Gottman’s Sound Marital House

Building a healthy marriage is similar to building a house. You have to start with the foundation and work your way upward from there. John Gottman, one of the most well-recognized researchers on couple relationships, has created the “Sound Relationship House” theory to guide couples on their journey of constructing a healthy relationship. He describes 7 levels that are built one on top of the other to achieve this goal.

Level 1: Build Love Maps

This involves really getting to know your partner. Ask about their likes and dislikes, dreams, fears, hopes. You can do this by asking open-ended questions.

Level 2: Share Fondness and Admiration

It is so easy to look at those around us and see their faults. However, this is obviously not something that promotes a happy relationship. Our goal is to see the good in our partner and share feelings of affirmation and love with them. Choose to see the good rather than try to change what you don’t like.

Level 3: Turn Towards

As humans, we all have the need to love and feel loved, however, we all need that love in different ways. The best person to teach us about our partner’s needs…is them! When they reach out for our love or desire connection, we must choose to turn towards them rather than away. Doing so allows us to become even more aware of our partner’s requests for emotional connection.

Level 4: The Positive Perspective:

This level comes as a result of the first three. When we have a close friendship with our partner, we tend to see them in a generally positive light. We have a good impression of who they are, which helps us to overcome conflicts and challenges more easily. However, if we haven’t spent time to carefully build the first few levels of our foundation, we can experience “negative sentiment override.” This causes us to view our partner negatively, no matter what the situation is.

Level 5: Manage Conflict

Conflict is inevitable in a relationship, so learning to address it in a healthy way is crucial to relationship survival. Managing conflict begins with addressing the issues as well as our responses to them. Focus on the Four Parts of Effective Problem Solving: Softened startup, accepting influence, repair, and de-escalation.

Level 6: Make Life Dreams and Aspirations Come True

Isn’t this a huge component of the “falling in love” process in the first place? We fall in love with an individual and the dream we have for our life together, but often we lose sight of that as reality hits and challenges arise. Making sure to set goals and encourage one another on the path to reaching them can reawaken that excitement that existed when the relationship began.

Level 7: Create Shared Meaning

The attic of our house is where we store the meaning of our lives together. We each bring different backgrounds, cultures, ideas, passions, and understanding to the relationship. But to create stability and unity we must mold it all together. Yes, we are still individuals, but we are also a partnership. Creating meaning in what we do, how we act, and what we say as a couple can be the glue that makes us feel as one.

Just like building a home takes time and diligent effort, creating a happy and healthy relationship takes work. But the end result is worth the time it took to get there.

Research provided by Samantha Marshall


7 Tips for a Mindful Marriage in the New Year

We are approaching the end of yet another year, and the years seem to just keep flying by. If we aren’t careful life can slip by without fully enjoying the people and things we love most. Being mindful, or maintaining an awareness of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surroundings, can help us to be more mentally, emotionally and physically present, and more fully enjoy those things, and people, that matter most to us. Consider these seven tips to increasing mindfulness in your relationship with your significant other in the new year.

1. Practice personal mindfulness

Practicing personal mindfulness can help to create a stronger relationship with your significant other. Quieting the excess chatter in your mind will help to steady your emotions and lower your physical and mental stress levels, potentially making you less reactive to your partner’s actions or words. It can also help you to focus on the small, everyday moments with your loved one, such as being fully present when you hug or kiss them.

2. Prioritize time with your spouse

In order for us to connect and be mindful of our partner, we need to have time together. Make your spouse a priority and give them your undivided attention, even if it is for ten minutes every day to check in with them about their day. No TV. No phones. No books. Just each other.

3. Continually learn about each other

Take time to ask open-ended questions so you can know about what is really going on in their world. The more mindful you are of each other’s hopes, dreams and challenges the more of support you can be to each other.  

4. Show affection 

Let your partner know that you are mindful of them through showing your love daily through affection. Hold hands, give a lingering full-body hug, or five-second kiss.

5. Play together

Have fun together and try new things. Show that you are mindful of your partner by trying things that he/she enjoys doing.

6. Express appreciation and compliments

Show your partner that you are aware of them by sharing genuine compliments and words of appreciation daily.

7. Service

Show your partner that you are mindful of them by helping to ease their load through small acts of service. Even little things like getting up with the kids, making dinner, or doing a chore you normally don’t do can make a huge difference.

Research provided by Naomi Brower


Doherty, W. J. (2013). Take back your marriage. New York: NY: The Guildford Press:

Gottman, J. M. & Silver, N. (2007). The seven principles for making marriage work. London, England: Orion Books, Ltd.


