“What Makes Love Last?: How to build trust and avoid betrayal” By John Gottman, Ph.D. and Nan Silver
“1. I feel protected by my partner.”
“2. My partner is faithful to me.”
“3. My partner is there for me financially.”
“4. Sometimes I feel uneasy around my partner.”
“5. I don’t think my partner has intimate relationships with others.”
“6. From now on, my partner would not have children with anyone but me.”
“7. My partner fully loves our children and/or is at least respectful of my own children.”
“8. I believe that you can trust most people.”
“9. My partner helps me feel emotionally secure.”
“10. I know my partner will always be a very close friend.”
“11. My partner will commit to help provide for our children.”
“12. When the chips are down, I can count on my partner to sacrifice for me and our family.”
“13. My partner does housework.”
“14. My partner will work hard to increase our financial security.”
“15. My partner doesn’t respect me.”
“16. My partner makes me feel sexually desirable.”
“17. My partner takes my feelings into account when making decisions.”
“18. I know that my partner will take care of me when I’m sick.”
“19. When we are not getting along, my partner will work with me on our relationship.”
“20. My partner is there for me emotionally.”
“21. My partner does not overuse alcohol and drugs.”
“22. My partner acts romantically toward me.”
“23. My partner is kind to my family.”
“24. I can rely on my partner to talk to me when I’m sad or angry.”
“25. My partner belittles or humiliates me”
“26. There is at least one person who comes first to my partner rather than me.”
“27. My partner will work with me as part of a financial unit.”
“28. I have power and influence in this relationship.”
“29. My partner shows others how much he or she cherishes me.”
“30. My partner helps carry the load of child care.”
“31. I just can’t trust my partner completely.”
“32. My partner keeps his or her promises.”
“33. My partner is a moral person.”
“34. My partner does what he or she agrees to do.”
“35. My partner will betray my confidences.”
“36. My partner is affectionate toward me.”
“37. In arguments I can trust my partner to really listen to me.”
“38. My partner shares in and honors my dreams.”
“39. I fear my partner could stray.”
“40. My partner’s words and deeds reflect the values we say we agree on.”
“41. My partner makes love to me often.”
“42. I can count on my partner to build or maintain a sense of family and community with me.”
“Score your answers to questions 4, 15, 25, 26, 31, 35, and 39 using the following scale. Then add them up:
Strongly Agree: 1
Somewhat Agree: 2
Neither Agree nor Disagree: 3
Somewhat Disagree: 4
Strongly Disagree: 5″
“Score your answers to the remainder of the questions using this scale:
Strongly Agree: 5
Somewhat Agree: 4
Neither Agree nor Disagree: 3
Somewhat Disagree: 2
Strongly Disagree: 1″
You have a low degree of trust in your partner and your relationship.”
Your trust level is moderate. You have faith in your partner—but uncertainty as well.”
You have a deep sense of trust in your partner. Such a sturdy foundation improves the likelihood that your relationship will remain happy over the long term. “
“In a committed relationship, partners constantly ask each other in words and deeds for support and understanding. In research parlance, I refer to such requests as ‘bids.’ They can be as simple as ‘Could you get me a beer?’ or as profound as ‘I need you,’ after a scary medical diagnosis.”
“Every bid made in a relationship initiates what I call a sliding door moment. When one partner expresses a need for connection, the other’s response is either to slide open a door and walk through or keep it shut and turn away.”
“It’s true that turning away from a minor bid is not going to send a relationship hurtling into the abyss. But an abundance of unhappy endings to these interactions without subsequent discussion about what happened does precipitate danger. Over time, one partner or both begin to wonder: Do I come first, or does someone or something else matter more? Is my partner selfish? Can I risk continuing to trust?”
“If the ‘offending’ partner acknowledges what just happened and accepts responsibility for his or her part in it, the breach can be repaired. If, instead, the partner turns away, the ensuing hurt and anger trigger what I call a regrettable incident—an eruption of conflict that becomes an unfortunate part of the relationship’s history. Each regrettable incident chisels away a bit at the couple’s mutual trust.”
