John Gottman on Trust in Relationships

John Gottman’s recent work on trust (presented in The Science of Trust: Emotional Attunement for Couples) is a helpful resource for couples trying to deal with depression. These two brief videos are excerpts from a talk Gottman gave at the Greater Good Science Center. They provide an insightful introduction to some of the major themes of his work.

After decades of close observation of married couples, Gottman and his colleagues realized that few of the widely accepted beliefs about why marriages succeed or fail were true. They found that the crises that are usually cited as the causes of divorce – like affairs, inability to talk, problems with sex, personality clashes – were not the major problems. Partners who were happy together were just as likely to suffer through these crises as people in troubled relationships.

The difference was the ability of the partners in healthy relationships to repair the damage. One of the most important hallmarks of their resilience was trust and their skill in building and maintaining it. In these videos, Gottman describes quite beautifully how partners stay together by being there for each other. Although he doesn’t address depression directly in this talk, the ideas and methods he describes can be effective tools in responding to its impact on life partners. I’ll discuss his approach in upcoming posts.

(You might also like this video series on How to Make Relationships Work that gives an overview of his research as a whole.)

4 Responses to “John Gottman on Trust in Relationships”

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  1. Judy says:

    Thanks for sharing these video clips. I think Gottman has it – so much hinges on trust, for sure. I can think of a lot of examples of issues I’ve struggled with that have basically been about trust. Relationships take work, in good times and in bad. When a partner turns away from the other, it’s like saying (a) I don’t trust you to hear or understand, (b) I can’t be there for you so I don’t want to hear about it or even (c) both. I don’t think you can have closeness or much attachment without trust. It’s risky to put your trust in someone because you could be betrayed, but if you don’t take the chance, you have nothing.

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, Judy –

      Exactly – and don’t I know how losing trust is done! Depression is a perfect setup for not being there when you’re needed. On again, off again goes the emotional flow, and there were many times when I wouldn’t have trusted myself to be present when I should be. It’s hard for someone to trust you if you don’t trust yourself.

      John

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