring up these subjects in a harsh way?

    6. Are there ways that either of you could introduce these subjects so that you might stay calmer?

    7. Does either of you tend to “store up” problems and try to deal with them all at once?

    8. Can you do a better job of handling your problems one at a time?

    9. What can you do to soothe yourself when you feel irritable, scared, or angry?

    10. What can you do to soothe each other?

    11. What signals can you develop for when either of you feels flooded?

    12. Can you take breaks?

    13. What can you do during these breaks to calm down?

    14. How do you make sure that you get back to the problem later on?

    15. How could you conclude a discussion of a currently unresolved issue with a sense of reaching a temporary solution? What would this take from you? What would it take from your partner?

    Though neither of you want to escalate the argument or to hurt the other, flooding overrides any attempt at rational thought or balanced thinking. You both lose control. So try this:

    Be attentive. When one of you begin to notice signs of flooding - when you can feel your blood pressure rising or your heart rate increasing - or start to notice your partner becoming seriously upset, stop. Remember the exercise. Remember to breathe. What can you do to handle things differently this time? How can you prevent the takeover of flooding?

    This will take practice, patience, determination, and the willingness to compromise. If you don’t see change happening overnight, don’t be discouraged. Think small steps. Learning to preempt and manage flooding in conflict is difficult, but if you keep working on it together, you will be very happy with the results!

    Trusting your partner to be there for you when you are both fraying at the edges can change your entire relationship dynamic. 
    If you can stop at the first smell of smoke, you can avoid having to put out a fire. You can keep each other safe.

    All for now,
    Ellie Lisitsa
    TGI Staff

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  • 07/01/13--17:39: Give Me Just One Word

  • You know the feeling you get when you're engaged in a stressful conversation? That feeling when you realize that you truly cannot handle the conversation you're having, that you actually cannot stand to deal with it for one more moment?

    That’s a pretty awful feeling. But it's also a very common one. Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we’d like to give you a strategy to keep yourself sane when you have reached your emotional limit. This activity will allow you to reduce the frequency and intensity of these episodes, and give the gift of sanity to yourself and to your partner. If used effectively, it can teach the two of you to manage your conflicts as a team.

    It may come as a surprise to think that a stressful problem involving such intensity of emotion can be addressed with a simple exercise. And you’re right – doing this exercise will not fix everything. Whatever you may be dealing with, you can’t possibly make the problem *poof* and disappear forever. It is natural and human to lose control of your emotions at times; however, you may be stunned to see how much this simple exercise can help.

    According to Dr. John Gottman, "
    If you can remember just one word that might help you to focus on what the other person needs during a conflict, you’ll have a better chance of finding common ground and connection."

    Exercise: Give Me Just One Word

    1. Read the list of words that follows. As you look at each one, think about what you usually feel you need during a typical conflict:

    Empathize, Expand, Accept, Respect, Strength, Watch, Nurture, Cooperate, Tenderness, Defend me, Teamwork, Honesty, Cherish, Trust, Start over, Hold me, Listen, Talk, End the chaos, Connect, Compromise, Validate, Feel, Touch, Let me in, Include me, Know yourself, Stop, I was wrong, Courage, Assert, Cope, Stay, Follow through, Breathe, Ask questions, Accept influence, Say yes, Soften, Believe, Symbiotic, Forgive, Help, Feedback, Faith, Energy, Compassion, Explain, Heal, Boundaries, Honor

    2. Choose the five words that best describe your needs.

    3. Now share your list of five words with each other. Tell your partner what each word on your list means to 
    you, and how you would like to see him or her display this behavior or characteristic during your conflicts.

    4. Listen carefully as your partner describes the words on his or her list. Avoid getting into a debate about the correct meaning of a particular word. This is not a vocabulary lesson. Your goal is to try to understand what the word means to that person, and how you might personify it. Ask questions about any points that seem unclear.

    5. Keep talking until you can determine together how each of you can best display the characteristics on each other’s lists.

