Making Relationships Work: 4-part Series From Dr. John Gottman

In this 4-part video series, Dr. John Gottman discusses relationship patterns (and their effects) that he observed over 35 years of research.

Part 1: 


– Dr. Gottman explains how he and Bob Levinson (visually) observed and measured people’s physiological responses to different kinds of interactions with their partner. They wanted to pick up on any patterns in successful relationships as well as disastrous ones. After following couples for many years, they became able to predict, with over 90 percent accuracy, whether a relationship would last and how happy a couple would be.

– Being a gentle communicator and taking responsibility for even a small part of the problem stood out as a factor that separated the “masters” from the “disasters” in relationships. The disasters tended to be overly critical and point their finger (figuratively and literally) at their partners and when problems arose.

– They were also curious about the effects of parental interactions on child development. They found that how the parents argued in the woman’s third trimester of pregnancy greatly impacted the child’s temperament and neurological development in the first three years of the child’s life.

Part 2:


– Disasters become defensive or whine about problems whereas masters say something along the lines of “interesting point, let’s talk about that” – they are willing to be accountable and compromise. Disasters scan their environment for mistakes, often missing the positive things their partner is doing, while masters look for constructive ways to help or appreciate efforts.

– Contempt – any statement a person makes to their partner from a superior place (like correcting their grammar during an argument or name-calling), or talking down to the other – was one of the strongest predictors of relationship demise. Contempt also negatively affects the immune system of the recipient.

– An elevated heart rate sometimes lead to stonewalling – disengaging from a conversation or shutting down. 80 percent of stonewallers were men. Afterwards, when they were interviewed, the men that exhibited stonewalling behavior said they did that in an attempt to self soothe and let their partner “burn themselves out.”

– The quality of the friendship and emotional connection within the couple made all the difference when it came to repairing emotional hurt or resolving issues. Friendship between partners is especially strengthened by understanding the other person’s psyche. Asking open-ended questions, such as “how to you feel in your job right now,” was something couples with sound relationships frequently did, and they remembered the answers!

Part 3:


– In studying newlyweds, Dr. Gottman and his team measured a set of behaviors they call turning towards (engaging in a partner’s bid for attention/ connection), turning away (not engaging), and turning against (becoming annoyed or making a sarcastic comment). 6 years later, the couples that were still together used turning towards behavior 86 percent of the time, whereas couple that were divorced used turning towards behavior only 33 percent of the time. This behavior was also fundamental for a satisfying sex life.

– Many couples stop courting each other and being romantic once they’re in the established relationship. This is a mistake.

– Most arguments about money are not about money, they are about what the money means. When people have a clear idea about what their hopes and dreams are and how their dreams align with their partners’, resolving issues about money become easier.

Part 4 – Q & A:


– The most important thing in a relationship is know and honor your partner’s dreams.

– When it comes to work situations, in two-career families, what turns out to be most important in making the relationship work is the perception of fairness. If there’s a feeling that “we’re in this together” it makes a huge positive difference.

– A father’s role is hugely important and the more involved the father is, the happier everyone is. The greatest gift parents can give their kids is to have a happy relationship between the two of them.

– Elliot Aronson’s Jigsaw Classroom is a great resource for parents to teach their kids how to cooperate and develop communication skills.

Check out a couple of Dr. Gottman’s books:

Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart Of Parenting

What Makes Love Last? How To Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal

You can also read a whole bunch of his scholarly papers on his website.

– Nikita