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  • Writer's pictureJackie Schwartz, LMFT

5 Marriage Tips From a Gottman Couples Therapist

I’ve been a licensed marriage and family therapist for 12 years and I have been lucky enough to work with a variety of clients from all walks of life. For the past 7 years, however, I have dedicated myself to specializing in couples counseling using the Gottman method.

For those who are unaware, the Gottman method is a model of couple’s therapy that is based on over 40 years of longitudinal research where more than 3000 couples have been studied. This method has been proven to repair damaged and distressed couples and enrich relationships with practical tools, which I will be discussing in this blog!

Read below or my 5 Tips to Enhance Your Marriage (from a Gottman Couples Therapist):

Tip #1- Don’t store things up

It’s perfectly natural to feel agitated at your partner! From time to time it’s going to happen; don’t try to avoid it. When we feel upset, agitated, or angry at our partner it’s so important to speak up about it in a respectful, kind, and polite way. This doesn’t mean being a fake or inauthentic version of yourself, it means communicating our thoughts and feelings in a gentle way that yields more positive outcomes and improves the likelihood that our needs will be met. It’s also important to note that when we avoid communicating our thoughts, they ESCALATE in our mind and we are more likely to erupt in an unexpected way. So speak up, but do it in a useful way.

Tip #2- Turn towards bids for connection

A “bid” is an attempt to interact in a positive or neutral way. A bid is a way to verbally or nonverbally seek out attention, affection, affirmation, or humor. When this happens we can either turn towards our partner by responding positively to their bid or we can turn away or against the bid which in the long run can be very damaging to relationships.

According to a study newlyweds who responded positively to bids 86% of the time went on to build a lasting love. But the newlyweds who went on to divorce within a few years responded to each other’s bids only 33% of the time. I refer to these small positive interactions as the heartbeat of the relationship that keeps things moving in the right direction. So as you can see, turning towards bids is essential to creating lasting love.

Tip #3- Build and update love maps

Love maps refer to how well you know one another. This is the most basic premise of a couple’s friendship. Love maps mean knowing one another’s inner world which includes thoughts, values, belief systems, aspirations, fears, goals, etc.

This means understanding your partner’s background such as embarrassing childhood experiences and notable moments in time that stand out for your partner. Additionally, it means staying up to date with your partner.

We grow and evolve all the time and it’s so important to stay curious about our partners so that we don’t lose sight of who they are and who they’re becoming. This involves staying curious about our partner- not assuming we know all there is to know just because we’ve been together a long time, asking open-ended questions, and remembering the answers.

Tip #4- Make repair attempts during the conflict

Conflict is inevitable and you will experience some form of negativity from time to time in your relationship. People are surprised to learn that negativity is not necessarily problematic or destructive to relationships. It’s the escalation of negativity that is problematic and can be destructive.

A repair attempt is a means of soothing your partner during a conflict that has escalated into negativity. A repair is an effective way to diffuse a tense situation and prevents conflict from spiraling into negativity. An example of a repair attempt is “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say it that way” or “I hear your side and I understand” or “I’m sorry”. Another productive way to make a repair attempt is to use affection and humor; for example, making a funny face or just saying “I love you” can soothe your partner during the conflict. According to John Gottman, a couple’s ability to repair attempts during conflict is what will lead them to flourish or flounder.

Tip #5- Form rituals of connection

A ritual of connection is any consistent way of spending time with your partner that is reliably positive. This can be drinking coffee together in the mornings, spending a few minutes each night talking before bed, Saturday date night plans, and how you celebrate birthdays and holidays. Having rituals of connection is a way of continuing to have fun together as a couple and prioritizing connection.

Couples who consistently use these tools or variations of these tools have been called “masters of relationships”, and have been noted as having thriving relationships. While couples who neglect these areas have more challenges and are more likely to separate and divorce.

If you are struggling to get to a brighter and more positive place in your marriage or relationship, then fear not! There are many of us who are here and waiting to help you make the changes that lead to positive outcomes.

For more information about my approach to Gottman Method Couples Therapy, visit my page on our website. If you’re ready to improve your relationship, give me a call for a complimentary consultation at 954-391-5305. I look forward to speaking with you!


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