While the Gottman method utilizes several checklists and questionnaires to assess a couple’s relationship, these tools are inadequate to completely describe a couple’s friendship and health of the relationship. For this purpose, Dr. Gottman developed the Sound Relationship House.
The Sound Relationship House consists of seven levels, each designed to have its own impact.
The ground floor is the Love Map. Building such a love map involves asking open ended questions to better get to know one’s partner. This knowledge must be updated at least once in a while.
The second floor of the Sound Relationship House is the Fondness & Admiration System. We know from previous posts that contempt is the most ruthless of the four horsemen but building a strong Fondness & Admiration System acts as an antidote. It helps us know that it is better to pay attention to what a partner does right and appreciate and admire them for those things instead of looking at our partner and pointing out the wrongs and correcting them.
Turning Toward is the third story of the house and can also be called the “Emotional Bank Account” In our relationships we say and do things to get our partner’s attention and have a little interaction. Sometimes it can be as simple as “Hey, look at that cool bird.” At these moments we have a choice: either we can turn away and ignore, or turn towards and engage emotionally. Turning towards allows partners to engage and can make all the difference when we are trying to build a solid relationship.
The fourth story builds on top of the first three and is called “The Positive Perspective”. It is based on a partner’s reaction to the first three stories.
- When a couple is positive (Positive Sentiment Override) with each other they can better make repairs during conflict.
- When a couple is negative (Negative Sentiment Override), they may take neutral, or even positive things, and turn them into negative things. This happens when a partner views his or her partner as an opponent, rather than a friend.
In order to change this couple from Negative Sentiment Override to Positive Sentiment Override, it is necessary to change the relationship and help the couple to see each other as friends again.
The fifth story consists of two parts of Conflict Management. This fifth story truly deserves a post of its own, and as such, we’ll keep things simple for this post. All couples have differences and conflicts; the goal is to manage those differences in a way that feels that we are valued by our partner. Research shows that the successful couples have a lot of positive interactions even when they disagree. The magic ration is 5-to-1 positive-to-negative interactions.
Making Life Dreams and Aspirations Come True is the sixth floor of the Sound Relationship House. In a relationship, it is necessary to understand one’s partner and help them discover their goals and dreams, and then help them come true. Many times our worst conflicts arise when the things we need the most, our deepest dreams, are frustrated in the relationship. In healthy relationships, both partners do what they can to help their partner’s dreams come true.
The last story of the house is Creating Shared Meaning. Dr. Gottman, describes this as the attic of the house. It is here that couples create shared meaning, by creating a life together, not just acting as two separate individuals. They establish a system to prioritize their time and resources. They create an environment of memories, much like a photo album. It is also here that couples can discover differences in desire and can explore the values of their partner.