Frequently Asked Questions About Gottman Therapy

Relationships require hard work from both sides. The steady march of time tends to soften the intense feelings at the start of a relationship. It replaces all the excitement and rush with the complacency of routine.

Over the years, cracks begin to show, and disagreements become more frequent. Although there is no easy fix for relationship problems, couples therapy can help you and your partner work through these issues together.

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According to psychologist John Gottman, marital conflicts usually fall under two broad categories: the solvable and the perpetual. The former might include work stress and domestic duties, which are manageable to some degree. While the latter depends on fundamental differences.

Gottman estimates that 69% of marital conflicts are perpetual or present in every marriage. Perpetual problems are the focus of the Gottman Method. 

The Gottman Method is a contemporary evidence-based approach to couples counseling. It seeks to help couples identify and address relationship barriers to achieve deeper understanding, connection, and growth.

Based on his research, Gottman identified seven healthy relationships characteristics, visualized in the Sound Relationship House framework. The “house” is held in place by two pillars: trust and commitment. Without these two, the structure will fall apart. 

The lower levels of the house comprise the friendship system. The first building block urges couples to build love maps or blueprints containing relevant information about their partner. Sharing fondness and admiration is the second building block.

The third building block is what Gottman calls “turning towards.” It refers to a conscious decision to respond to your partner’s need for attention and support instead of turning away.

The fourth building block is displaying a positive perspective. It means viewing you and your partner as being part of the same team.    

The upper floors are dedicated to conflict management, making life dreams come true, and creating shared meaning. 

Couples trying the Gottman Method begin with an assessment of the relationship. Each partner gets an individual interview and a joint session. Through this, the therapist gets a clear picture of where the two parties stand. Afterward, the couple must use the framework to construct their Relationship House.

They learn how to emulate best practices from successful couples by working on harmful habits, strengthening communication skills, and deepening emotional connection to pursue shared goals. 

If you would like to check whether the Gottman Method is right for you and your partner, read the most frequently asked questions below. 

What is the best therapy for couples?

The three most established couples therapy approaches are the Emotionally-Focused Therapy or EFT, Imago Relationship Therapy, and the Gottman Method. Most therapists would integrate these different therapies into their practice. Upon assessment, they will start applying the therapy best suited for your needs and situation.

Couples therapy provides a safe space to discuss problematic patterns and issues in a relationship. It comes in different types since different relationships and marital problems require different approaches.

Does the Gottman method work?

Many scientific studies and research have backed up the Gottman Method’s effectiveness for addressing couples’ relationship issues. In fact, it has been one of the most widely used couples’ therapy approaches because of its detailed structure.

Unlike other individual-focused couples’ therapy methods, the Gottman Method focuses on couples’ behavior patterns together. This therapy approach has boosted intimacy, compatibility, empathy, and communication while removing stagnancy and relationship barriers.

What is a Gottman therapist?

A Gottman therapist is a therapist trained to conduct therapy sessions based on the Gottman Method. During therapy sessions, they educate couples on the Sound Relationship House Theory. They then help the couple apply in practice its principles and components.

Moving forward, a Gottman therapist will help the couple improve their friendship, manage conflicts, and create shared meaning together.

Does BetterHelp offer couples counseling?

Yes. BetterHelp provides couples counseling services as well as individual and marriage counseling online. Scheduling each session is more flexible and convenient on the platform since you can access a licensed therapist’s services anytime.

The online therapy sessions enable couples to engage in Q&A counseling with a qualified couples’ therapist. The therapist will guide you through couples’ therapy fundamentals for each session.

What are the three C’s in a healthy relationship?

The three C’s in any healthy relationship are communication, compromise, and commitment. These three crucial virtues allow couples to stay together without losing touch. It allows partners to show their partner they are understood, needed, appreciated, and desired.

Finding a balance between these three is the building block of a stronger bond and connection in a relationship.

What is the Gottman repair checklist?

The Gottman Repair Checklist is an intervention in couples therapy that uses repair phrases on different interaction categories. These different repair phrase checklists include I feel, Sorry, Get to Yes, I Need to Calm Down, Stop Action!, and I Appreciate.

These statements help couples de-escalate situations to regulate their emotions better. It allows you to focus on your partner’s emotional responses and co-regulate with them.

What is the biggest predictor of divorce?