Parker, T. (2016, August 24). How to mindfully meditate in marriage. [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Why Trust Matters in Relationships and Marriage

Trust is a valuable asset in every relationship. It is the cornerstone that shapes an individual’s ability to engage in a happy relationship. Trust provides comfort in a relationship where two people can learn to count on each other. Consider the following tips to help you build trust in your relationships.

T The first key is time.

Healthy relationships and healthy marriages require time to learn each other’s likes and dislikes, hot-button issues, favorite topics, life experiences and expectations. Trust between couples is built by investing time in each other. Individuals relax when time spent together is respectful and honoring, maximized and fulfilling, and rewarding (even when challenging). Even couples who have been together for a long time must continue to invest time in each other to nurture the trust in the relationship.

R The second key is reliability.

Reliability is important because of each person’s need to have someone they can safely count on. As couples grow together, spouses take on specific roles and responsibilities in the relationship or family. The ability to rely on each other to effectively manage a family or marriage together is essential to sustain trust. Reliability builds an abiding trust that is essential to successful relationships.

U Understanding is the third key to deepening a trusting relationship.

The greater the understanding, the more likely it is that spouses will develop unconditional love. Many relationships suffer from what appear to be half-hearted attempts at understanding and accepting differences in each other. Part of this also understanding when relationship expectations are realistic and when they are unrealistic. It is difficult to establish trust without understanding. It is easier to walk away than to walk in someone else’s shoes.

S The fourth key to developing a trusting relationship is sacrifice.

When a person exhibits behaviors in which they sacrifice something for the good of the relationship, trust develops. This can be thought of as the opposite of selfishness in a relationship. It is difficult because many people (unknowingly) expect greater sacrifice from their spouses than they are willing to make themselves. Sacrifices of both partners must be balanced and must be mutual in order to avoid any resentment of one partner toward the other. A healthy marriage is the product of two individuals, each making sacrifices for each other to better the relationship. It is helpful for partners to discuss with one another what their expectations are and be open about what sacrifices each partner feels he or she is making for their relationship or family.

T The fifth and final key to develop a trusting relationship or marriage is thankfulness.

This means recognizing and appreciating a partner’s efforts. As spouses or partners grow in relationships, they should never be taken for granted. They should always be shown they are appreciated for their kindness, concern and care. Doing so expresses to them that they are important, and their efforts are rewarded. Trusting one’s heart to another demands reciprocity, as it is easier to continue to perform lovingly when your gestures are appreciated. Thankfulness matters, because one will seldom continue to pour love onto an unappreciative person. A lack of thankfulness can doom a relationship.


Understanding the necessary keys of trust can help couples to thrive and grow in their relationship. Try to focus on building one aspect of trust in a close relationship this week!

Research provided by Naomi Brower



4 Reasons Why Date Nights Matter

The holiday season is a great time to spend building memories as a family, but don’t forget to also take time for a one-on-one date with your sweetheart too! While it can be a challenge to make arrangements or take the time to get away together research has shown that having date nights can strengthen your relationship in the following ways:

  1. Time to talk can provide opportunities to reconnect and discover your partner’s newest interests and dreams.
  2. Having fun together. Date nights provide an opportunity to get out of the routine, build happy memories and rekindle the spark that can help to sustain couples through the tough times.
  3. Strengthen commitment. Setting aside time to go on a date demonstrates your commitment to each other and sets an important example to children or others that you value your relationship.
  4. Stress relief. Date nights allow couples to enjoy time together apart from the pressing concerns of ordinary life.

In order to make the most of your time together consider the following tips:

  • Make an effort to plan your date in advance, and if needed budget so you can put money towards some nice evenings out. For ideas on what to do for your date, check out the blog post 10 Tips for Romance on a Budget
  • Make an effort to look your best by wearing something special for your date together (clothing, cologne, jewelry, etc.).
  • Get ready to music that pumps you up! When you’re listening to music you enjoy, you’ll begin to feel good and radiate positive energy.
  • Give compliments. Compliment yourself and your spouse to build self-esteem.
  • Make the car ride special. Use the time driving to get to know your partner better and discover their current hopes, dreams, and interests.

