Is Your House in Order? The Essential Building Blocks to a Lasting and Connected Relationship

House with hearts coming out of chiminey illustration clip art source

What are the foundation pieces for a lasting and connected relationship? Do you want your relationship to be a long-term one  that is filled with love and true connection?  Drs John and Julie Gottman of the Gottman Institute have developed the Sound Relationship House after 30 years of research. There is much to learn from their well-built house with its layers of what is needed to have a long-term, successful relationship with high couple satisfaction.

Here are the key components of “The Sound Relationship House”.

The Friendship Quadrant (the first three stories of your sound relationship house)

  1. Love Maps – This involves knowing each other’s inner world, including both what is distressing and what brings happiness.
  2. Fondness and Admiration – Affection, appreciation and respect are shown.
  3. Turning Toward – Choosing to turn toward opposed to away or against when there is bid for positive interaction

The Positive Perspective 

This is what you feel about your relationship. The first three levels – Love Maps, Fondness & Admiration, and Turning Towards are the foundation for your perspective. Positive affect in conflict management and relationship repair that is successful also affects your perspective.

Manage Gonflict

The Gottman’s feel that the goal for conflict is “management” opposed to “eliminating” it. There will always be conflict / differences of opinion. And that is not a bad thing. It gives us an opportunity to know our partner at a deeper level and to love them in the way they need to be loved. The Gottman research indicates that 69% of problems that are continuing are not resolvable. Thus, management opposed to elimination. Regardless of who you choose for a partner there would be a set of perpetual, non resolvable problems. Understanding and dialogue and some potential shifts may occur.

  • Management of Perpetual Problems – Shifting from Gridlock to Discussion and Understanding with Acceptance
  • Management of Solvable Problems – The steps involved for these resolvable issues are: Softened Start Up, Repair and De-Escalation, Accepting Influence, Compromise, and Acceptance of What Cannot Be Changed

Making Life Dreams Come True

Creating an environment where you encourage each other and support each another’s dreams and deeply held convictions is important in a successful relationship.

Creating Shared Meaning

We have now entered the attic of the Sound Relationship House. Here you will find buried treasures for your relationship. When you create shared meaning this deepens and helps to bond your relationship. Part of this can be done by creating meaningful and pleasurable rituals that have meaning for you as a couple.

Trust and Commitment 

The two supporting walls of your home in the Sound Relationship House will be “TRUST” and “COMMITMENT”.  When your actions show you can be trusted and you have a long-term commitment to your relationship this will provide the stability that your relationship needs.


Gottman Sound Relationship House with copyright at the bottom



Source: Clinical Training Manuel for Gottman Institutes Level 2, Gottman Method Couples Training.

I had the opportunity to attend the Gottman’s Institutes Level 2 Clinical Training – Gottman Method Couples Training this last week in Dallas. The Gottman’s Sound Relationship House was presented as a way to see the total picture of what is needed for a happy, healthy relationship. You can find more information by going to the Gottman Institute’s website:

Gottman Level Two Class Photo - Dallas LV2 (3) August 2015 with Don


Creating OFF Mode for Self Renewal and Better Relationships

snoopy on top his house, laying flat depressed look

When we are ON all the time we begin to feel burned out and drained and find not much left for care of ourselves or of our relationships. It actually can begin to feel addictive, this need to be ON and “plugged in”. I can attest for my own self that I  have to constantly be on guard as to how much I let things control my time. We have more power than we think we do.  There is a practical, realistic piece as to work and personal commitments.  What I  do find interesting is that so many times the more balanced we become, the more focused and purpose driven we become.  We can even accomplish more when we are in our ON work mode  all of the time. And it can feel every so good when we are ON and all of our creative juices are flowing. This is most true of course when we love our work.  It is finding that lovely balance that we all so crave. And that may be a bit different for each one of us.

But for so many it feels like we live in a crazy, busy world. So how can we switch to our OFF mode more often? Doing a bit of reflection can help to access your balance. This is a place to start.

snoop and bird on top of house looking disconnected

Are you in OFF mode enough for Self and Relationship Health?

  • What does your body tell you? You might consider how you feel physically.
  • What does your internal “gut” tell you? So many times we know when we get quiet and still for a bit to consider this.
  • Are you happy? Do you like how you are spending your time? Does it match up with your goals and desires for yourself and your relationship?
  • Do your loved ones complain that they never see you or that you don’t spend enough time with them?
  • Do you have enough contact with your family and friends that you really know what is going on in their lives?
  • Do you feel close and connected with loved ones?
  • Do you spend more time on Facebook, texting, on the internet than you do with your family? Does your “electronic world” take away from having OFF time that you need for your self renewal and your relationships?

None of us will be perfectly synced and balanced all the time with the perfect OFF / ON balance. But what we can consider is what this looks like most of the time. Plus, what is one man or women’s perfect fit is not so much for another person.

snoopy and bird playing on skateboard happy


What are Some Practical Strategies to Put More OFF Time in Your LIfe?

