How To Make Your Relationship Work
A proven digital relationship experience for you and your partner
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  • 25 Exclusive Videos
  • 4 Research-Based Exercises
  • Drs. John and Julie Gottman
  • English (Spanish subtitles available)
  • Digital/Online
About this item

Special Introductory Price! Research-based foundations for a lifetime of love.

The Gottman Relationship Coach is an inspiring and educational multimedia experience designed to enhance the well-being of relationships. Participants will be guided through research-based tools and communication skills that can transform relationships—all based on the popular Gottman Method.

The first program, How to Make Your Relationship Work, is now available and includes:
  • The Gottman Method and How to Make Your Relationship Work
  • How do we predict the future of a relationship?
  • How to build a Sound Relationship House
  • What to do when the destructive Four Horsemen enter your relationship
  • An hour of new video content – each video is about 2-3 minutes long
  • Gottman Guide
  • An exploration of your relationship history, and early family experiences
  • How to discuss your beliefs about emotions
  • What to do when the destructive Four Horsemen enter your relationship – Exercise
  • Entertaining role plays by Drs. John and Julie Gottman demonstrating destructive couples behaviors that undermine relationship well-being with suggestions on how to turn these interactions around, resulting in positive outcomes.
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Thank you to The Gottman Institute for providing the tools my partner and I needed to create this relationship. We are so grateful.

Sanchia R.
Gottman Member

Really good, small, manageable tips to improve relationships.

Madeleine M.
Gottman Member

Absolutely essential to relational health - for all involved.

Janice H.
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Me and my hubbs of 33 years are living for the Gottman Institute in this beautiful season of life. It’s amazing how you never stop learning how to make your relationship blossom. I recommend it to everyone who hasn’t stopped learning!

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I love Gottman’s scientific approach to relationships based on years of studies into relationship successes and failures.

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16 Proven Ways to Make Your Relationship Work
Horseman 1 - Criticism

Criticism is not a simple remark you occasionally convey to your spouse, but rather an attack on their actual character. Although criticism can be the consequence of poorly conveyed fear or even affection, it is one of the leading indicators of divorce and other subsequent horsemen.

Fortunately, working things out in a relationship is possible even when it appears hopeless; you simply need to adopt a few tips that have been proven to work wonders.

It's essential to put an end to criticism as soon as possible because it frequently leads to additional issues, such as defensiveness and stonewalling.

Try a Gentle Start-up

If you detect criticism in your communication and you wish to make a relationship work, you should adjust your approach. This way, you can convey your feelings and needs without appearing to be criticizing your spouse.

A gentle start-up is all you need to make the issue less uncomfortable to discuss.

Try rephrasing the beginning of the conversation and shifting the focus from who is at fault to the real problem you are attempting to fix. Start the conversation with statements such as "Hey, I notice there are still clothes in the dryer; could you please put them away?" instead of, "You said you would put away the laundry, but you didn't as usual."

Use “I” Statements

Most of the time making relationships work requires you to shift the focus from your partner to yourself and begin your concerns with "I" statements. You will have a higher chance of addressing the issue if you begin your discussion without making a direct assault on the behavior.

A comment that should seem less like criticism may be: "It means a lot to me when we share the responsibilities, so could you please put away the laundry?" This sounds better than “You never help around the house.”

Given that criticism produces defensiveness, another horseman, it is wise to fix it first and observe the beneficial effects on the rest of the communication, intimacy, and the relationship as a whole.

Complain Without Blame

It is perfectly normal to disagree or to have a concern that your spouse should be aware of, but a complaint is not the same as blaming.

It takes two to make relationships work, so there is no one to blame. Instead of instinctively blaming your spouse for everything that annoys you, consider communicating the issue in a nonjudgmental manner and seeing the effects.

Instead of saying "You never listen to me," try saying "I really need to talk about my day, it’s been stressful. Can we have a chat?"

Make and Accept Repair Attempts

Even if a disagreement happens and you are unsuccessful with the aforementioned strategies, there is always room for improvement. Every day, you should deposit funds into your emotional bank account while you work on your communication and strategies that will be useful in the future.

Therefore, make repair attempts and accept them if your partner offers. This can help to overcome a number of minor conflicts and strengthen your relationship. Every negative engagement requires five positive interactions to establish a sense of balance and happiness, therefore be sure to make deposits on time and save for the rainy days.

Horseman 2 - Contempt

Many people fail to recognize the subtle clues of contempt's arrival, despite its reputation as the worst horseman. Relationships are negatively affected by sneering, ridiculing, hostile humor, eye-rolling, and insults of any kind.

Although this may be the most difficult horseman to conquer, you can learn a few techniques and strategies for making a relationship work. Contempt might become a habit that is hard to get rid of, so make sure you are working on the issue as soon as you notice the first signs of this horseman.

Show the Respect You Expect

Your spouse is on your team, therefore you should remember to be respectful even when it seems as though you are on opposing sides. This is both a temporary and permanent remedy for contempt.

Couples who show the most happiness and satisfaction are those that deliberately quit offending behavior and work on improvement.

Anger may make it difficult to control your words and actions, but it is no justification to upset your partner. Therefore, work on yourself first and demonstrate strength when necessary. In the first phase try to control the negative contempt and behavior, and later consciously focus on compassion and acceptance.

Focus On Positive Qualities Your Partner Has

Even though things aren't going well, it's important to have an optimistic outlook.

There are always actions and attributes that your spouse possesses that you can appreciate, even if they are small, such as preparing a cup of coffee or sending an encouraging text message before a meeting.

Positivity attracts positivity, so by altering your focus, you may lessen the impact of contempt and move towards a more harmonious relationship.

Practice Gratitude Every Day

Considering how detrimental contempt is to any relationship, you must strive daily for a remedy.

