negative marriage

Psychology Today reviewed the Gottman Method of Marriage Therapy  and I thought this week I would summarize the important thoughts presented in this article.

The Basics of the Method

The Gottman Method is based on observations showing there is a real science to that most indescrible of experiences, love. The method is built on research showing that negativity has a large impact on the brain, and that unless steps are taken to counteract these feelings of negativity, couples grow apart emotionally. It identifies and addresses the thoughts and behaviors shown to underlie intimacy and helps partners maintain a positive orientation to each other that can sustain them in upsetting circumstances. 


One of the main insights of this approach is that negative emotions, like anger and contempt, have more power to hurt a relationship than positive emotions have to help a relationship. As a result, the therapy focuses on developing understanding and skills so that partners can maintain admiration and turn toward each other to get their needs met, manage conflict, and know what to do when they mess up (because everyone does). “Negativity just makes a bigger impact on the brain, and unless we take steps to counteract it, slights will accumulate, continually accelerating the likelihood that partners will grow apart emotionally.”

5 to 1

Gottman, who is really into research, has developed a 5 to 1 ratio for positive to negative emotions. The five-to-one ratio is so fundamental it is the first of the “natural principles of love” that he sets forth in his newest book, Principia Amoris, a book he calls his largest and most important work. Building on more than 40 years of research he lays out what are the most important components of a healthy relationship.

Damage Repair

All over the world Gottman has found that people automatically evaluate every human transaction on a scale of positive to negative. To repair the damage of missing each other’s desire to connect, individuals benefit from understanding their partner’s needs as well as their own. That, says Gottman, is the measure of trust—the degree to which you believe your partner has your interests in mind and can listen to you nondefensively, even if you can’t stand each other in the moment. It is the single most important factor that takes a marriage beyond the fabled seven-year breakup point.

If you would like to read more about how Mike DeMoss uses the Gottman Method in therapy please click on the link. Thanks for reading our blog and feel free to contact us for any reason.

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