    6. Write all of the words down and keep them in a place that’s easily accessible to both of you.

    7. The next time you get into conflict, remember the words that were on your list. Say the one that best describes what you need from this person in that moment (Remember: complain without blame by stating a positive need). Think of yourself as an encouraging coach who only wants the best for both of you.

    8. When you hear your partner offer his or her word, stop and remember what he or she needs in the moment. Think of your partner as an encouraging coach who only wants the best for both of you.

    9. Try to use this exercise consistently over a period of several weeks. The more you use it, the better you’ll learn it, and the more effective it will become.

    By working together on exercises like this one, the two of you can greatly strengthen your relationship. Making the extra effort to build on your good intentions shows your partner how much you care, and visa versa.

    When you recall steps from this activity and use them as your guide, you reassure each other of your top priority: your mutual desire to grow as a couple!

    All for now,
    Ellie Lisitsa
    TGI Staff

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    In our last posting on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we talked about finding common ground during a conflict discussion and shared an exercise to help you and your partner understand each other’s basic emotional needs. As Dr. Gottman says, “If you can remember just one word that might help you to focus on what the other person needs during these conflicts, you’ll have a better chance of finding common ground and connecting.” Just one word! 

    In today's posting, we’d like to give you another tool to add to your relationship toolkit. It was designed by a team of experts: the late Roger Fisher, director of the Harvard Negotiation Project, and his research partner, Harvard psychologist Daniel Shapiro. These two really know what they’re talking about. They spent years researching the emotional dimension of negotiation, and collaborted to write their book, “Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate.”

    We came across their studies through the work of Melissa Orlov, an expert on relationships and a consultant for couples and therapists who deals specifically with the effects of ADHD on marriage. Fisher and Shapiro’s studies on negotiation caught our attention, as they echo much of what we have learned in our own research, and support many of our methods in Gottman Couples Therapy.

    Here is what Orlov writes of Fisher and Shapiro's research:
    [These] authors point out that just telling yourself that you should shift your emotions from negative to positive, or trying to ignore emotions, are ineffective strategies for change. The emotions are there, you can’t just ignore them away. Another approach may be to ‘deal directly with all of your emotions,’ which is probably what you’ve been trying to do for quite some time now. But that’s hard, time consuming, and exhausting. Instead, they suggest that you focus on some “core concern” that underlie many human emotions and most of your marital negotiations.
    The five "core concerns of negotiation," as defined by Fisher and Shapiro, include:

    1. Appreciation (Validation, Empathy):
    • Ignored when your thoughts, feelings, or actions are devalued.
    • Met when your thoughts, feelings, or actions are acknowledged.
    2. Affiliation (Turning Towards, Bidding):
    • Ignored when you are treated as an adversary and kept at a distance.
    • Met when you are treated as a partner.
    3. Autonomy (Setting Personal Boundaries):
    • Ignored when your freedom to make your own decisions is impinged upon.
    • Met when others respect your freedom to decide important matters.
    4. Status (Accepting Influence):
    • Ignored when your relative standing is treated as inferior to the other.
    • Met when you are given equal standing and recognition.
    5. Role (Working Together): 
    • Ignored when others plays the role of an adversary (me vs. you). 
    • Met when others play the role of an ally. 

    According to Fisher and Shapiro, these five concerns are what underlie and stimulate the emotions you feel when you negotiate with your partner.  

    When negotiation is chronically toxic, and conversations about disagreements always ends badly, trust goes out the window. When negotiation is damaging to your individual and shared lives, and disrespectful of your personal boundaries, commitment meets the same fate. If you can’t talk about your concerns and reach mutually agreeable solutions, there is no room for
    compromise! Briefly: if you cannot negotiate, your relationship is in serious trouble.

    Here’s the good news:
    Instead of suffering the loss of what is most important to you, or unknowingly putting your partner’s needs in jeopardy, you can use a simple approach to change the nature of negotiation. Take Fisher and Shapiro’s advice – focus on these five core concerns.

    Go through them all:
    Appreciation, Affiliation, Autonomy, Status, and Role. Do you feel that your needs are being met in all of these areas? Don’t worry if they aren’t. These are not easy concerns to address! Your level of satisfaction with each of them is a result of many complex and long-lasting dynamics between yourself and your partner.

