What is the Gottman Method?

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Picture of Sam Grimaldo, LMFT, LPC

Sam Grimaldo, LMFT, LPC

Sam is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Professional Counselor in San Antonio. He specializes in working with couples to recover from disconnection caused by trauma or addiction.

Table of Contents

What is the Gottman Method of Couples Counseling?

The Gottman Method is a research-based approach to marriage and couples counseling thats been proven to save thousands of relationships. Through this research, completed by Dr. John Gottman, is was discovered that you can predict the likeliness of a divorce or breakup with over 90% accuracy by identifying certain dynamics in a relationship.

What is the research?

Through their extensive research on what makes relationships work, it was discovered that there are certain patterns of communicating and engaging on a daily basis that are predicative of divorce or a breakup.

The Gottman Method uses the information discovered through four decades of research with over 3,000 couples. This research helps to identify aspects of healthy relationship and has led to the creation of effective assessment for therapist who work with couples.

How is this research used?

The goal is to help couples understand their negative cycles of communication, lack of intimacy, and shed light on areas of growth and specific conversations that need to happen to increase the success of their relationship.

Two Types Of Couples:

The research divided relationships into two types, which they call the masters and the disasters. The Masters are comprised of couples who describe themselves as being satisfied in their marriage and who have stood the test of time despite challenges they have faced. Disasters are couples who’s relationship eventually ended in divorce.

The Gottman Assessment Process

Gottman therapy is rooted in science and is able to discover patterns in the relationship that are key to healthiness and satisfaction.

What’s the importance of proper assessment?

The assessment process is probably the most important part of successful couples therapy.

This process is similar to going to the doctor for the first time and having a professional do a thorough assessment to fully understand the complexity of the problem.

Albert Einstein once said if he had 60 minutes to solve a problem, he would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and 5 minutes solving it. Often in couples therapy, couples get stuck because they inadvertently focus on the wrong problem.

Luckily, the Gottman Method has provided insight into the questions and most important areas of a relationship that are crucial to assess. This has greatly helped to make the assessment process and defining the problems in a relationship more effective for successful couples therapy and overall satisfaction. Start Marriage Counseling in San Antonio. 

Gottman Method of Couples and Marriage Counseling San Antonio

What does the assessment measure?

The assessment phase of therapy helps to measure your friendship and intimacy, how you manage conflict, romance and passion, your levels of trust and commitment, your shared meaning, and overall relationship health. It is also designed to give an in-depth analysis of the relationships strengths and weaknesses.

The assessment phase consists of four sessions.

Assessment Session 1:

The initial session:

This is a time to discuss the story that is leading you and your partner to couples therapy. This will be a chance for each partner to explain the problem in the relationship as they experience it.

During this first session, couples are asked to discuss an area of conflict without any intervention from the therapist. While this might be uncomfortable at times, it is an important part of determining how each of you processes conflict in the relationship .

A brief history of the relationship is also taken along with determining goals for therapy. At the end of the session you will be invited and given instructions on how to take the online Gottman Relationship Checkup, a confidential clinical tool that will help evaluate relational strengths and challenges.

Assessment Session 2 and 3:

The next two sessions:

Are used for meeting with each partner individually. The individual sessions are a time for you and your partner to connect with therapist and go into further details about your perspective, history, family-of-origin, mental health history, hopes, expectations, and commitment to the relationship.

Assessment Session 4:

The fourth session is called the feedback session.

In this session, your therapist will verbally review your assessment findings.

This session will be providing feedback to the couple by integrating the information taken from their initial session, conflict discussion, individual sessions, and the Relationship Checkup questionnaires.

Couple are given feedback about their relationship strengths and areas needing improvement based off the Sounds Relationship House, which is the framework for the Gottman Method.

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Gottman Therapeutic Framework: Sound Relationship House

Build Love Maps:

The first three levels of the Sound Relationship House (SRH) make up the friendship.

This is the foundation of a strong and healthy relationship.

The first level of the house is Love Maps. Love maps are about how well you know your partner. How well you know your partner’s inner cognitive, psychological, spiritual, emotional world. Does the couple have a solid understanding of each other’s stressors, hurts, joys, and dreams. It involves asking open-ended questions and keeping up with the most current version of each other.

Share Fondness and Admiration:

The second level of the house is Fondness and Admiration.

It consists of letting go of scanning the environment for your partner’s mistakes and then correcting them, to scanning the environment for what your partner is doing right and building a culture of fondness, appreciation, and respect.

This level is also the antidote to contentment in a relationship.

Turn Towards Instead of Away:

The third level is Turn Towards vs. Turning away in everyday moments.

The building blocks of a relationship is actually made up of the small moments of everyday life.

A big part of this level is responding to bids for connection.

What are bids?

