Updated: Nov 20
Couples who make relationships work well, adopt the motto, “if you’re hurting baby, the world stops, and I listen. I’m with you.” I know it might sound too cliché for a few, and seem like a fairy-tale love story for a few others. But deep down it is the reality. Gottman, the psychologist quotes the above, in one of his works, adding to which he specifies that we often turn away out of mindlessness, not malice.
Of course, it is not that we don’t care about our mate, but sometimes we are caught up in our own private worlds. So, we come to wonder what is the way out to make the relationship work. Well, thanks to the world-renowned psychologist, John Gottman developed a theory called the Sound relationship house theory. This theory uses a practical approach to help couples break through the everyday barriers to achieve greater understanding, intimacy, and connection in their relationships.
The house theory
There are seven principles to this theory. Let’s consider them as 7 floors of the house. Each of these floors is connected to each other and is supported by 2 walls which are Trust and Commitment. When all of these are fitly joined together, the relationship is sound.
The seven floors:
Build love maps:
The foundation of any kind of relationship is to maintain awareness of our partner’s world. The principle of building maps and guides of relationships is knowing the little things about the partner – the inner psychological world, their worries, stresses, joys, and dreams. This map registered in our brain acts as a guide to reach our partner’s heart.
The map has to be accurately used to walk hand in hand with our mate and travel safely through the sensitive areas of their heart. It does need constant updating to keep note of the landscape changes.
Share fondness and admiration:
To develop the culture of appreciation, fondness, mutual respect, and affection, open an Emotional Bank Account. Keep depositing the goods deeds and little joys our partner brings into the relationship. It can include the inclination to do kind acts of care and concern, and other admirable qualities which can also include feelings of desire and passion for the relationship.
Turning towards instead of against:
This is where we learn to accept the bids for emotional connection. A bid is a gesture – verbal or non-verbal for any sort of positive connection. It may include even the small moments of everyday life which are the building blocks of a relationship. Hence consider depositing kindness, honesty, courtesy, and other commitment attributes.
However, a partner may choose to turn towards, or turn away or turn against the bids. The key to a sound relationship is to turn towards – i.e., a person’s willingness to pay the price and make repairs in case of damage in the relationship.
This floor is accessible only if the first three floors are strongly built. This floor represents what it feels like when in a healthy relationship. Whether it is positive or negative determines the presence of positive attitudes in problem-solving discussions and the success of repair attempts.
In other words, when love maps are accurate and fondness and admirations are consistently expressed and the couple experiences more turning towards each other’s bids, the positive feels naturally over-rides the negative.
Let’s face it, conflicts are inevitable in any relationship. Of course, it is not about what the fight is about, rather it is the how! Dr. Gottman’s research highlights that couples who maintain positive interactions through humor and affection, even during times of conflict have a healthier relationship.
Conflicts help us learn how to better love and understand our partner, and deal with changes to renew the courtship over time. Therefore, we need to learn the art of managing conflicts, and not eliminate them.
Gottman emphasis this principle, by highlighting the following ways to manage conflicts:
o Accept the partner’s influence. In other words, be open to negotiate and compromise.
o Practice self-soothing.
o Repair a conflict within 24 hours
o Use a softened start-up
o Discuss the problem: It is found that 69% of couples’ issues are called “perpetual problems”. This is believed to arise due to differences in personalities, lifestyle, needs, and values. Learning to dialogue these problems is the key to manage them effectively.
Make life dreams and aspirations come true:
The degree to which the couple honors one another’s dream and fills meaning into each other’s life is the foundation of this floor. A crucial aspect of any relationship is to create an atmosphere that encourages each other to talk honestly about their dreams, convictions, and aspirations, with the least inhibitions.
Create shared meaning:
This level is about creating shared meaning a sense of purpose. As complicated as it sounds, it follows a simple procedure, starting with talking about:
o Ritual of connections
o Meaning of basic symbols such as family, home, sex, money, time together, and time apart. After all, relationships are cross-cultural experiences where we blend together each other’s legacy, values, culture, and beliefs to create a new culture.
The pillars of strength
As important as all the floors of the sound relationship house are, it becomes impossible to hold them together without the pillars of trust and commitment.
It takes two committed individuals to make decisions, investing faith in each other to stick together. They pledge to help the love grow and freely love one another.
Trust is built when the partner believes that their mate has the best interest in the mind and acts in ways that benefit each other. Additionally, commitment sinks in when there is an acceptance that the relationship is a lifelong journey, for better or worse. During the worst days, it essential to hold faith in each other and make necessary amends to make it better.
Five ways to build trust and pave way for faith and commitment are:
o Avoid negative comparisons and minimize focus on negative qualities
o Invest in partner’s well-being
o Make trustworthiness THE priority in the relationship
o Know that trust is built in small, positive moments
o Generate frequent thoughts and acts that cherish the positives.
These seven levels of the “Sound Relationship House” act as a guide for a healthy relationship. With these guiding principles, one is expected to enjoy a relationship that can weather any storm.