What is the Gottman Method? Can it Help Gay Men Build Stronger Relationships?
Let’s be real, a lot of gay men didn’t grow up with healthy models of gay relationships around them that they could internalize and then reference as adults.
Even if you saw examples of straight relationships which seemed to work, you might wonder now if these examples will map onto your gay relationships in adulthood.
I’ve heard some version of the following countless times in counselling: where do I even start in building a healthy relationship, and how will I know if it’s working?
There are a number of different couples and relationship counselling models out there that are meant to help build strong relationships. But they run into two problems:
1️⃣ They aren’t based on research.
2️⃣ If they are based on research, that research only includes straight couples.
These are big problems. How are gay men expected to trust a relationship-building approach if it can’t even address these two critical pieces of criteria?
Luckily, there’s an approach I discovered years ago which meets these criteria: the Gottman Method.
What is the Gottman Method?
The Gottman Method is an approach to couples and relationship counselling that includes a thorough assessment of the relationship and integrates research-based interventions based on the Sound Relationship House Theory.
A conjoint session, followed by individual interviews with each partner are conducted. Partners complete questionnaires and then receive detailed feedback on their relationship.
The partners and counsellor decide on the frequency and duration of the sessions.
Interventions are designed to help partners strengthen their relationships in three primary areas: friendship, conflict management, and creation of shared meaning.
Partners learn to replace negative conflict patterns with positive interactions and to repair past hurts. Interventions designed to increase closeness and intimacy are used to improve friendship, deepen emotional connection, and create changes which enhances the shared goals in the relationship. Relapse prevention is also addressed.
What are the goals and principles of the Gottman Method?
The goals of Gottman Method counselling are to disarm conflicting verbal communication, increase intimacy, respect, and affection, remove barriers that create a feeling of stagnancy in conflicting situations, and create a heightened sense of empathy and understanding within the context of the relationship.
Drs. John and Julie Gottman developed nine components of healthy relationships known as The Sound Relationship House Theory:
Build Love Maps
How well do you know your partner’s inner psychological world, their history, worries, stresses, joys, and hopes?
Share Fondness and Admiration
The antidote for contempt, this level focuses on the amount of affection and respect within a relationship. (To strengthen fondness and admiration, express appreciation and respect).
Turn Towards Instead of Away
State your needs, be aware of bids for connection and respond to (turn towards) them. The small moments of everyday life are actually the building blocks of relationship.
The Positive Perspective
The presence of a positive approach to problem-solving and the success of repair attempts.
I say “manage” conflict rather than “resolve” conflict, because relationship conflict is natural and has functional, positive aspects. Understand that there is a critical difference in handling perpetual problems and solvable problems.
Make Life Dreams Come True
Create an atmosphere that encourages each person to talk honestly about their hopes, values, convictions and aspirations.
Create Shared Meaning
Understand important visions, narratives, myths, and metaphors about your relationship.
This is the state that occurs when a person knows that their partner acts and thinks to maximize that person’s best interests and benefits, not just the partner’s own interests and benefits. In other words, this means, “my partner has my back and is there for me.”
This means believing (and acting on the belief) that your relationship with this person is completely your lifelong journey, for better or for worse (meaning that if it gets worse you will both work to improve it). It implies cherishing your partner’s positive qualities and nurturing gratitude by comparing the partner favourably with real or imagined others, rather than trashing the partner by magnifying negative qualities, and nurturing resentment by comparing unfavourably with real or imagined others.
Does the Gottman Method work for gay relationships?
Yes. In his New York Times bestselling book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman writes, “Although you may feel your situation is unique, we have found that all relationship conflicts fall into two categories: either they can be resolved, or they are perpetual, which means they will be part of your lives forever, in some form or another.” Gottman says that 69% of relationship conflicts are perpetual problems, and these are of particular focus in much of the work performed by a Gottman-trained counsellor.
The Gottman Method is designed to support relationships across all economic, racial, sexual orientation, and cultural sectors. Research has shown the Gottman Method to be effective for helping gay relationships.
What issues can be helped with the Gottman Method?
Some of the relationship issues that may be addressed in counselling include:
➡️ Frequent conflict and arguments
➡️ Poor communication
➡️ Emotionally distanced relationships on the verge of ending
➡️ Specific problems such as sexual difficulties, infidelity, money, and parenting
Will the Gottman Method be the right fit for my relationship?
Even relationships with “normal” levels of conflict may benefit from the Gottman Method. A Gottman-trained counsellor aims to help partners build stronger overall relationships and healthier ways to cope with issues as they arise in the future.
Are you ready to strengthen your relationship? Click the button below to get started today.
MA, CCC, RCC
As a counsellor at The Centre for Gay Counselling, Jordan excels at helping fellow gay men understand their emotions better, heal from past trauma, and grow their sense of self-worth so that they can enjoy living fully as themselves. He believes that gay men have inherent worth, and that they deserve to live fulfilling lives. Interested in working with Jordan? Click the button below to get started.