Gottman therapy

Gottman’s theory of the Sound Relationship House is built on 20 years of research and reviews of the previous literature in dysfunctional and functional relationships (Gottman 1994). Gottman found that the 8 predictors of what causes dysfunction in a relationship include more negativity than positivity, escalation of negative affect (The four horseman), emotional disengagement and withdrawal, failure of repair attempts, Negative Sentiment Override, maintaining vigilance and physiological arousal, chronic diffuse physiological arousal and the failure of men to accept influence from women (Gottman 1994). This was contrasted by predictors of a functional relationship which include relationships matched in preferred conflict style, dialogue about perpetual issues and employment of pre-emptive repair techniques (Gottman 1994).  

The above finding led Gottman (1996) to develop the Sound relationship house which is comprised of nine levels and seeks to train couples in functional behaviours and attitudes within the relationship. These levels include building love maps, sharing fondness and admiration, turning towards each other, Positive Sentiment Override, managing conflict, making life dreams and aspirations come true, creating shared meaning, trust and commitment (Gottman 1996). These nine levels could be further organised into three main areas of constructive conflict, shared meaning and Friendship/Intimacy (Gottman 1996).  

Further to Gottman’s research was the development of the “Four Horseman” which Gottman identified as the four biggest predictors of divorce in married heterosexual couples (Gottman 1996). This included criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling.

A study conducted by Whisman and Uebelacker (2006) highlighted the clinical importance of relationship discord. There findings included that individuals in discordant relationships reported greater social role impairment with relatives, friends and greater work role impairment. It was also reported that higher levels of general distress remained significant when controlling for current mood and mental health disorders. These results suggest that relationship discord is incrementally related to impairment and psychological distress over and above the effects of psychiatric disorders (Whisman & Uebelacker 2006).



Gottman, J. 1994 Why marriages succeed or fail? New York: Simon & Schuster

Gottman, J. 1996, What predicts divorce: The measure. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Whisman, M. & Uebelacker, L. 2006, Impairment and Distress Associated With Relationship Discord in a National Sample of Married or Cohabiting Adults, Journal of Family Psychology, Vol. 20, No. 3, 369-377