“Again, occasional events like this one will not ruin a relationship. But a pattern of turning away followed by an inability to acknowledge and repair the breach brings couples a giant step closer to the roach motel.”
“But when a sliding door moment leads to a regrettable incident that goes unaddressed, thanks to the Zeigarnik effect, the hurt remains accessible in our active memory, available to be rehashed again and again.”
“With increasing frequency, they see each other in a negative light. University of Oregon emeritus psychologist Robert Weiss coined the term ‘Negative Sentiment Override’ (NSO) for this phenomenon. Under its force, people tend to construe neutral and even positive events as negative.”
“Happy couples are susceptible to Positive Sentiment Override. They perceive each other’s neutral acts as positive and don’t take personally their partner’s negative emotions.”
“In the recent past in my relationship, generally I felt [true/false for the following statements]:
- Like “I don’t have to take this.”
- Innocent of blame for the problem.
- Like getting up and leaving.
- Unjustly accused.
- ‘My partner has no right to say those things.’
- Personally attacked.
- I wanted to strike back.
- I was warding off a barrage.
- Like getting even.
- I wanted to protect myself.
- I took my partner’s complaints as slights.
- My partner was trying to control me.
- My partner was very manipulative.
- Unjustly criticized.
- I wanted the negativity to just stop.”
“The more negative a couple’s interactions become, the less productive their attempts to communicate. The inability to air grievances in a constructive manner heralds the arrival of four negative modes of communication that block the success of repairs. I call these the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling. “
“Contempt: This is verbal abuse that implies the partner is inferior. It includes name-calling, sarcasm, sneering, and belittling.”
“Defensiveness: If you’re the target of verbal grenades, a desire to defend yourself is understandable. Forms of defensiveness include righteous indignation, launching a counterattack, or acting like an innocent victim (usually by whining). Though you may consider a defensive response justified, it will not end the conflict. Instead, it will raise the tension level.”
“Stonewalling: When a barrage of tension leads to flooding, the physically compromised partner stops giving out the usual cues that he or she is listening (head nods, eye contact, brief vocalizations). Instead, the listener reacts like a stone wall, blocking all stimuli. We know this is an attempt to recover from flooding, but stonewalling also shuts down any hope of resolving the disagreement.”
“Their marriage isn’t working because, as Rusbult’s research shows, they haven’t yet committed to each other. Their fantasies of other options show that they both treat their relationship as conditional and marginal. This allows Tyler to be selfish and Abby to feel abandoned—and both to feel justified in turning away. After all, things could be so much better with somebody else.”
“We now understand what it is that primes couples for infidelity: a lack of sharing the true self combined with negative COMPs.”
” To label perpetrators as evil does not help prevent infidelity nor encourage healing.”
“Partners are vulnerable in particular when there are significant life changes such as a new baby or job, or an unforeseen trauma such as a parent’s death, illness, a troubled child. Such circumstances can test even the strongest relationship, underlining differences in background, temperament, beliefs. At these times, when one partner reaches out and the other is ‘missing,’ disappointment and loneliness will prevail if they don’t discuss these regrettable incidents. The avoidance may not be obvious, especially if the couple have vocal fights about the issue. But they are arguing ‘around’ it, leaving the hurt unaddressed and never repaired.”
“To use Glass’s terminology, the lack of disclosure erects a wall between the partners that replaces the open window of trust. The result is emotional distance that makes the secret keeper feel lonely.”
“In fact, the research evidence suggests that the vast majority of affairs are not caused by lust. Fleeting sexual attractions are a part of human biology. Even the most attuned long-term relationship does not blind members to the allure of others. But if the relationship is satisfying both partners’ emotional needs, they build a wide fence around these lustful thoughts. Inside a strong relationship, it isn’t necessary for partners to divulge their brief attractions to others. But if your trust metric is low, you do need to talk about them, even if it seems that doing so would be destructive.”
