John Gottman’s Sound Relationship House

Build Love Maps-the process of really knowing your partner, their concerns, hopes and dreams. Ask them open-ended questions! (He says this is a very rare event in couples).
Share Fondness and Admiration-Masters of marriage really notice small events that are pleasing, and communicate respect, admiration, and fondness to their partner, e.g. “I really enjoyed talking to you at dinner,” “thanks for doing the laundry” etc. These partners scan the environment for things to share. “Disasters” of marriage look for their partner’s mistakes, and hope that by making comments on what they’re doing wrong, they can help their partner be a better human being.  He said his wife would not respond to his criticism by saying, “You know John, you are such a wise person, thank you for telling me all the ways I’m failing as a human being.”
Turn Towards Instead of Away-this is responding to the way your partner expresses needs/their bids for attention.  For example, if your spouse comments on something–no matter how small–you should respond kindly.  Stable couples turn towards 86% of the time.  Divorcing couples about 33%.

These first three levels of the house make repair work in relationships. If this is done, more humor and positive affect will occur during arguments. Laughter puts people in “what’s this mode” in a discussion rather than “what the hell is this mode.” If you build these first three levels, you will have more positive affect during conflict.  It also leads to good sex and romance. He talked about many husbands who are not doing any of these first 3 levels of the house, and then they try to do something like give their wife a golden locket with their picture in it – “is she going to like it?” or do you think she’ll say “John, I love it! let’s have sex!” – probably not.

The Positive Perspective-this is positive sentiment override (vs. negative-an overall negative evaluation of your partner and the relationship. See them more as an adversary than an ally. They view even neutral or positive events as negative).

Manage Conflict-69% of the time, couples are fighting about the same stuff, in the same way.  Relationships work when you select someone to have a relationship with whose unsolved problems you can live with. They can be about punctuality, neatness, commitment, finances, or anything. Hidden agendas emerge as these are discussed.  A couple may be talking about money, but underneath is the problem of what money means. Masters of marriage establish a dialogue about these issues.  The goal in therapy is not to resolve these problems, but to get people to cope with them better.  Partners must constantly adapt to one another’s needs… Masters of marriage have a gentle approach to conflict – they accept influence, use humor, etc. Two things must be recognized: most conflicts are perpetual-each person’s position has an existential meaning that has to be examined, and both partners must have a gentle approach to the conflict.
Make Life Dreams Come True-know your partner’s life dreams, and work together to accomplish them.
Create Shared Meaning-build a sense of culture and meaning, including parts of society, church, children, basically creating a new culture from two separate families. 
Some final thoughts:
  • He suggested couples do “the 6 second kiss upon reunion” Then he counted out 6 seconds, and smiled and said, “that’s a kiss that has possibilities” lol.
  • Many people say they want this written on their tombstone: “He lived every day like it was his last.” Gottman wants this on his tombstone: “He lived life, as if every moment he was about to eat a pastry.”
  • With the bottom level (love maps) and the top (shared meaning) so related, “maybe it shouldn’t be called ‘The Sound Relationship House’ but instead, ‘The sound relationship bagel.’  I don’t take myself very seriously.”

“And that’s everything I know, so far.”


About shenpa warrior

"Patience is not learned in safety." View all posts by shenpa warrior

4 responses to “John Gottman’s Sound Relationship House

  • Allie

    I think I’m going to have to start reading Gottman books. (Probably about time, eh?)

  • Anonymous

    The thing that John Gottman writes and talks about is all very wonderful … if the relationship is salvageable. His focus seems to be on identifying what does and does not work in solidifying a healthy relationship, with the assumption that the relationship has a chance to last. He claims to be able to predict relationship success with high accuracy based on observing a couple’s interaction, but what to do with the predicted failures? Yes, thanks to Gottman’s research many couples will able to to identify and understand why the relationship is in decay and work to turn into a lovely one. This is a nice sentiment, but even Gottman recognizes that realistically there are couples whose members are unhealthy to one another.

    So how do you go about with the dissolution of an unhealthy relationship? What does Gottman say is a healthy way to dissolve a relationship? What did Gottman do during his own divorce? How would he handle his divorce differently now? This is what I want to know.


  • Papa D

    So, to summarize:

    Communicate, compliment, listen and respond kindly, keep a positive attitude, don’t coerce change, cause dreams to be accomplished, create your own unity.

    I like it, but it’s overwhelming to try to do at once – and, unfortunately, that’s the natural response for most people. Pick one per month and focus on it, working hard every day to do it better. That can be done.

  • adam

    q – He’s been married to his current wife for over 20 years, so I imagine he didn’t have the insight he does now for his first one, lol.

    “how do you go about with the dissolution of an unhealthy relationship?”
    That is a very important topic, and I’m sure there is stuff out there about it. The only thing I’ve learned about it is related to the affects divorce has on kids. Apparently, if the divorce is a “friendly” one, and the two partners are able to maintain a good working relationship, the negative effects on children are mostly all negated. Granted, a friendly divorce may not be plausible in most situations.

    Papa D – It really is a lot of stuff at once, especially considering it came from 20+ years of research. I’ve been studying it for years now, and it’s starting to become second nature to me. My favorite book of his is “The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work.”

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