The Gottman Method for Couples Counseling
What is the Gottman Method?
The Gottman Method is an evidence-based approach to couples therapy, with over 40 years of relevant research. The goal of the Gottman Method is to increase relational intimacy and connectedness. This involves bringing understanding, awareness, and empathy to your relationship.
As a Certified Gottman Therapist, I work with you to identify and address the natural defenses that are preventing effective communication and bonding in your relationship. I then coach you in research-based exercises and interventions that help you strengthen your relationship.
Highlights of the Gottman Method include ways to help you:
- Fight fair and repair.
- Build a foundation of friendship.
- Turn toward your partner with curiosity, empathy, and understanding.
- Rebuild and sustain intimacy.
- Recover from an affair.
Repair Is Key
One of the principles of the Gottman Method is that conflict is inevitable – even useful – in a relationship. What differentiates “master” couples and “disaster” couples isn’t whether or not you argue.Instead, what matters is being able to manage conflict constructively.
In instances where you don’t fight fair, what matters is how well you’re able to make repairs.
The key is not to aim for a conflict-free relationship – that’s impossible! What is possible is to learn how to address conflict constructively, in a way that still communicates love and acceptance to your partner.
Sometimes, though, we don’t fight fair.
We get defensive, we criticize, we turn away and show contempt. The Gottmans call these “regrettable incidents”. In these instances, I help you learn how to minimize the damage and make effective repairs so you can move forward together.
Conflict in Relationships Has a Purpose
Speaking of conflict, research conducted by the Gottman Institute has found that 69% of all conflict in relationships is not resolvable.
I know this sounds like bad news.
But there’s a chance for enormous growth and happiness within this concept! If you can remain curious about your partner, these unsolvable problems become opportunities. They are chances for you to get to know and love your spouse even more deeply.
This idea of unresolvable conflict also has another implication. If you and your partner were to split up, research shows you’d simply trade in one set of perpetual problems for another with your next partner.
As John Gottman explains, “Relationships work to the extent that you have a set of perpetual problems that you can learn to live with.” Working with me gives you the tools to approach the perpetual problems in your relationship with grace, love, and even a touch of humor.
Turning Toward Your Partner
In reality, what you’re looking for when you express emotion is someone to be curious about what you’re experiencing.
Someone to demonstrate empathy, and to help you feel heard and understood.
I help coach you in these techniques until you’re able to have these healing conversations on your own.
Atone, Attune, Attach
I also want to highlight the Gottman Method tools that are specific to dealing with the aftermath of an affair. I don’t believe repairing your relationship after there’s been infidelity is a weak decision. Rather, I see it as a strong decision if appropriate.
While I don’t ever recommend an affair as a method to repair a broken relationship, recovering from an affair is not only possible, it can make your relationship far better than it was before.
But it is hard work!
Recovering from the pain, distrust, and often PTSD that follows infidelity in a marriage requires a special type of repair. The Gottmans call this process Atone, Attune, and Attach.
I’ve taken additional training courses from the Gottmans specifically on this method, and have helped many, many couples through this courageous process.
In a nutshell, the Atonement process makes sure the hurt partner feels heard and validated. Atonement also includes:
- Asking for and receiving transparency.
- Ensuring the other relationship has ended.
- Gaining understanding of the pain and hurt caused by the affair.
- Demonstrating remorse
- Giving answers to important questions if requested.
Atonement is the stage where trust begins to be rebuilt.
This process is extremely delicate.
It can be devastating and can even cause more damage if done without the help of a knowledgeable relationship counselor. Despite the difficulty, for you to be able to heal, the Atonement process is necessary.
Once trust is being rebuilt, we can move into the Attune period. In this stage, I help you discover areas that were broken in the relationship before the affair. This includes places where each of you lost:
As part of this stage, I work with both of you to decide how your “New Marriage” needs to look.