“Relationship killers are founded on two building blocks: deception (not revealing your true needs to avoid unpleasant conflict) and a yearning for emotional connection that seems unavailable from the partner.”
“Couples may tumble into a conditional relationship when one pressures the other to marry or cohabitate, thinking the move will deepen their connection. It is almost always an error to marry when you don’t want to. “
” The child learns to lie to look good and escape the parent’s harsh judgments.”
” A committed relationship requires being there for each other both through life-changing traumas and everyday stresses. It also means sharing in your partner’s joy when good happens. It’s true that couples may have different needs for expressiveness. But in a committed relationship a calibration occurs in which each learns what the other requires to feel loved, protected, and supported.”
“Whatever your partner’s communication style, if he or she implies that you are inferior, you are being treated with disrespect. A loving relationship is not about one person having the upper hand—it’s about holding hands. A contemptuous and superior attitude is emotional abuse whether expressed through frequent name calling or subtle slights.”
“When a woman decides to stay home after having children, despite an agreement that she’ll return to work, the financial burden falls on the partner, who now feels the need to work harder. One person gets to spend the day with their child while the other’s family time is reduced. “
” At times, expressing disapproval of your partner’s deeds can be the most loving and supportive action you can take. Blind acceptance is never a healthy strategy.”
” Their mutual lack of empathy, at least in expression, builds up anger and resentment. Trust cannot be maintained under this scenario.”
“Many people think that effective conversation entails making yourself sound interesting to others, when actually it is all about being interested in others and listening.”
“Distinguished psychologist and philosopher Dr. Eugene Gendlin uses an approach he calls focusing. When you’re hunting for the right word to describe a feeling, he suggests you ‘try on’ each word while monitoring your physical responses to it. When your body relaxes, you’ve probably hit on the correct description of your emotions. It’s almost as if the body says, ‘Phew! Yes! That’s the right word.'”
“Avoid queries that your partner can punt with single words such as yes or no, which kill conversations before they start. Instead, pose questions in ways that require a deeper response.”
“After your partner answers a question, respond by saying back what you just heard, in your own words.”
“When your partner is upset, be on his or her team whether the issue is trivial or significant. If you think your mate is overreacting or should have a ‘different’ emotional response, stifle the urge to offer your opinion and suggestions. After years of studying couples who have maintained long and happy marriages, I can assure you that being the voice of reason is not always the best approach. Let other people play that role. Yours is to let the person you love know that you’re standing with him or her. You get and accept his or her emotions as valid—because all feelings are.”
“Remember Ginott’s motto: understanding must precede advice. I would go even further and warn you not to give advice at all unless asked. Just being there and listening is an enormous contribution.”
“Not all small bids are spoken or obvious. A wife who is making the bed may ask her husband to change the pillowcases, or she may just sigh as he walks by. Attunement means paying attention to your partner’s subtle clues. (It also means making your wishes clear, so your partner can read you.) You don’t always have to comply with the request, but you should respond with love and sensitivity.”
“1. Pay attention to what I say. (‘How do I look?’ ‘Wow, did you see that boat?!’)
- Respond to my simple requests. (‘While you’re up, could you get the salsa?’)
- Help me or work with me. (‘Let’s get Janey into bed now.’)
- Show interest or active excitement in my accomplishments. (‘Do you think I did well?’)
- Answer my questions or requests for information. (‘Can you help me fill out this form?’)
- Chat with me. (‘Let me tell you what happened when my mom called.’)
- Share the events of your day with me. (‘What happened at work?’)
- Respond to my joke. (‘Did I tell you the one about . . . ?’)
- Help me destress. (‘I think I blew my presentation today.’)
- Help me problem solve. (‘What do you think I should do about my boss?’)
- Be affectionate. (‘Come here and cuddle with me while I read.’)
- Play with me. (‘Hey, let’s get out the Monopoly board.’)
- Join me in an adventure or exploration. (‘Do you want to hike up Turtleback tomorrow?’)