  1. Get very clear as to what you want for your life. How much time do you want to be in work and volunteer commitment mode? In personal self-care mode? And in nourishing your relationships? Visualizing what you want can help you get there. It will lead you to make decisions that really fit for what you want in your life.
  2. Choose carefully what you do with your time. Make it match up with what you want. This feels the most rewarding and is the least draining of our energy. 
  3. Strongly consider your personal relationship with your “electronic world”.  Decide on purpose how much time you spend with the varying media that draws us in. Facebook, texting, Pinterest, Instagram, etc, etc,
  4. Listen to your “inner voice” to keep you on track.  Setting aside a bit of quiet time each day for yourself can help you to stay in tune with what you really need.
  5. Listen to your loved ones. Really hear what they are saying. Make sense of it and take action to keep  close connections.

snoopy holding heart

Note: As I try to always “walk the talk” I will be taking a break from posting on my blog this next week to spend personal time with my family. I wish you well in your own personal journey in finding the right ON / OFF balance in your life.

PRAISE That Makes Your Relationship Stronger and More Connected

couple with woman smiling

So what kind of praise can make your relationship stronger and more connected? I would say hands down, “Descriptive Praise”. It is the most powerful kind of praise as to making a connecting impact. We all like to be praised or hear the good stuff about us. But there are specific ways to give praise that is most helpful and carries the strongest punch. This is “DESCRIPTIVE PRAISE”. And the cool thing is that it can be used for all of your relationships.

What is Descriptive Praise?

Descriptive Praise is different from traditional praise, which normally is expressed with a “Good job.” OR “That was great.” OR “Wonderful”  Traditional praise is evaluative in nature. Descriptive Praise is when you describe out in detail what you have seen or heard or feel and then it is left open for the receiver to take it in and praise themselves. The sender comes across as really seeing and noticing all of the small details of what has occurred which has so much more impact. Some like to add a summation after the description of the details of what has occurred to give it a more powerful effect.

Who Can it Be Used With?

I first heard about “Descriptive Praise” when I read the book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. Later I saw the authors speak when they came to Tulsa.  I then became involved in teaching their group workshop materials and have found through the years that “Descriptive Praise” is applicable for all relationships: Parent / Child and Couples. Actually for any relationship.

What Are the Specific Benefits of Descriptive Praise?

  • A closer connection with your loved one who feels very acknowledged and really very seen and heard.
  • The receiver will feel good about their behavior as it has been witnessed by a loved one or someone who they know and care about. It can be a self-esteem booster.
  • It gives the receiver an opportunity to look in detail at what they have done and praise themselves. This is a very healthy kind of praise.
  • In regard to parent / child relationships, the detailed nature of descriptive praise helps to wire the brain with what parents may feel is behavior that they wish and hope their children to continue.

Examples for Your Consideration

couple eating salad and smiling

Couple Examples:

“I see you have made supper for us tonight. And look at all that chopping and pre work you have done to make our veggie soup. You even made a fresh green salad to go with it. You are really taking care of us! Thank you.”

“I was so busy and I know I told you I was going to throw in a load of laundry, but I forgot. Looks like you did it for me. You saw I was over my head and came to my rescue.”

“I loved my Valentine’s present. You noticed me looking at those pretty scarfs and went back and bought me one. You were really paying attention to what I like. That makes me feel so special.”

child and parent talking and smiling

Parent / Child Examples:

” You picked up your room. All the books are on the shelf. The clothes are in the hamper. Your papers on your desk. And legos in their special Lego bin. That is what I call being organized.”

” You came home and got a snack and went straight to your room to work on your home work. You chose to get your homework done early. You were thinking ahead.”

“You were mad at your friend and you choose to use your words instead of hitting him. You know how to control yourself.”


I hope you will give descriptive praise a try with your loved ones. It may feel a bit wordy but I think you will find the effort very much worth your time. I know your loved ones will love it and you for it!

My ending example. This one is for you 🙂 “You saw this blog title and decided this article was worth taking a look at. So you took your time and read it through. You are open to new ideas to improve your relationships. You take time for what is important to you.”

So how did that feel?


Source for the original descriptive praise concept: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

A Kiss Hello and Goodbye … A Ritual of Connection


OK, don’t we all really want a kiss hello and goodbye. Of course we do. But sometimes this drifts away as time goes on. It doesn’t mean it cannot be put back into your relationship. IT CAN!

This is a way to send our partner or spouse off with the message of  “I love you and I am thinking of you and wishing you well.” It is also a way to  re-connect after being apart. The message here is “I missed you and I am glad to be back with you.” 

We have to remember to set the tone for this kind of ritual. Some things we can do to encourage this kind of ritual are as follows:

  •  Show our openness and desire for this kind of interaction. 
  • Have a discussion with our loved one about this ritual and why we want to include it on a daily basis.
  • Agree as a couple to have this as a goal and each be willing to remind the other in a respectful way. 
  • Be an initiator of this KISS!!!
  • Tell your loved one how much you enjoy your kiss goodbye or hello.
  • Remember if you are GRUMPY or are making a complaint or airing an upset feeling as you part or re-connect, THE KISS WILL GO BYE-BYE.

If a kiss is not in the cards, try for a hug. This can be a good start. Of course a kiss and a hug are the best combination! 

Note: Keep some breath mints or gum  in your car, purse and in easily accessible places in the house. This can take away the concern that you do not have the fresh breath you want for your sweetie. Here is to more KISSES!♥♥