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  • Dr. Teresa Edwards, LMFT

The Sound Relationship House

Updated: Aug 22

Dr. John Gottman, a renowned psychologist, has been scientifically researching marital stability and divorce prediction for over four decades. From this research, he and his wife, Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman, created the theory of the Sound Relationship House, which outlines the necessary components of a strong and healthy relationship.

The Sound Relationship House (SRH) consists of seven levels, each representing a critical feature that contributes to a successful and lasting partnership, and two walls. These levels, like floors in a physical house, are structured so that each level supports and builds upon the others. Let's explore the Sound Relationship House:

Levels of the Sound Relationship House

The walls of the SRH are trust and commitment. Trust is a belief that your partner will always be there for you and has your best interest at heart. Commitment is choosing the relationship daily regardless of how you are feeling. Without the pillars of trust and commitment, the levels of the Sound Relationship House will not stand.

Level 1:

Build Love Maps

The first level of the SRH focuses on maintaining an intimate knowledge of your partner’s daily life and inner world by being genuinely curious about your partner. It involves staying up to date on your partner’s likes and dislikes, their current struggles, their day-to-day routine, and their dreams, hopes, interests, and fears. This information forms a cognitive "love map" that represents your partner and their world. Couples who regularly update their love maps have a better understanding of each other, are more emotionally connected, and are more attuned to their partner's needs and desires.

Level 2:

Share Fondness and Admiration

The second level of the SRH emphasizes the importance of showing appreciation and admiration for each other. Expressing love, fondness, and affection helps create a positive and nurturing environment within the relationship, which increases partner’s emotional bond and fosters a sense of security and validation in the relationship. Dr. Gottman's research found that the frequency of spontaneous expressions of fondness and admiration were a significant predictor of relationship success.

Level 3:

Turn Towards Instead of Away

In healthy relationships, partners respond to each other's bids for emotional connection in a positive way. Turning towards your partner means being responsive, supportive, and engaged when they seek attention, affection, or communication. Prioritizing the relationship by turning towards bids builds trust and intimacy by demonstrating that you are willing to engage with your partner’s needs and emotions. Connection in a relationship is maintained through these small daily moments of interaction.

Level 4:

The Positive Perspective

A positive perspective – also called positive sentiment override (PSO) - occurs when the first three levels of the SRH are working properly and the friendship in the marriage is strong. A person in PSO will have a positive outlook on their relationship and their partner's intentions and will give their partner the benefit of the doubt instead of assuming the worst. This is important because being in negative sentiment override can derail repair attempts during conflict. If you’re not in a positive perspective, then chances are that one or all of the first three levels of the SRH need repair.

Level 5:

Manage Conflict

Conflict is inevitable in any relationship, but the way conflict is handled makes a significant difference in the quality of a relationship. This level of the SRH focuses on developing effective conflict management skills including active listening, communicating with respect, being empathetic, and working toward compromise rather than resorting to destructive behaviors during conflict like criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

Gottman uses the term conflict management instead of conflict resolution because his research found that 69% of problems faced by couples are perpetual in nature and are based in differences in values or personality. Dr. John Gottman and colleagues also found that it is the successful regulation of most conflict, not the resolution of conflict, which is predictive of the long-term success of a relationship.

Level 6:

Make Life Dreams Come True

The sixth level of the SRH focuses on couples supporting and working together to achieve each other’s dreams, goals, and aspirations. When partners actively contribute to each other's life dreams, it strengthens their bond and sense of teamwork. It is important to cultivate a relationship that allows both partners to feel that their life dreams are supported.

Level 7:

Create Shared Meaning

The final level of the SRH revolves around the deeper sense of meaning and purpose that couples create together. Couples create a shared culture by developing rituals, traditions, and goals that are meaningful and unique to the couple. This allows couples to deepen their emotional intimacy and create a sense of “we-ness.”

By actively working on each level of the Sound Relationship House, couples can create a solid and satisfying relationship. In upcoming blogs, we will dive deeper into each level of the Sound Relationship House and how you can fine tune your relationship.

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