Relationships: Building A Strong Foundation

I love the quote by John Gottman "every positive thing you do in your relationship is foreplay" -- it just makes so much sense doesn't it? (It's available on a tee shirt by the way in case you and your honey need the occasional reminder, it's also a good mantra!) If you've landed on this page, perhaps you're interested in having more in your relationship than just good communication and conflict resolution. You want something solid -- even juicy -- a relationship that keeps you engaged and in growth and awe. Having a lasting, satisfying marriage requires a bit more work than just learning to communicate and manage conflict. The majority of couples therapies focus on the "conflict system" vs the "friendship system," the latter is the building block for passion, intimacy and great sex. Friendship system -- yes, new concept perhaps -- but it makes sense on so many levels doesn't it? But how well do you know your partner, and are you really friends(not talking roommates here)? Not that it's not important to help couples manage problems and resolve differences, but having a marriage that thrives and continues to build involves strengthening the foundation of the relationship.  This includes helping couples create shared purpose as they build their lives together. With a focus only on conflict and communication, couples tend to terminate therapy without the other very important goodies and learned skills that are likely to make the relationship stronger. You must, absolutely must, make deposits in the relationship bank on a regular basis. John and Julie Gottman of The Gottman Institute have researched not only troubled relationships but also successful relationships. This is an important aspect of relationship research and Dr. Gottman has published nearly 200 academic articles and authored or co-authored 40 books on relationships. As a psychotherapist who enjoys coaching and working with couples, I’ve found Gottman’s therapeutic approach to be rigorous, comprehensive and really, really wise.  Working with a therapist who has trained in the Gottman Method means that you learn to break through barriers to achieve connection, intimacy and a greater understanding of their partners needs. You will get to know your partner in ways that you never imagined. Intervention strategies are based on empirical data from research with more than 3,000 couples. So what can a motivated couple expect to learn in relationship counseling?

  • Break throughs and conflict management when partners feel stuck
  • Learn to understand your partner's needs
  • Keep conflict discussions calm and focused
  • Increase respect, affection, and closeness
  • Create shared meaning

What we've learned about successful partnerships is that in order for a relationship to last, couples must learn to manage conflict, become better friends and really important here, create ways to support each other’s hopes for the future. I've enjoyed using the “Sound Relationship House” or the seven components of healthy partnerships to provide a roadmap for guiding couples to success. Early in our work together, we will assess each of these seven areas of your relationship. From there, we can develop a treatment plan what will address your unique needs. Using questionnaires and specific interventions, positive change can begin very early in our work together.

So what actually happens when you work with a therapist who applies Gottman interventions? If you are both motivated and have the shared goal to work towards a stronger, more satisfying coupleship, I will help you visualize building a sound relationship house from the ground up. Learn to...

  • Build Love Maps - I love this aspect of the sound relationship house. What do you know about your partner’s inner psychological world, his or her history as well as stresses, worries, desires and hopes for the future?
  • Share Fondness and Admiration - This becomes the antidote for resentment and contempt with a focus on strengthening fondness and admirations and learn to express appreciation and respect.
  • Turn Towards Instead of Away -  Learn to identify and state your needs as well as notice efforts (sometimes small) towards connection by your partner that you may often miss. Learn to turn towards those bids for connection.
  • The Positive Perspective -  This includes a positive approach to problem-solving and learning to make successful attempts at repair. People often don't know how to repair things.
  • Manage Conflict - Relationship conflict is natural, has positive aspects and is functional. Learning to manage conflict is key.
  • Make Life Dreams Come True - Learn to create an atmosphere that encourages each person to talk honestly about his or her values, beliefs, convictions, hopes, dreams and aspirations.
  • Create Shared Meaning - Lear about “rituals of connection” that strengthen your union with activities and rituals that you both look forward to.  What are some important narratives, visions and metaphors as well as myths about your relationship?

Explore The Gottman Institute to learn more about creating the relationship you desire.

Dr. John Gottman, author of  including the best-selling The Relationship Cure,The Seven Principles for Making Marriage WorkWhy Marriages Succeed or Fail, and Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child. He is perhaps best known for founding the “Love” lab (the Family Research Laboratory) at the University of Washington to study what makes relationships succeed or fail. Please contact me if you are interested in couples therapy and relationship building. The Gottman Method is also ideal for young couples just starting and pre-marital sessions.