    Take a moment to think about these concerns, one at a time. How have recent events (in the last few days or weeks) colored your response to this question?
    • What kinds of situations made you feel appreciated? Which ones did not?
    • When did you feel close to your partner? When did you feel at odds or at a distance?
    •  When did you feel that you had the freedom to make your own decisions? When did you feel deprived of autonomy?
    • What feelings do you have about your relative status to your partner? Which events come to mind when you formulate an answer to this question? 
    • How do you feel about your role as a husband or wife? What does this role mean to you in your life? How would you like to change this role? 

    On Friday, we will build upon these questions by applying skills from Gottman Couples Therapy, and share an exercise that will help you to use negotiation for its intended purpose: mutual gain.

    Have a happy and safe Fourth of July,
    Ellie Lisitsa
    TGI Staff

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    To our readers across the country - from Seattle to Texas to New York - we hope you’ve had a safe and lovely Independence Day. The 4th of July is a wonderful time to reconnect with friends, family, and neighbors. To our international readers, we would like to wish you a very happy friday! Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we’re excited to build on Wednesday’s posting by sharing an activity to help you find common ground in your relationship this weekend. However, before we explore Shapiro and Fischer's research on negotiation further, we'd like to explain what makes it so important.

    As you undoubtedly know, we are all very good at noticing when we are upset. We often feel controlled by powerful emotions, as if they were literally holding us hostage. The activity below seeks to provide ways in which to take back control. Applying Fisher and Shapiro's work to your own intimate relationship can help you become more self-aware. If you can learn to identify the needs that lie beneath your in-the-moment feelings, you will be able to respond to yourself and to your partner more effectively.

    Without further ado, your Weekend Homework Assignment is as follows:

    Step 1: If you haven’t already, we encourage you to take some time this weekend answer the questions we posed on Wednesday about each of the five "core concerns." Make these answers simple and don't be afraid to write them down on paper! Keep them to a few words. If you like, you can ask your partner to join you in this exercise. If you decide to complete this activity together, be sure to keep your own list and to work through the activity independently.

    Step 2: Prioritize your main concerns, and choose the one that is most important for each of you. Again, this is to be done independently.

    Don’t try to find fault in all five areas, because all problems cannot be addressed at once, especially those that are this significant and complex. You may not have any issues in some areas, but bringing up more than one at a time can create risk of getting distracted and overwhelmed. W
    hen you have decided which concern you want to focus on right now, think about what it would take for you to feel that this core need was being met. Make a list of ideas. Can you set a realistic goal for improvement in this area? 

    Before you communicate about this with your partner,
    make sure that you get to step 3!

    Step 3: Focus on the times your partner
    has met your needs in this area. Here are some examples, written from one woman to her husband:

    • Appreciation: I felt appreciated when you noticed my extra effort in planning our vacation!
    • Affiliation: It felt great when we came up with a joint plan for our finances. I was really glad I didn’t have to handle that craziness alone.
    • Autonomy: Thanks for supporting me in training for the marathon! All of that exercise made me feel great. 
    • Status: I really appreciated it when you told me I’d been working too hard and did the dishes every night last week! That was sweet of you.
    • Role: Thanks for hiring that housecleaner so that Naomi and I could have more mother-daughter time!  

    When you approach your partner to talk about your area of concern this weekend, bring up a time in which it was addressed - when they made you feel good! Let your partner know how much you appreciated their actions or words, and explain how these actions or words made you feel.

    Example (Affiliation): 

    "It felt great when we came up with a joint plan for our finances. I was really glad I didn’t have to handle that craziness alone, and really appreciate the amount of time you spent working together with me. These days I’m having some trouble keeping track of our spending – it’s stressing me out, and it would be a huge relief if we could allocate some time this week to looking over our expenses together – so we can hopefully feel good about our budget!"

