Six steps to enhance your marital friendship

Today I am giving you another abbreviated version of some very important research by John Gottman. And, it's all about your marital friendship.

That's right, we got the basics down about fighting in marriage, now it's time to focus on a big piece of your relationship -- your friendship!


But, before I can get to friendship, we are going to have a little chat about something called the Sound Relationship House.

The Sound Relationship House was developed by considering the two staples of successful marriages: 

(1) an overall level of positive affect, and
(2) an ability to reduce negative affect during conflict resolution (p. 105).

Essentially, the Sound Relationship House is a way for therapists to enhance positive affect and teach couples how to reduce negative affect.

Sounds simple enough, right?

Well, the Sound Relationship House builds from bottom-up. 

The first three levels are the foundation of marital friendship: love maps, fondness and admiration, and turning towards.

Love maps are when one spouse makes a map of the other spouse's world. Ask yourself these questions: do I know my spouses friends? Do I know their current aspirations? Do I know what is currently stressing them? Do I know their religious beliefs?

Fondness and admiration is a crucial piece of a marital friendship because it really taps into how we feel about our spouses. Consider these questions: do you tell your partner you love them? Are you proud of your partner? Do you respect your partner? Do you admire your partner?

And the concept of turning towards is concerned with how a couple renews themselves and each other. Do you tell your partner when you've had a bad day? Do you like to spend time together in similar ways? Are you spiritually compatible? Do you share life goals?

The fourth level of the Sound Relationship House is the positive perspective. I'm sure you've heard of this before. This involves your emotional tank and whether you have enough gas in your tank to view your relationship in a positive light. Gottman suggests that if you have enough gas in your tank than you'll be able to have a positive perspective during and after conflict.

Next, is managing conflict. Notice the language. Couples are not fixing or avoiding conflict, they are managing conflict. Three basic things fall into this level: are you able to talk through and maintain open communication about problems that are not likely to be solved? Are you able to solve problems that can be solved? Are you able to self-soothe?

OK, you've built the foundation of your friendship, you have a positive perspective, and you are able to manage conflict. Now is my favorite part -- when you and your partner can do exactly what you've dreamt of -- be lifelong friends!

The final two levels involve that overall sense of marital friendship. Things might be hard, painful, ugly-at-times, and maybe even horrible but we all know this is where things become beautiful!

Life dreams and creating shared meaning are where couples begin setting goals (short and long term) for your life; honoring each other's dreams; establishing rituals in the family; and creating and investigating meaning -- you know, that big question of what does it all mean?

Let me tell you a little secret, if you choose to focus on your marital friendship, today, you are one significant step closer to having a successful marriage and satisfying relationship with your spouse.

We enter into relationships for a variety of reasons but I am confident that within these reasons you desire genuine friendship with your spouse.

Let me invite you, even if you are just starting out or have been friends for awhile, to ask yourself three questions:

(1) am I friends with my partner?

(2) do I want to be friends?

(3) what stage of the Sound Relationship House do I need to start at to enhance our friendship?

Now get to it!

-Dr. K