It is not unusual to hear from individuals seeking couples therapy that they want to have less conflict in the relationship. However, the truth is, happy couples and unhappy couples have the same number of conflicts in their relationships. What makes the difference is that happy couples feel like their conflicts lead to really good repairs. So, in Gottman Method Relationship Therapy when dealing with conflict we focus mostly on making really good repairs. We also know that happy couples fight differently than unhappy couples. Unhappy couples us a lot of criticism (personal attacks), contempt (hateful behaviors), defensiveness, and stonewalling (never allowing the conflict to come to resolution). We call these four behaviors the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse because they predict for divorce within 5 years with 94% accuracy. Part of making really good repairs is replacing each of the four horsemen with their antidotes. You will learn how to apply the antidotes in Gottman Relationship Therapy. Stop the useless and hurtful conflicts and learn to disagree in useful and productive ways.
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Emotions are seen as a way of getting closer. Increased intimacy is built by turning toward bids for emotional connection. Emotional moments are times to open up and build trust. There has to be trust and safety in the relationship for there to be a great sex life, a fun dating life, and to just enjoy time together. In Gottman Relationship Therapy we analyze what has happened to cause trust to erode and we provide a blueprint to rebuild trust. We identify the behaviors that are causing fear of further emotional hurt and provide principles to help heal. When our partners feel safe from emotional harm and feel connected to us emotionally the result is less disturbing conflict and an environment where rebuilding a sexual relationship is possible. We develop new rituals about initiating sex, how to say no, and how to take no. We identify all elements that put the sexual breaks on and find ways to safely take them off. We clarify the elements that enhance sexual desire and make plans to do more of them. Rebuild sex, romance, and passion in your relationship.
There are four levels to The Sound Relationship House:
Level 1–Friendship. Friendship includes three parts:
Level II—The Positive Perspective. A positive perspective grows out of a functioning friendship. When Love Maps are accurate and up to date, fondness and admiration is expressed consistently, and the couple experiences more turning towards each other’s bids for attention than turning away or against, the positive feelings naturally override the negative.
Level III–Regulation of Conflict. This is the degree to which the couple is able to respectfully talk about and accept influence from each other in disagreements. It also includes the ability of each party to allow the other to calm down when emotions are interfering with listening. When functioning well, repair attempts are effective and both partners are able to compromise.
Level IV—Make Life’s Dreams Come True/Create Shared Meaning. These two levels often overlap with each other. This is the degree to which the couple honors one another’s dreams and is creating meaning together.
The Walls of the House: The walls of the house are made up of the amount of trust and commitment that’s been built up in a relationship. When all is fitly joined together, the relationship is sound.
In the Sound Relationship House theory of relationships trust is one of the weight bearing walls. When this wall is damaged the entire relationship is at risk. How we respond to the emotions of our partner is an important component of building and rebuilding trust with your partner. In Gottman Relationship Therapy we practice the principles of attunement even when our partners are complaining about us. Trust is built as we hear complaints non-defensively and take influence from our partners. We demonstrate taking influence by atoning for unfortunate events in meaningful ways. Every wound is soothed. Trust is also built through attitudes of openness in a relationship. Each partner needs to have an attitude of “let me help you know what is happening in my life.” Trust is built by making the marriage a priority. We honor promises to our partners, even small ones, above those to friends, family, or our boss. We are fiercely loyal to our partners. Restore and strengthen the trust in your relationship.
Emotional safety is built through the process of attuning to the bids for our emotional connection. When our partners reach out to us and we reach back with humble understanding, acceptance, and validation they experience us as harmless. We are a safe harbor in the middle of a storm. Habits of ignoring or dismissing our partner’s feelings results in each being on guard, distant, and not safe. Safety is also communicated when our physical behavior says we are harmless. Intimidation, even when it is not intentional will always destroy feelings of safety. In heterosexual relationships, the men are often physically larger with deeper and louder voices than their female partners. Men often need to be doubly aware of what they are communicating physically. In Gottman Relationship Therapy we use video and physiological monitoring to help increase awareness of ways to increase safety when talking about troubles. Make your relationship a safe harbor.
Feeling connected is the result of seeing all emotions as opportunities to connect. When we are mindful of and positively turn toward our partners bids for connection the likelihood that our partners will make another bid is 75%. This creates a quickly developing positive spiral up ward in a relationship. But if we turn away from those bids or turn against them then a negative spiral quickly develops and the likelihood of another bid for connection is less than 25%. It is not unusual for couples in long term relationships to feel stuck in this negative spiral. For this reason, in Gottman Relationship Therapy we pay attention to the small bids for connection and increase the frequency of bids as well as the frequency of turning toward bids. Stop the negative spiral of distance and start a positive spiral of connection.
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