What is “The Gottman Method?”

When you think about couple’s counseling, does it involve the following scenarios?

  • You spend sixty minutes talking about how it was great in the beginning but now [insert long list of complaints], while the therapist nods their head. They then suggest a weekly appointment for the next six months.
  • Your partner spends the entire session staring at the wall, saying nothing, and showing signs of discomfort.
  • Your partner stares at you with a stunned look/ embarrassment on their face. Telepathically begging you to stop talking.
  • You cry for the entire session, feel like a failure, and hope the therapist can fix you both in one session so life can go back to normal. 
  • Your partner goes into an in-depth character assassination of you and how you changed once you moved in together. 

Would it shock you to know that is not how most therapy sessions play out?

The Gottman Method of couples counseling does involve talking to each other. But it is more about creating a series of foundation blocks for your relationship and learning the techniques that will help get you through the tough times than it is psychoanalysis of why your significant other never replaces the toilet roll.

It is a method that I find the most successful in resolving problems and helps couples form a tight unit rather than two sides continuously battling it out for domination. It is based on Professor John Gottman’s 40 years of research studying the behaviours of couples in loving, long-term relationships. With a background in mathematics and statistical analysis, he used mathematical models and formulas to accurately predict which couples would stay together and which ones would be heading to the divorce courts – with an accuracy rate of over 90%!

Gottman’s method begins with the creation of what he calls “The Sound Relationship House,” with trust and commitment being the walls in which everything else is contained. Inside the house, couples practice seven principles that have been identified as the key to success. These being:

Create shared meaning

Sharing experiences, values, goals, and supporting each other to reach individual goals.   

Make life dreams come true

Creating an atmosphere where you feel free to speak honestly about your dreams, desires and aspirations without judgement.

Manage conflict

When conflict occurs (and it will), it is resolved using the skills of effective problem-solving, de-escalation and repair, listening, acceptance, and compromise.

The Positive perspective

To remain positive when problems and conflict occur—knowing that it is temporary and you will still be together once the issue has been resolved.  

Turn towards instead of away

You actively seek out opportunites to remind the other person that you care for them. Creating an ’emotional bank account’ that you can make withdrawals from when you don’t feel so enamoured with each other. You turn towards each other for affection, conversation, and support rather than someone or something else.  

Share fondness and admiration

Respect for each other and enjoyment in each other’s company.

Build love maps 

Knowing what each other likes, e.g., do they prefer gifts or acts of kindness and affection as expressions of love? Knowing what makes the other person tick, what they love, hate, and stress about, and how they want you to respond.  

The Gottman Method is not only for those on the brink of dissolving their partnership. Knowing from the very beginning how to work together when life throws a curve ball, is like being given a 75 metre advantage in a 100 metre race against adversity.

Seeing a relationship counselor does not mean that you have somehow failed in the game of life, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Just as you would seek treatment for a broken ankle, so you should seek help when a relationship suffers a fracture.  Visiting a relationship therapist is also like seeing a golf pro when you want to improve your game, or a swim instructor when you want to do more than doggy paddle. We won’t solve your problems for you but we can teach you how to solve them for yourselves.

The Gottman method is just one of the tools available to help you create the relationship you both want. I won’t know that it will work for you until we meet and discuss your particular circumstance. But I can promise you that our meeting won’t be like the scenarios described at the beginning. I’m a professional coach.

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Ann Jay

Ann Jay

Ann Jay is a Wellington Relationship Counselor who provides marriage counselling, couple's counselling, and relationship coaching for couples and women either in a relationship or single. Her goal is to help people create healthy, loving and fulfilling relationships and experience the love they deserve.