    In this way, you can avoid approaching a difficult issue with a negative perspective. If you approach your partner with a laundry list of times that they failed to meet your needs, you will follow your laundry down the chute. But if your approach begins with turning towards your partner – communicating genuine appreciation and gratitude for a positive behavior, and letting them know that you believe in your joint ability to overcome the problem – you are much more likely to succeed in working together towards a solution.

    Have a beautiful weekend,
    Ellie Lisitsa
    TGI Staff

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    We are excited to announce a new series on The Gottman Relationship Blog! Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be sharing practical, research-based tools from The Gottman Institute to reinvigorate your relationship this Summer. We begin today with a special guest posting from our very own Dr. Julie Gottman: 

    Summer Romance
    Julie Schwartz Gottman, Ph.D
    President, The Gottman Institute

    Now that summer’s here, what better time to heat up your relationship? No longer cooped up by cold dark days, it’s time to throw open the doors and together venture out. 

    Since John’s favorite adventure is visiting a bookstore while mine is tramping up mountains, not surprisingly we differ somewhat about the virtues of summer. We’re like that movie, “The Odd Couple,” a 1960’s tale of two roommates who are total opposites of each other. Each summer John rails against that “yellow stuff” (sunshine) and wants to stay indoors, while I’ll do anything to stay outside. So how does this “odd couple” find summer romance? Thankfully, we both love the sea. John armors himself with a wide brimmed old straw hat and 50 SPF sunscreen, and together we jump into our double sea kayak and take off for far away islands. The secret to boating together? No criticisms or “corrections” allowed. Instead, in order to sync up we sing together and paddle in rhythm to our tunes. Only the seals can hear us, and so far they haven’t complained.

    Here are some other ideas for summer romance: The tried-and-true picnic is standard summer fare. But make it special by taking along the Love Map and Open-Ended Questions Card Deck for updating your Love Maps. John and I recently sat out on our deck for three days taking turns answering every single card. Even after 25 years, we still had more to learn about each other. And if you’re so inclined, stash the Salsa Deck of your choice in your picnic basket for more "spicy" topics.

    Setting up an air mattress outside and sleeping under the stars can sweeten your nights, too. Or hopping in your car with some weekend supplies and heading for the nearest campground! But if you’re one of the unfortunate couples sweltering in this year’s heat wave, try an all-weekend movie marathon. Just make sure the theatre is air-conditioning. Afterwards, there’s lots to talk about – which was your favorite movie and why - discussed over ice cream, of course.

    And our favorite summer activity? Our annual honeymoon. Every year around anniversary time we ferry up to Salt Spring Island off the coast of B.C., our kayak in tow. Though married much longer, we discovered the joys of this annual Ritual of Connection 13 years ago, and we’ve been repeating it every year since. We always stay in the same B&B and visit the same restaurant where they know John will order only his favorite dish, weinerschnitzel, like his mother used to make.

    By now we’ve also gathered a circle of friends, artists, and writers, who we look forward to seeing year after year. Best of all, there is no internet and no cellphone reception, leaving us with endless hours of nothing but each other. And that’s the sweetest of all.

    Happy summer to you and yours!


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  • 07/15/13--16:25: Summer Romance: Love Maps

  • As promised in last week’s posting on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we continue our Summer Romance blog series today with an exercise to help you build connection with your partner by updating your "Love Maps."

    We’ve discussed Love Maps at length here on The Gottman Relationship Blog. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept, or if you need to brush up, here is a refresher:

    During the course of his research, Dr. Gottman learned that the "masters" of relationships have developed detailed maps of each other’s inner world that he calls Love Maps. We are very good at doing this in the beginning of a relationship. Do you remember staying up all night talking or finding it hard to get off the phone? During those conversations, you were building Love Maps. It can be easy to take for granted that we have to continue to do this as our worlds change over time. 

    Love Maps entail how well you know one another. How well do you know your partner’s inner psychological world? Do you know his or her worries, stresses, joys, and dreams? Do you know what the biggest stressor impacting your partner at work is right now? Can your partner answer these questions about you?