Although it is unrealistic to remove all displays of contempt, especially if they have become a habit, it is beneficial to make daily attempts to restore the emotional connection.

The best method to do this is to cultivate appreciation and strengthen the bond with your spouse. A simple "Thank you" can do wonders in everyday interactions, and simple solutions are frequently the most effective.

Remember to take small steps to build your relationship on a strong foundation rather than making grand gestures occasionally.

Show Affection and Commitment

If you want to find a solution and learn how to make a relationship work, you should demonstrate your affection and commitment. Working on the equilibrium of five good encounters that will remove one bad interaction can take time, but if you discover what makes your spouse happy, it will be easier to sustain your commitment.

If you need more help to make your relationship work, it is always advisable to seek guidance or couples therapy.

Horseman 3 - Defensiveness

If you want to know how to make a relationship work, this horseman may tell you a great deal about the problems that need to be resolved. Defensiveness might appear harmless and is typically a response to criticism, but it is equally damaging to love and marriage.

Partners who feel attacked frequently adopt a defensive stance and place blame, even though the issue may be readily remedied via constructive communication.

The experts at the Gottman Institute suggest a few remedies for this horseman that can guide you to marital bliss.

Accept Responsibility for Your Actions

Relationships take work and are a two-way street; thus, if you want to deepen your bond and increase intimacy, you must accept responsibility for your actions.

Accepting responsibility is one of the most effective methods to combat defensiveness and acknowledge that errors are repairable.

Therefore, instead of defending yourself and transferring the responsibility with phrases such as "You knew I was too busy today to make the lunch reservation, you should have done it," try saying "Oh, I forgot about the lunch reservation; my day was quite hectic. Let's phone the restaurant to see if any tables are available." This should relieve the pressure on both you and your partner and allow you to move forward.

Share the Load With Your Partner

Self-victimization will not solve any problems, and blaming your spouse will escalate the conflict.

Instead of behaving and feeling like a victim, it is preferable to demonstrate your need in a constructive manner and share the burden. Thus, you will feel like equals and not feel as though your spouse is attacking you with every comment they make.

When you struggle to improve your communication, it's always a good idea to seek couples counseling or one-on-one sessions. If you don't have the time or simply prefer the comfort of your home, online coaching classes are also a viable option.

Learn How to Listen

Numerous people ponder, "What makes a relationship work?"

Likewise, if you are thinking about the same thing you may be surprised to learn that listening is the key to effective communication and conflict resolution. Even if you are experiencing defensiveness and difficulty hearing your spouse, it is never too late to learn how to have a discussion.

Listening entails more than only awaiting your turn to speak or interpreting the words at will.

Listening is a delicate skill that requires you to absorb the feelings underlying the words and recognize your partner as a teammate. Once you listen with the understanding that you are on the same side, you will no longer feel insulted and will not need to get defensive.

Make Intentional Changes in Behavior

The majority of communication is dependent on body language and gestures rather than words. Nonverbal communication may be subtle, but our brains are wired to recognize the cues and respond appropriately.

Therefore, if you truly want to improve your connection and intimacy, you must exert effort to manage your responses. With sufficient practice, you may consciously avoid defensive and contemptuous conduct and improve your chances of understanding with your partner.

Take your time when responding to any interaction with your partner. Just a few seconds could make a difference between an automatic defensive response and constructive communication.

Horseman 4 - Stonewalling

Stonewalling is one of the most prevalent issues that couples face, and it is typically a result of long-term contempt. This horseman is present when one spouse entirely shuts off communication, rejects intimacy, appears preoccupied, and builds walls with the other.

While this may be a reaction to contempt, it is not an effective resolution method, and it has no long-term benefits.

Making relationships work is feasible if you are prepared to put in the effort and follow our proven strategies.

Stop and Take a Break

Stonewalling occurs when one partner has exhausted their ability for constructive dialogue and resolution due to emotional overload. If this occurs in your relationship or marriage, you need to end the argument and take a break for at least twenty minutes.

This easy technique can help you calm down, self-soothe, and relax to the point where you can speak again.

Conversely, if your spouse needs time to ponder, you should offer them sufficient space and refrain from passing judgment. Frequently, the simplest techniques and actions create the biggest difference in communication, so learn when it’s a good time to stop and walk away.

Focus On Self-Soothing

Once you've communicated to your partner that you need a break and are feeling overwhelmed by the present conflict, you need to self-soothe. While it may appear that you are wasting time and should be focused on a resolution with your spouse, this step is crucial for your mental health and the health of your relationship.

Find simple activities that provide you joy, such as reading, walking, and meditation. Rely on yourself to calm down and permit yourself to regain a positive mindset.

Once you have regained your composure, you should attempt to discuss the situation with your spouse. This can help you improve communication and minimize lengthy periods of silence.

Improve Communication

When you learn how to help yourself before you become too overwhelmed, you will be able to communicate with your spouse more effectively. Positive and tranquil emotions can make you feel less threatened and more in sync with your spouse.

This simple respite from the fight should improve your communication, affection, and eventually your sex life, just because you know how to soothe yourself the best.

Once you are ready to go forward and have confidence that you can reach an agreement, you should prioritize communication with your spouse and engage in conversation.

Turn Towards Your Partner

Taking a break from the argument is not the same as entirely disconnecting from your relationship. If you want to know how to make a relationship work again, you must be able to go back and discover the most beneficial solution for both sides.

Although it may be difficult to express affection and communicate with your spouse when things are not going well, it remains the most effective method for resolving problems. Even though experts advise taking breaks, it is never a good idea to focus on an issue for too long and build walls.

Use the opportunity to calm down, and then reconnect with your partner. Demonstrate compassion and a willingness to address the issue.