What Does Science Tell Us About Successful Relationships?
Many years ago couple therapists were left to guess about what made a good relationship. It seemed we could spot a good relationship but couldn’t say why a particular couple was happy. Not so any more. Now we look to the work of John Gottman and his associates to give us concrete direction on the matter.
The Sound House Model
Gottman identified the Masterful and the Disastrous couples in his research. He then spent great amounts of effort studying the Masterful couples and came up with a model he calls the “Sound House”. This model confirms what we already suspect: that a good relationship is built upon trust and commitment. There are other skills that we can develop to be a great partner. These skills include sharing day to day details of our lives, seeking our partner out when we feel injured or hurt, seeing the positive things our partner does even when we also know there are negative behaviours, managing conflict well and helping to make our partner’s dreams come true. For couples who do these things they mutually create a sense of shared meaning. Shared meaning suggests that our dreams are connected to our relationship and that our partner’s have contributed to the purpose we have for our lives.
“Regardless of where we start, the Sound House Model provides us with a road map of how to take a ruptured relationship to a masterful one.”
Sometimes in session I have couples begin at the bottom of the Sound House Model. I ask them to talk to their partner for one minute daily. This intervention is to help clients to begin to unpack the mundane things of life and to share them with one another. While you might not think your partner wants to know what you ate for lunch or where you have an ache, it is actually these small disclosures that allow your partner into your private thoughts of the day. This sharing process tells the other they are allowed in where others are not.
At other times, I ask couples to begin at the top of the Sound House Model. I ask them to dream about their lives and to share what they wish and yearn for. Some people dream about the typical while others dream of the unconventional. Your dreams can be different but your commitment to making them come true for yourself and for your other can be the same. When we wake up each morning and think about how we can make a difference in our partner’s life we are making their dreams come true. When both partners take that approach you create shared meaning.
Regardless of where we start, the Sound House Model provides us with a road map of how to take a ruptured relationship to a masterful one. I would be happy to help you along that journey.
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