The research and information was provided by Naomi Brower

For more information see “The Date Night Opportunity” by Brad Wilcox and Jeff Dew found at

Reconnecting in Relationships


We all have challenges even in our closest relationships. In fact, most relationships have about 12 things that they disagree on at any one time. Twelve!!! But what’s more important than those struggles are the things we do to build our relationship and to reconnect. When we focus on the things that are going right in our relationships, we can more easily conquer the struggles we may be facing as a team. So how do we reconnect and build a stronger relationship?  Consider the following “three L’s and a T.”

Look at your partner

We see those we love almost every day but when was the last time you looked at them deep in their eyes and really connected with them? Try this, look in your partner’s eyes for about 30 seconds, really pay attention to their expressions, and be in the moment with them. Look at the person as a whole, for who they really are, and not just what you might be hurt or frustrated about.   When we really connect with someone, we feel it deep inside and it also literally stimulates our brain, not to mention helping us to feel closer to our partner!

Laugh with your partner

When we were kids we laughed 200 to 300 times a day but the average adult may only average 12 to 14 times per day! When we lose humor in our relationship, we may get too wound up and lose sight of the bigger picture and being able to see humor in one another and in challenging moments. For good mental health, it’s a good idea to get five belly laughs a day. So, turn on your silliness and dance around the kitchen or find ways to make each other laugh! It’s not only good for your own health but also strengthens your relationship.

Listen to your partner every day

 Sometimes we think we are being good listeners but in reality, we are more rejecting then we are receiving of our partner. Often times listening is about seeking connection with someone rather than having someone share advice or solve problems. Even if we ask for advice, we are often just seeking to be understood and validated.  So, the next time your partner is sharing their thoughts with you, listen very carefully to what your partner is sharing, not just to the words but why it is important to them.

Touch daily

 Physical touch is good for our health! Shoot for five hugs a day. Many of these will probably be from your partner, but they can also be from kids or others that are close to you. Touch could also be in the form of holding your partner’s hand while watching TV, giving them a kiss hello or goodbye, or touching them on the shoulder or hair as you walk by just to let them know that you acknowledge them. When we touch someone, we let them know that they are important to us and it builds our relationship.

By practicing these “three L’s and a T” on a daily basis we exercise our relationship muscles so that we continue to grow together rather than letting our relationship atrophy. Reconnecting with your partner doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money, but making some investments every day can make a huge difference in your relationship and your general happiness and satisfaction in life!

Research provided by Naomi Brower

Based on personal communication with Doug Nielsen, psychotherapist and speaker,


Staying Connected

Family researcher and psychologist, John Gottman, Ph.D. suggests that small emotional connections between partners add up to big-time relationship satisfaction. He compares them to making steady deposits in a bank account and watching your savings grow.

Taking time to make these connections can be challenging in our busy world, and especially during the increasingly busy holiday season. For those of you who would like some creative inspiration, here are some ideas on how to stay connected with your special someone. Pick the ones that work for you. Use them as a starting point to create your own “quick connects.”

  1. Make sure your kisses last at least six seconds. Every now and then go for a full minute.
  2. Write them a love note– on the mirror, in their lunchbox, purse or pocket, or text/e-mail it.
  3. Send funny and/or romantic cards by snail mail or e-mail.
  4. Get silly with each other and laugh out loud together.
  5. Grab your partner for a spontaneous dance when a favorite song comes on the radio or stereo.
  6. Hold hands.
  7. Send a funny photo on your phone.
  8. Ask about each others’ days.
  9. Listen with 100% attention—make eye contact when you talk.
  10. Give a one-minute shoulder or foot massage.
  11. Do something unexpected for your spouse.
  12. Snuggle on the couch.
  13. Touch each other with affection.
  14. Notice and comment about something your spouse does that you like.
  15. Say thank you and you’re welcome.
  16. Be interested in what your spouse is doing. Offer to help.  
  17. Leave a flower or special treat.
  18. Write a poem for your special someone—it’s ok if it’s silly!
  19. Offer to cook dinner if you aren’t the one who usually cooks.
  20. Post photos on the refrigerator or bathroom mirror that remind you of wonderful times you’ve shared.
  21. Offer to take the kids out of the house for a while and give the other parent some alone time.
  22. At night, step outside together for five minutes and look at the stars.
  23. Sing to each other.
  24. Establish a weekly ritual that you faithfully observe. For example, watching a favorite television program, taking a walk after dinner, putting candles on the table.
  25. Watch a sunrise or sunset together.

Try this…

  • Make up your own list of things to do to quickly connect with your spouse.
  • Make sure you do at least one thing from your list every day.

This research and information was provided by Naomi Brower


 Gottman, J.M. & Silver, N. (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work. New York: Crown Publish

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