According to Dr. John Gottman, the Gottman Method’s proponent, the biggest predictor of divorce is contempt. When partners show contempt in the relationship, they are dismissing the other as unimportant. It is often through sarcasm, criticism, and negative judgment.

You do not feel valued and welcomed to express your thoughts or share your dreams and ideas. Thus, the relationship loses its “give and take” concept, leading to conflicts after conflicts.

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Can couples therapy make things worse?

Generally, couples therapy doesn’t make things worse for a relationship. In fact, studies show that around 70% of couples therapy cases result in a positive change.

However, the outcome of each session can support the decision making in ending a relationship. The problem can also root from seeking couples therapy too late when the relationship is already beyond repair.

What does Gottman say about communication in marriage?

In his study, Dr. John Gottman discovered four communication patterns in a relationship and marriage. These are contempt, criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling. These patterns serve as a predictor of how marriage will end up.

While there is no perfect communication in marriage, addressing these four communication patterns can improve the relationship.

What is stonewalling in marriage?

Stonewalling in marriage is the act of shutting down and refusing to communicate with your partner. It is often because of feeling overwhelmed in a situation.

Some of its manifestations can be ignoring, avoidance, acting busy, turning away, or tuning out of a conversation. It turns into a problem when it becomes a habit and is used to manipulate their partner into getting what they want.

What is the Gottman Relationship checkup?

The Gottman Relationship Checkup is a relationship assessment tool used in a therapeutic setting. It comprises 480 questions that revolve around intimacy, emotions, friendships, trust, values, and conflict. It also takes an in-depth take on specific areas like housework, parenting, finances, etc.

The tool enables therapists to create tailored clinical feedback with specific therapy recommendations. On average, it would take around an hour or two to complete the Gottman Relationship Checkup.

What is a love map, Gottman?

The “love map” is the term Dr. Gottman created to get to know their partner’s own complex world. It involves storing relevant information in your brain about your partner’s life, fear, and dreams. It’s about getting to know their history as well as their present joys and worries.

Building a love map encourages genuine interest and clarity between each other in a relationship.

Will marriage counselors ever suggest divorce?

In general, marriage counselors stay at an arm’s length with their clients. Hence, they do not overtly and directly suggest couples stay together or divorce. Keep in mind that marriage counselors and therapists only help teams get a clearer view of their marriage.

The process of each counseling session helps an individual understand their relationship better and arrive at a decision. However, therapists do not give an exact directive for coming up with these decisions, including getting a divorce.

What is the success rate of couples therapy?

Before the 1980s, couples therapy methods have had limited success, with an average success rate of 50 percent. However, after identifying critical behaviors in methods like the Gottman Method, the current practice now has a roughly 75% success rate. The outcome studies included therapy cases for high-stress couples, including infertile couples, military couples, and parents with chronically-ill children.

Meanwhile, those in the 25 percent failing group are mostly couples in abusive relationships.

What are bad signs in a relationship?

Every relationship experiences conflict and occasional rough patches. In fact, the conflict resolution part of disagreements and misunderstandings is a healthy aspect of relationships. However, when this turns into repeated behavior and habit, it could be a worrisome sign and unhealthy relationship pattern.

These signs often include avoidance, humiliation, dishonesty, codependency, controlling behavior, and abuse. As a result, it could lead to hatred and loss of self-worth of both partners.

Similarly, a house needs regular repairs; a couple needs to put in the work to maintain their metaphorical home. From building love maps to creating shared meaning, a couple should pay close attention to each floor to make their relationship work for the long run.  

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Gottman emphasizes that a deep friendship characterized by love, affection, and intimacy is a good foundation of a healthy and supportive relationship. If your relationship is going through a rough patch, try asking yourself: am I a good friend to my partner? Do I still enjoy their company? How do we usually resolve our disagreements? 

It can be challenging to identify dysfunctions in a relationship from within. Some issues might be too entrenched for you to recognize on your own. This is where a couples therapist can step in to provide the necessary guidance.

Depending on their clients’ problems, the therapist might focus on improving conflict resolution skills or bridging emotional distance. They can also tackle specific issues like money management and childcare and address relapse prevention. 

However, it’s important to note that a therapist does not generally recommend a specific course of action. They are unlike doctors that prescribe medicine to treat physical illnesses. Therapists can help clients better understand the relationship but respect each individual’s agency to decide for themselves.

Ultimately, the couple decides to put in the work to make the relationship function more effectively.