Bids for connection are any verbal or nonverbal action a partner does to request engagement, interest, attention, or support. A partner has the opportunity to either turn towards, turn away, or turn against a bid for connection. The very small everyday moments in a relationship are opportunities—opportunities for Turning Towards one another. Learning to become more aware of and accept bids for emotional connection are ways to make deposits into the Emotional Bank Account.

Maintain a Positive Perspective:

The first three levels determine whether this level is positive or negative.

A positive perspective occurs when friendship is strong. This level represents what it feels like in the relationship. Whether this level is positive or negative determines a lot of things, including the presence of positive affect in problem-solving discussions and the success of repair attempts during conflict.

If the first three levels of the Sound Relationship House are not strong, then couples tend to be in a negative perspective and become hypervigilant for negativity. They lose the ability of giving their partner the benefit of the doubt. People are in negative perspective for a reason: they see their partner as an adversary, not a friend.

To change that state, you need to build the friendship in your relationship, using the first three levels of the Sound Relationship House.

Manage Conflict:

We use the term “managing” conflict rather than “resolving” conflict because relationship conflict is natural and it has positive, functional aspects.

Conflict does not mean we are failing but instead are in an intimate relationship. Conflict is growth trying to happen. For example, it helps us learn how to deal with change and better love and understand our partners. The goal is to manage but not eliminate conflict. There are two types of conflict the research discovered. Perpetual and Solvable.

A. Manage Conflict:

Perpetual Problems make up the majority of couples’ problems.

Couples work to the extent you and your partner can learn to live with your perpetual problems. When a problem is a perpetual problem instead of solving it, learn how to dialogue about your different subjective realities.

The masters of relationships seem to be able to come to some acceptance of their problems. They are able to simultaneously communicate acceptance of their partner and the desire to improve the problem, often with amusement, respect, and affection. However, if they cannot establish such a dialogue, their conflict may become gridlocked which eventually leads to emotional disengagement.

B. Manage Conflict:

Solvable Problems Use these six skills to help manage conflict:

Practice self-soothing, use softened startups, make repairs and de-escalate, listen to your partner’s underlying feelings and dreams, accept influence, and compromise.

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Make Life Dreams Come True:

Everyone has a vision for their life.

In relationships there can be a collision of two different visions for the lifestyle a couple lives.

Find ways to support each other’s life goals and dreams. A crucial aspect of any relationship is creating a culture within the relationship that encourages each person to talk openly about his or her dreams, values, convictions, and aspirations.

Create Shared Meaning:

Here, we come to the attic of the Sound Relationship House. This is what you tell yourself about your relationship, your stories, metaphors, internal thoughts, and myths.

We are all meaning making individuals. We are constantly trying to make some sense out of this brief journey through life. This level of the Sound Relationship House is about creating shared meaning in the relationship. People create shared meaning intentionally by talking about:

• Rituals of Connection (formal and informal)
• Shared goals
• Supporting each other’s life roles
• Agreeing about basic symbols such as what a home means. Every committed relationship is a cross-cultural experience in which we blend together each partner’s values, legacy, beliefs, and culture to create an entirely new culture.


Trust occurs when you believe your partner has your best interest in mind and acts in ways that benefit you.

It’s knowing your partner values your interest and needs as much as their own. In other words, this mean, “my partner has my back and is there for me.”


Commitment means believing that this relationship is a lifelong journey, for better or for worse (meaning that if it gets worse you will both work to improve it).

Many couples marry without ever really understanding the commitment they are making or discussing how each of them views commitment. 

Act to maximize your partner’s well-being. Avoid negative comparisons. Learn to cultivate thoughts and acts that cherish your partner’s positive qualities and minimize your focus on their negative faults.

The Importance of the Therapeutic Alliance:

As with all methods in counseling, therapy cannot be truly effective unless there is an atmosphere of respect and genuine care from the therapist.

Only in a supportive environment and good therapeutic relationship can your relationship have enough safety to dive into the work necessary to heal. Learn more about Sam Grimaldo, LMFT, LPC, and see if starting marriage counseling in San Antonio is the next step for you. 

Conclusion: Who can benefit from Gottman Couples Therapy?

It turns out there is a tried and true formula you can follow to future proof your marriage or relationship. If you and your partner are interested in gaining insight into unhealthy patterns of communication and connection, then you can benefit from Gottman Couples Therapy. 

Overall the Gottman Method helps to build healthy relationships, maximize connection, and increase overall happiness and satisfaction in your marriage or relationship.

I firmly believe the quality of our lives are highly influenced by the quality of our relationships and often our most important relationship is with our spouse, the person we have chosen to go through life with. Schedule a consultation and start marriage counseling or couples therapy in San Antonio. Your relationships deserve the best!


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