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