Have you ever thought you found ‘the one’? When you experienced an amazing ‘click’ with someone where everything seems rosy? But despite your best intentions, the relationship fizzles out or descends into constant conflict? Despite the way love and relationships are sometimes portrayed in movies, tv shows and books, having a long term relationship is not always plain sailing. Building a long term, secure, and happy relationship needs strong foundations and work from both sides. So, how can you build a healthy relationship?

A Sound Relationship House

What separates long lasting happy relationships from those that end prematurely, or end in divorce? After 40 years of research on couples, Dr. John Gottman introduced the concept that a secure foundation of a long-term relationship resembles the secure foundation of a house. The house is rather tall and only has two walls, but a house nonetheless!

John Gottman Relationship house

Source: https://www.gottman.com/blog/what-is-the-sound-relationship-house/

Climbing the stairs 

Each floor represents something a couple can work on to create a strong relationship bond. By working your way up to the top floor, you can create a strong foundation for a long-term relationship. So what do these floors represent? Below you will find a brief explanation of each floor. 

  • Build love maps

This is all about how well you know your significant other. What do they enjoy, what are they most scared of and what do they dream of? Who are their friends? You can build love maps by asking your partner the right questions and getting to know them better than anyone else does. 

  • Share fondness and admiration

Instead of looking for flaws in your partner and mistakes they have made, concentrate on the things they do well and that you are thankful for. Try to take a perspective of gratitude. Don’t forget to let them know what you are thankful for! This will create a bond on the basis of appreciation and affection. 

  • Turn toward instead of away

Throughout each day your partner will be trying to connect with you. For example when your partner expresses how much they are enjoying their food, or when they ask how your day at work was or ask for your advice or support on a topic. Use these small everyday moments to turn toward your partner and connect with them, support them when they need it. Continually turning away from your partner will damage the relationship.  

  • The positive perspective

Our reality is based on our perspective and how we view the world around us. Therefore, by trying to take a positive perspective we can change how the relationship feels. The fourth floor represents not jumping to conclusions and giving your partner the benefit of doubt. Don’t forget that your partner probably has your best interests at heart. 

  • Manage conflict

Some conflict is inevitable and not always resolvable. You are two different individuals, with different beliefs and feelings after all! Therefore, learning to manage conflict is essential. Be open to compromise and really listen and try to understand your partner’s perspective. Practise self-soothing and de-escalating a conflict. 

  • Make Life Dreams Come True

Support and help your partner reach their life goals and dreams. By doing this you will show your partner that you are a great companion to have. 

  • Create Shared Meaning

The top floor is about learning to understand your inner world as a couple. Do you have shared goals? What is your identity as a couple? What small rituals do you enjoy doing together? These are called rituals of connection, for example this could be where you enjoy going on holiday together, or what you like to watch on tv on wednesday night. 

The walls

Don’t forget the walls representing trust and commitment, these are the things that hold all the floors of the house together!

Trust represents having faith in your partner and believing that they have the best intentions for you at heart. The belief that your partner will be there for you when you need it. 

Commitment represents believing that the relationship is a lifelong journey, cherishing the positives and trying to work through the negatives.

Want to learn more about building a Sound Relationship House, nurturing a relationship or couple therapy? There are plenty more resources on the Gottman website or NiceDay blog page. 

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Martijn Thomas

Hi, I am Martijn, psychologist at NiceDay. In my spare time I like to produce music, exercise and hangout with friends.

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