- Join me in learning something. (‘Let’s take French lessons!’)”
“You just need to respond in a manner that shows you’re there.”
“In my clinical practice, I have found that holding weekly State of the Union meetings is the most successful strategy for helping couples who are in conflict. This meeting is a formal encounter in which both people use attunement skills to gain perspective on the argument. Usually, I have couples set aside one hour a week to perform this intervention at home and have them schedule a weekly office appointment to discuss the experience afterward. As couples become more adept at this systematic process, they are able to use attunement skills right away when there is a misunderstanding, rather than waiting for a scheduled meeting.”
“Rapoport is famous among social psychologists for suggesting an extraordinary powerful principle: do not try to persuade, problem solve, or compromise until you can state the other side’s position to their satisfaction, and vice versa. “
“You’ll know you’re flooded if your heart rate exceeds 100 beats per minute (bpm), or your oxygen concentration falls below 95 percent. (This is standard for almost everybody, regardless of age or gender. For athletes, however, the threshold is 80 bpm.) Stop the discussion and take twenty minutes to calm down. “
“Always begin the meeting with a review of what’s been going right between you lately. Accentuating the positive will defuse some of the tension and render both of you more able to cooperate.”
“When you say, ‘I wish you had gotten to the restaurant on time. I felt embarrassed sitting there all alone waiting for you,’ the focus is on your experience and perception. This gentler approach increases the odds that your partner will respond without being critical or defensive, and perhaps even apologize.”
“In contrast, a ‘you’ statement points the finger at the partner’s motives, feelings, behavior, or personality. ‘You are so selfish. Obviously you didn’t think about how embarrassing it was for me to sit there alone!’ isn’t a statement. It’s an accusation. It will trigger defensiveness and make everything worse.”
“He knew that in any significant disagreement there is more than one reality and they are all ‘right.’ To work through a regrettable incident with your partner, you must acknowledge and show respect for opinions you do not share. There is no single view of the facts.”
“For a conflict discussion to succeed, therefore, you must state your feelings as neutrally as possible and then convert any complaint about your partner into a positive need. Your goal is to give your partner a blueprint for succeeding with you. Think of your negative emotions as a clue to a hidden wish and then express that desire directly. Behind anger you’re likely to find frustration that a goal was not realized (‘I wanted to get to the party on time’), behind sadness there’s usually a longing (‘I wish you had gotten home so we could eat dinner together’), and so often hope and expectation are lurking behind disappointment (‘If you’d clean the kitchen with me, it would take half the time and I’d get to relax’).”
“My final advice on understanding each other is to avoid trying to solve your partner’s problems or assume responsibility for making him or her feel better during the meeting. “
“He comes to accept that he cannot control what she feels and that it is not his job to get his wife to cheer up, calm down, or develop a sense of humor. All she needs is for him to know her and care.”
“Noted sex therapist Lonnie Barbach suggests that couples communicate their level of arousal through an ‘amorous scale’ from 1 to 9, with 1 being ‘no thanks,’ 5 being ‘I’m convince-able,’ and 9 being ‘oh, yes!’ Then one partner can say ‘Right now, honey, I’m at 8 or 9.’ And the partner might say ‘Well, I’m at 5. Why don’t we start kissing and see where it goes?'”
“About Feelings and Intimacy
- Many people say that their sexual experience is dependent on feelings. Is that true for you? What do you need from me?
- There is an old saying that some people need sex to feel close, but others only want sex when they already feel close. Do you think that difference exists between us? Is it a problem? If so, how can we make it better?
- Sometimes one partner may not remember what the other finds exciting and erotic. Are there activities or ways to touch you that I’ve forgotten? Can you give me a refresher course?
- What makes sex more romantic and passionate for you?
- Would you like our sex life to feel more like making love? If so, how could we do that?
- What do you think were some of the best, most romantic times we’ve had? What can we do to have more romance?
- Do you feel that I court you? Or did that stop between us? Is that something you’d like us to work on?
