The Scoop: Since its establishment in 1996, The Gottman Institute has become a world-renowned resource for relationship advice and couples therapy. Clinical psychologists John and Julie Schwartz Gottman have studied the habits of healthy relationships and shared research-based insights through workshops, quizzes, blog articles, and other self-help tools, including the newly released Gottman Relationship Coach video series. During the COVID-19 pandemic, The Gottman Institute has outlined research-backed strategies to help couples navigate emotional issues and strengthen their bond.
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented complex challenges to people all over the world. Couples and families from all walks of life have had to learn how to cope with the new normal and connect with their loved ones within the confines of social distancing measures.
The year 2020 has been an adjustment for everyone — even for clinical psychologists John and Julie Schwartz Gottman. These relationship experts founded The Gottman Institute nearly 25 years ago to give couples practical strategies to make their marriage last. When the pandemic hit, they put those strategies into action to get through.
Julie said she took on errands outside the home, such as getting groceries and going to the bank, to protect her husband’s health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, John has picked up the slack inside the home by cooking and cleaning on a regular basis.
“We’re gifting each other with action,” Julie said in a podcast interview. “That’s what indicates the love that we have for one another.”
John and Julie are loving partners who work on their relationship every day. For them, the COVID-19 pandemic became an opportunity to show they care and strengthen their bond. That hasn’t been the experience of every couple under lockdowns or quarantine, but the Gottmans can offer strategies for improvement and personal growth based on decades of clinical studies and research.
For nearly 25 years, The Gottman Institute has published self-help materials and conducted workshops to encourage couples to turn toward each other when times are tough. Those relationship-building skills are more important than ever now, and the Gottmans have been busy counseling couples on how to meet each other’s emotional needs during the pandemic.
Create a Constructive Dialogue Around Differences
The Gottman Institute promotes research-backed strategies to end conflicts and strengthen heartfelt connections. Its lessons can be instrumental in getting couples out of quarantine quagmires and into a healthier state of mind and heart.
Gottman-certified relationship therapist Stacy Hubbard, LMFT, said her advice to couples during COVID-19 is to talk out their feelings. She encourages men and women to communicate with their partners, especially on issues where they don’t see eye to eye.
The Gottman’s “Eight Dates” book can help couples shake up their routine and start an open dialogue on their next date night at home. The book has prompts for meaningful conversations about money, sex, adventure, and love.
The Gottman Institute has proven methods for nipping arguments in the bud and sidestepping the blame game. That way, couples can communicate their emotional needs in a constructive way.
Certified Gottman Therapist Michael McNulty, Ph D., LCSW, advises married couples to reframe their disagreements by using more “I” statements. As in, “I feel frustrated when I am interrupted while working from home” and “I need more quiet during work hours.”
“It is important to complain without blame,” Michael said. “When we use ‘you’ statements to describe our feelings and needs, our complaints quickly come off as criticisms, and the other person quickly becomes defensive.”
In the podcast Checking In with Susan David, Julie acknowledged that spending long periods of time together in quarantine can magnify certain relationship frustrations and conflicts. However, she said it can also be a time of emotional connection and intimacy if couples choose to focus on their commonalities rather than their differences.
“One of the most important things couples can do is look for what your partner is doing right, not what they’re doing wrong,” Julie said.
Make an Effort to Find the Small Joys in New Routines
COVID-19 has been a great disrupter of routines and relationships. But couples can take action to regain their footing and find more emotional stability amid the upheaval. The Gottman Institute’s experts recommend establishing new traditions and habits that fit inside the new normal.
Couples can set up weekly game nights or daily walks to take time to appreciate one another’s company. These activities are opportunities to reconnect with a partner and share a laugh despite everything going on in the world.
According to The Gottman Institute, “Rituals help people connect on a regular basis and live life in fun or meaningful ways. They can be a break or a distraction from the day-to-day stresses of facing the COVID-19 crisis.”
Couples can heal their relationships by making time for joy and focusing on the positive. It doesn’t matter if it’s Saturday morning puzzles or Wednesday afternoon dance breaks. The important thing is to find a reason to smile and shake up a romantic rut.
Need ideas? You can download the Gottman relationship app for free and explore over 1,000 flashcards full of icebreakers, exercises, sex questions, and date ideas backed by 40 years of research.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, couples can turn to the Gottman method to reawaken the spark or reaffirm their commitment to one another.
“End the day with a ritual of connection, where you share something your partner did or said that you appreciated that day,” one blog post recommends. “Think of how they really stepped up for you that day and share that. Then end this connection ritual by asking your partner what you could do the next day that would help them feel supported and loved.”
The Gottman Institute has an extensive library of relationship tips and exercises that can help couples express love in healthy ways.
Whether they’re learning love lessons from the research-based newsletter or cultivating gratitude by listening to the Small Things Often micro-podcast, The Gottman Institute can help individuals become the best version of themselves for their significant other.
Always Remember to Check In With Your Partner
Love isn’t always smooth sailing and fairytale feelings. It requires constant maintenance and hard work to keep a relationship afloat through the years. Sometimes couples can patch things up on their own, and sometimes they need a little advice from the experts. That’s where The Gottman Institute comes in.
The Gottman Institute has resources to educate, support, and empower couples to endure rough times and get where they want to be.
First off, couples can take the How Well Do You Know Your Partner quiz to assess their relationship strengths and weaknesses. The free quiz asks questions about a partner’s daily life and attitudes to see where couples stand. Despite its name, this quiz isn’t only for couples who just started dating — it can offer personal insights even to couples who have been together for decades.
The Gottman Relationship Coach recently launched its first program “How to Make Your Relationship Work” in a video series. The multimedia workshop will explore how to deepen a romantic connection, resolve conflict, and express feelings of respect and admiration.
If couples want to take action to strengthen their relationship, they can take the 30 Days to a Better Relationship Challenge. This email series offers practical exercises that prompt couples to show appreciation for one another and build a more playful and romantic relationship.
“Backed by over 40 years of research, the 30 Days to a Better Relationship challenge will help you reconnect with your partner,” according to The Gottman Institute. “The tools and exercises, delivered once a day for 30 days by email, build on one another and take five minutes or less to complete.”
COVID-19 has given couples the opportunity to remember what’s most important to them and build the framework for a stronger relationship going forward.
Anna Aslanian, LMFT, pointed out that romantic partners may cope with COVID-19 in different ways, but they can bridge that divide by showing empathy and listening to each other’s fears and uncertainties.
“The key in the process of understanding your partner’s reactions to COVID-19 is to make your partner feel safe sharing about their relationship with the unknown,” Anna said. “Bring kindness to yourself and your partner. Take a moment to acknowledge your partner’s and your struggles and be kind.”
The Gottman Institute Supports Couples in Uncertain Times
Julie and John have spent decades studying the psychology of relationships. Throughout their careers, these clinical psychologists have worked with couples facing a variety of issues, and their insights have brought happiness to many loving relationships — including their own.
The COVID-19 pandemic tested Julie and John’s ability to rely on each other in good times and in bad, and they demonstrated their commitment to one another through small acts of love.
The Gottman Institute can offer valuable lessons and tools to help couples put their most loving self forward no matter the circumstances.
“Successful couples — those who remain happily together for decades — live by consistent guidelines,” said Julie Gottman in an op-ed for the Washington Post. “They look for what their partner is doing right, not what they’re doing wrong, and they say ‘thank you’ a dozen times a day, even for something as simple as making the wake-up coffee for the umpteenth time.”