    In the following exercise, we will give you a launching pad from which to have your own Love Map conversations this Summer. Our goal is to give you at least one new way to move through time together that will strengthen your bond and make your relationship last. The beauty of this exercise is that it can be done anywhere: down at the beach on a hot afternoon, at the park on a warm evening, or late at night in the comfort of your own cozy living room.

    Instructions: Sit facing each other, one of you asks the other the first question below. The listener than answers the question as it relates to your partner’s world. For example:

    Speaker:“What is your partner’s favorite thing to do in their free time?” 
    Listener: “I think you like to read in your free time.” – or- “I’m not sure, what is your favorite thing to do in your free time?”

    Keep alternating, taking turns. This is a great way to get to know more about your partner. Remember to be gentle with each other and do not keep score. The following questions are just a place to begin. They were not picked for any particular significance and are only intended to get you started in building your Love Maps:

    •  Describe your partner’s vision for your life together over the next 5 years. 
    • With whom does your partner currently have conflict? 
    • Who is your partner’s favorite band or musician?
    • Does your partner have a secret ambition? What is it?
    • Which people does your partner most admire in the world? Name two.
    • What is your partner’s worst childhood experience? 
    • What is your partner’s favorite holiday?
    • What is your partner most afraid of?
    • What would be an ideal job for your partner? 
    • What are two of your partner’s aspirations, hope or wishes?
    • What are some of the important events coming up in your partner’s life and how does he or she feel about them?
    • What is your partner’s favorite movie?
    • Who is your partner’s greatest source of support (other than you)?
    • What is most relaxing to your partner?
    • What is your partner’s favorite way to spend an evening? 

    Take turns going back and forth, offering gentle corrections. Do not give advice. These questions are not meant to lead to conclusive resolution. A committed relationship is a work in progress! For more questions like these, check out our Love Map Card Deck.

    Until next time,
    Michael Fulwiler
    TGI Staff

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    Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we continue our Summer Romance series with a special guest posting from our very own Laura Heck, LMFTA. In addition to her role as Director of Professional Development for The Gottman Institute, Laura is a licensed marriage and family therapist associate with a private practice in the Greater Seattle area specializing in pre-marital/pre-commitment counseling. In the following article, she shares insights on how to reconnect with your partner while on summer vacation. 

    Reconnecting on Your Summer Vacation
    Laura Heck, LMFTA 

    Not only is it important for your own personal mental well being to take time off work and get away during the summer months, but it is also important for the health and stability of your relationship. Sometimes, however, summer vacations can often feel more like work and less like play.

    The kids are home for the summer and nagging with boredom, your house is in a state of constant upheaval, and the aftermath of last week’s camping trip sits in your basement in a pile of endless laundry. What gives? If you don’t deliberately make it a priority to connect emotionally with your partner by spending time together this summer, your relationship can easily get swept under the rug.

    Here is a quick story from my private practice of how one couple made time to connect while on vacation:

    Paul and Erica (names changed for anonymity) packed the Salsa Card Deck and Love Maps Card Deck into their luggage while on their recent vacation to Hawaii. Once the kids were settled into their seats on the flight, Paul and Erica flipped through the Love Maps Card Deck, answering the open ended questions and exploring each other’s dreams, goals, likes, and dislikes. Both were surprised by the amount of new information they learned about each other, even after years of marriage together. Erica in particular felt a powerful emotional connection stirring while in flight and was eager to move onto the Salsa Card Deck.

    The couple made an agreement that while on their weeklong family vacation, they would select one card daily from the Salsa Card Deck and try a new suggestion for spicing up their intimacy to create lasting memories from their trip. Their romantic adventures, both inside and outside of the bedroom, created a new meaning for their family vacation – it was no longer “all about the kids.” While sitting on the plane heading back to the mainland, Paul and Erica giggled quietly as they held hands and shared a deeper emotional bond.

    Thanks for reading! 
    Have a great summer.

    Do you have summer vacation plans? If so, how do you plan to make time to connect with your partner? We'd love to hear from you. Join the conversation on our Facebook page.

    All for now,
    Michael Fulwiler
    TGI Staff

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