- Do you think we have a similar sex drive? If not, do you think yours is lower or higher than mine? Do you see this difference as a problem?
- Do you think I can tell when you’re in the mood for sex? Am I not reading some of your signals?
- What would be a good way for us to handle one of us wanting sex and the other not being interested at the moment?
- Do you ever feel pressured by me to have sex when you don’t want to? If so, how do we avoid that? What would be a good way for us to initiate sex? Can we create a ritual or signal to let each other know that we’re interested (or not)?
- How do you usually feel when I’m the one who initiates sex? Does it feel differently when you initiate it?
Your Body Image
- What do you like about your body?
- What about your body do you not feel so good about? Do those feelings influence how comfortable you are in bed? Is there something I should do, or not do, to help you feel more comfortable?
- Tell me honestly, are there things I do that make you not like your body? What could I do differently?
- What do you like about my body?
Touching and Being Touched
- There’s an old song about liking a lover with ‘slow hands.’ Is that so for you? Would you like me to touch you more slowly or faster?
- Which type of foreplay do you like the best? What doesn’t work for you? Is there a part of foreplay you’d like us to work on?
- Some people say that their partner neglects touching them in some favorite places. Do you feel that’s true for us?
- Are there some ways of caressing that you prefer?
- Would it help if I asked you, ‘What do you want and need?’
For Women Only
- Many women say that they cannot ask for what they want concerning nonsexual physical affection from their partner, such as being cuddled, held, or touched affectionately. How do you feel about that?
- Many women say that they wish that there would not be the constant expectation that all warm touch will lead to sexual encounters. They want more variety and openness. Is that true of us?
- What are your feelings about my stimulating your clitoris by hand? Does that work for you? How could it be better?
- How do you feel about my satisfying you by caressing your clitoris?
- Is manual vaginal penetration also important to you as well as clitoral stimulation?
- Do you feel embarrassed to ask for clitoral stimulation from me? If so, what can I do to make that better?
For Men Only
- Many men say that they wish that their partner would pay more attention to their penis. Is that true for you?
- What are your feelings about me stimulating you by hand? Does that work for you? How could it be better?
- How do you feel about my satisfying you by caressing your penis?
- How important is it to you to have an orgasm when we have sex?
- Do you feel guilt or shame when you come?
- Do you feel pressure from me or ‘society’ to have an orgasm?
- Do you feel judged if you don’t come?
- Are there times when you feel cheated that I have an orgasm and you don’t?
- Are you worried that you take too long or short a time to have an orgasm, or worried about just being different from me?
- Are you at all embarrassed about how you look or sound when you’re coming?
- Are you very sensitive after orgasm and want to avoid stimulation?
Orgasm Questions for Women Only
- Some women say that they don’t have orgasms. Is that true of you? If so, how do you feel about that? What do you need from me?
- Is there any relationship between how feminine you feel and whether or not you have an orgasm?
- Many women say that they hate the fact that their partner expects that all sexual contact will lead to orgasm. Do you feel that way?
- What about faking an orgasm? Do you ever do that? Maybe to spare my feelings?
- Do you usually need to come again, after your first orgasm? What can I do to help that happen?
- Can I tell when you’re having an orgasm?
- Do you usually have multiple orgasms?
- Do you feel bad having an orgasm during your period?
For Men Only
- What is the feeling of being erect like for you? Do you feel wanted? Desired? Loved? Urgent?
For Women Only
- Many women have said that they enjoy cunnilingus, but say that it rarely lasts long enough. Is that true for you?
- Many women have said that they enjoy cunnilingus, but that they don’t enjoy giving and receiving oral sex at the same time because they cannot just enjoy their own pleasure. Is that true for you?
- Some women do not like cunnilingus because they worry that they smell bad or are somehow dirty. Some women do not like cunnilingus during their period. Is that true for you?
- Many women have said that they enjoy performing oral sex, but that there are a few things that are negative about it. Is that true for you?
- Some women do not like oral sex at all. They have negative feelings about it. Is that true for you?
