John Gottman: Lessons on Love

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Robert Maurer

John Gottman: Lessons on Love

John Gottman is one of the leading couple relationship experts. He taught us that the most important pillar of love is communication. As long as there is mutual affection and admiration, any crisis can be overcome.

Written and verified by the psychologist GetPersonalGrowth.

Last update: 15 November 2022

John Gottman's lessons on love are still of great help to us. Ever since he and his wife, Julie Schwartz Gottman, founded the famous Love Lab at the University of Washington in the late 70s, we've learned that there are no perfect relationships. Each couple faces a number of challenges and difficulties that they need to be aware of in order to continue the relationship.

What is special about couples who lead happy lives together? Is it the lack of love that precedes any breakup? What are the most common conflicts in a relationship? The Gottmans have been trying to answer these and other questions for more than four decades. And they do it in a way that is as innovative as it is fascinating.

The Love Lab is immediately associated with Dr. John Gottman and wife. The couple pioneered science based on the observation and analysis of emotional relationships. State-of-the-art computers, video cameras, physiological sensors and a wide variety of scientific devices abound in their way of operating.

Anyone who claims that love cannot be analyzed in the laboratory is wrong. The Gottmans show us that we can study an emotional relationship through psychophysiological measurements, the analysis of micro-expressions, emotional reactions, non-verbal language and, of course, with classic interviews.

All this information enabled John Gottman to identify patterns and signals that contained valuable information. The lessons and knowledge gained through this working method they offered extensive documentation and an extensive bibliography on the subject.

"If there is something in your relationship that makes you happy, you have to express it at all costs, but instead of doing it in the form of an attack, you have to use what I call a soft start."

-John Gottman-

John Gottman's lessons on love show us a simple reality: emotional relationships go beyond chemistry, they are science. This explains why the Gottman method is so important, it sells so many books and continues to be a guide in the field of love education and couple therapy.

What makes love last according to John Gottman

In a relationship, there is something beyond love. For various reasons, there are many couples who fail in their life project together while continuing to love each other and although their feeling is authentic and profound.

Thanks to his years of observing, studying and analyzing thousands of couples, John Gottman has come to interesting conclusions. According to this scholar, some aspects act as strengths to harmonize, encourage and sustain the relationship despite the difficulties:

  • Mutual trust and intimacy.
  • Admiration.
  • Affection and the ability to show it.
  • Good communication.
  • The ability to handle emotions such as anger.
  • Skills to resolve conflicts and find agreements.

These are concepts that act as fuels throughout the day. These factors enliven and enrich any relationship.

What can cause the breakup according to John Gottman

One of John Gottman's most accepted theories is that of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse". In over four decades of work, he and his team have studied over 3000 couples.

Thanks to his studies, Gottman was able to claim to be able to predict, with 90% reliability, whether a couple would stay together or not. And usually he wasn't wrong!

According to his theory, the elements that predict a possible breakup are known and their impact on the relationship is harmful. Let's look at these elements below.


Feeling superior to your partner, humiliating, ignoring any effort, detail, deed or words. Making use of sarcasm and scolding, intimidating through ironic comments in public or private, etc. All of these harmful behaviors result in psychological violence.

The criticisms

Within a relationship, there may come a time when the very act of communicating becomes a scenario in which to make the most acute criticisms.

Everything is upset and everything hurts, to the point that there is no longer any room for kindness, because even questions have double meanings and what seems like flattery ends up being a disguised humiliation.

Stay on the defensive

There are people who get defensive. The members of the couple refuse to speak and close any possibility of dialogue because in their opinion there is no problem to be faced. Furthermore, if there is a responsible person, it is always the other person and never oneself.

In the long run, being on the defensive creates several discomforts that make any problem chronic. This attitude is immature.


The last of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" of Gottman's theory is indifference. Pretending to be fine, being lost in one's thoughts, absent, unaware of everything and being above everything.

When this behavior is adopted, it is very common to apply the so-called law of ice, of evasion, of laconic responses and to adopt those behaviors that do nothing but increase the distances.

"For a relationship to be stable, the two members of the couple must be willing to show mutual support, both when traumatic events occur that cause a change in our lives, and in the small stressful situations of everyday life."

-John Gottman-

How to manage conflicts in love according to John Gottman

One of John Gottaman's most valuable lessons on love is the one that reminds us of something very specific: love is not free from conflict. Also, the couple who don't know how to manage conflicts effectively will have a hard time moving the relationship forward.

Undoubtedly, this fact is evident. However, most of us continue to see conflicts and differences as a threat. In fact, they are an opportunity for growth. According to Dr. Gottman, the strategies for dealing with complicated and conflicting moments are:

  • Control the flow of emotions. Within a relationship, conflict always generates anger, anger and frustration. We must be aware that these emotions can lead us to say things that we will later regret.
  • Choose the right time. Ideally, the couple should choose the most appropriate time to engage in a particular conversation. It should be a time when you are calm and ready to listen and be heard.
  • Focus on finding solutions and not on problems. Sometimes, when something hurts or bothers us, it is very difficult to divert attention from the inner conflict. We cannot look further to relativize and find a solution. In the sentimental field one must be able to find agreements without putting oneself aside, but by finding common points.


John Gottman's lessons on love still represent excellent resources for a couple to grow up. Its science-based approach to laboratory analysis continues to provide us with valuable advice that we can apply in our daily relationships.

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