For Men Only
- Some women complain that the man uses a short bout of cunnilingus as a quick step to intercourse. Is that true of you?
- Many men have said that they enjoy performing oral sex, but that they prefer giving and receiving it at the same time because they can then also enjoy their own pleasure. Is that true for you?
- Some men do not like giving oral sex because they don’t like the smell or somehow feel it is dirty. Is that true for you?
- Many men have said that they enjoy fellatio, but that there are a few things that are negative about it. Is that true for you?
- Do you like fellatio but have negative feelings about ejaculating in my mouth or my swallowing it?
- Many men have said that they enjoy fellatio, but that they don’t enjoy 69. Is that true for you?
- Some men do not like fellatio at all, but some men want more of it. What is true for you?
For Women Only
- How do you feel about penetration?
- Some women do not want sex during their period. Is that true for you?
- Some women dislike the expectation that sex will always lead to some kind of penetration. Do you ever feel that way?
- Do you feel a pressure to have an orgasm during intercourse with me? What can I do to make that better? Do you feel a pressure to have multiple orgasms? Why or why not?
- Do you feel a pressure to have an orgasm at the same time as me? What can I do to make that better?
- Have you ever made use of a vibrator or dildo? What was the experience like for you? Is that something you’d be interested in trying?
- Many people say that they physically enjoy masturbation, but they feel there is something wrong with it. How do you feel?
- Some people masturbate to control their own horniness. They feel that they can’t talk to their partner about it. How do you feel?
- Will you show me how you prefer to masturbate?
- Some people fantasize about erotic situations while they masturbate. Does that describe you? If so, do you feel comfortable talking to me about any of those fantasies?
- Many women say that they masturbate entirely by clitoral stimulation, but other women say that to come they need to stimulate other erotic zones as well. What is true for you?
- Many men say that they masturbate entirely by penile stimulation, but other men say that to come they need to stimulate other erotic zones as well. What is true for you?”
“Happy couples tell their tales with warmth, affection, and respect for each other.”
“Happy couples tend to relate stories where they worked well as a unit.”
“But if the relationship is satisfying, even the quietest couples describe positive memories that are distinctive and special.”
“Couples who describe their relationship history as chaotic are usually unhappy in the present. They don’t tell stories of pulling together or learning from their negative experiences. There’s no sense in their descriptions that their past troubles and conflicts strengthened their mutual trust. Life, and the relationship, just happened to them.”
“In contrast, happy couples express pride over having survived difficult times. They glorify the struggle by emphasizing how it strengthened their commitment. They believe they steered their own course together, based on their common goals, aspirations, and values. They have built a system of shared meaning and purpose. Whether couples display this positive energy when recalling past hardships is not at all dependent on the depth of the difficulties they faced.”
“When couples are at risk for splitting, at least one of them will express disappointment that the relationship isn’t what it promised to be. Often, when reviewing the choices they made in the past, they express cynicism about long-term commitment.”
“a happy relationship is good for your health. A low-trust one can be deadly.”
“If you make yourself vulnerable to another person, there is never a guarantee that you won’t be hurt. But more often than not, it’s worth it.”
“Lesson Number One about detecting deceit: untrustworthy people think only of their own payoffs. If someone treats you unfairly and does not reciprocate kindness, do not trust him or her, no matter how charming.”
“A partner’s life should be an open book, without secrets. Make sure this new person invites you to meet friends, family, colleagues, and also confides in you about major stresses, ambitions, goals. When you ask, ‘Where have you been?’ he or she should answer without hesitation.”
“Is there proof that this potential partner keeps promises? Are you able to check the details of any significant transactions with others, financial or otherwise? Do not trust someone who remains vague or unreachable about these issues. It’s best to be suspicious of people who say ‘Just trust me’ in response to a specific question. Trustworthy people don’t feel the need to tell you what to think!”
“Does this person display just and fair conduct with consistency? Does he or she express and demonstrate values in tune with your own? If you’re not comfortable with someone’s morals, do not continue the relationship.”