GOTTMAN RELATIONSHIP RECIPES
The Gottman Institute
Try these relationship recipes out at home—you probably already have all the ingredients you need!
Welcome to the Kissin’ Kitchen where we whip up long-lasting love, stress-reducing strategies, and conflict conversation starters to set your meal off on the right fork. Try these relationship recipes out at home—you probably already have all the ingredients you need! So grab an apron and your partner because half the fun is in “making” love together.
Seven Principles Dip
It’s the big one! Layer the seven ingredients in this showstopping dip for a love you can savor for a lifetime. Add the ingredients in any order—let your creativity shine, just don’t make this dip alone. Some couples making this dip say it’s the only recipe they need— “15 years of marriage and we’re still figuring out how to get the Seven Principles Dip just right.” Let it become your signature dish! Keep at it, lovers! Need more help? Check out the full book.
- 1 Love Maps Card Deck (available for free on Gottman Card Decks App)
- 2 partners willing to work on their relationship
- Love for your partner (even a pinch will do!)
- 1 Conflict (choose the ripest for now)
- 1 dollop of dreams
- 1 bag tortilla chips (optional)
Layer the following in a clear dish so you can see the fruits of your labor:
- Build Love Maps: Love Maps are your ongoing and ever-evolving understanding of your partner’s world as they move through time. Use fresh Love Maps and update regularly.
- Express Fondness and Admiration: Couples who function well are able to appreciate and enjoy most aspects of their partner’s behavior and learn to live with differences. Notice the good things your partner is doing and call them out. Use generously.
- Turn Toward One Another: Conversational patterns of interest and respect, even about mundane topics are crucial to happiness. Turning Toward can be as simple as a verbal acknowledgment to your partner’s bids. Note: for best results Turn Towards, not Away or Against. This is one of the secrets for making this recipe last.
- Accept Influence: Members of a couple who take the other partner’s preferences into account and are willing to compromise and adapt are happiest. Don’t be a hero, let your partner help with this step.
- Solve Problems That Are Solvable: Couples who can find compromise on issues are using five tactics. They soften start-up (see Softened Start-Up Conflict Crostini!) so the beginning of the conversation leads to a satisfactory end. They offer and respond to repair attempts, or behaviors that maintain the emotional connection and emphasize “we/us” over individual needs. They effectively soothe themselves (see the Self-Soothie Smoothie!) and their partner. They use compromise and negotiation skills. They are tolerant of one another’s vulnerabilities and ineffective conversational habits, keeping the focus on shared concern for the well-being of the relationship. For more detailed instructions on this step, read this.
- Manage Conflict and Overcome Gridlock: The Gottman Method helps couples manage, not resolve, conflict. Conflict is viewed as inherent in relationships and doesn’t go away. In fact, it is a key layer in this recipe! Happy couples report the majority of their conflicts, 69% are perpetual in nature, meaning they are present throughout the course of time and are dealt with only as needed. Though important, it is crucial not to dwell on this step of the recipe.
- Create Shared Meaning: Connection in a relationship occurs as each person experiences the multitude of ways in which their partner enriches their life with a shared history and helps them find meaning and make sense of struggles. This dish is meant to be shared!
Heat and serve with chips.
YIELDS: Lasting love
Physiologically flooded? Need a break? Take 20-30 minutes and make this recipe! The perfect chill can be achieved with this research-inspired smoothie. The best part? It’s good for you!
- 1 Hand signal or code word to signify flooding
- Distance (we like to use separate rooms/areas but determine distance to taste)
- 1 favorite place or calming thought (if you aren’t into visualization you can sub out a mantra or soothing music here)
- Deep breaths
- Think of a neutral signal that you and your partner can use in a conversation to let each other know when one of you feels flooded or overwhelmed.
- When you have moved apart to take your break, try a relaxing visualization to escape from the stress of a difficult conversation. If visualization isn’t your thing, try listening to soothing music and paying attention to all the different parts. Alternatively, you may want to repeat a mantra to yourself such as, “You’re okay,” or “Just this.”
- Practice focusing on your breath. it should be deep, regular, and even. Usually when you get flooded, you either hold your breath a lot or breathe shallowly. So, inhale and exhale naturally.
- Tense and relax parts of your body that feel tight or uncomfortable.
- Blend slowly and mindfully for 20-30 minutes. Important: do not ruminate on what caused you to get flooded in the first place! This recipe is for a chilled smoothie, not a stew.
- Once calm, you are ready to serve. Return to the conversation and approach resolution.
- Garnish with mint.
Softened Start-Up Conflict Crostini
Use this favorite recipe early and often when conflict arises. A great appetizer or small bite—the softened start-up is great as an amuse bouche or on its own! John Gottman says, “94% of the time, the way a discussion starts determines the way it will end,” and we believe the same to be true of a meal. Make your menu sing by starting softer.
- 1 “I feel _____________ about ________________” statement
- 1 positive need (add more if you wish!)
- Focus on the present
- 1-2 baguettes, sliced
- Complain but don’t blame. No matter how “at fault” you feel that your partner is, approaching them with criticisms and accusations is obviously not productive. What isn’t obvious, however, are the little things you might say in arguments with your partner that make them feel criticized or blamed.
- Make statements that start with “I” instead of “You.” When you start sentences with “I,” you are less likely to be critical, which, as we know from criticism, will immediately put your partner on the defensive. Instead of saying “You are not listening to me,” you can say, “I don’t feel heard right now.”
Feeling stuck? Use this Quick Tip formula:
I feel __________________ about ___________________ and I need _________________________.
Note: Avoid the temptation to slip into “I feel like you_______________,” keep it located within your experience.
- Focus on how you’re feeling and what you need, not on accusing your partner! Both of you will stand to gain something from the conversation, and you will likely feel that you are hearing and understanding each other more.
- Describe what is happening, but don’t evaluate or judge. Instead of accusing or blaming your partner, simply describe what you see and feel in the situation.Instead of counterattacking and lashing out at you, your partner is more likely to consider your point of view and what you need, and they will likely try harder to deliver the results you are hoping for with this approach.
- Be polite and appreciative. Just because you are in conflict with your partner doesn’t mean that your respect and affection for them has to diminish. Adding phrases such as “please” and “I appreciate it” can be helpful for maintaining warmth and emotional connection during a difficult conversation.
- Make crostini. In case it wasn’t clear, this isn’t really about the crostini.
- Serve immediately—don’t store things up! We’ve all been there: exhausted and overwhelmed, feeling like we are drowning in a whirlpool of problems, and one issue just keeps leading to another. We bottle up our emotions, our feelings, and our needs. Suddenly, we find ourselves hosting a full seven-course meal of problems we never intended to broach, which all somehow feel related. You might even overcook some of the menu if you’ve been holding these feelings in. Generally, it’s best to keep the menu short and manageable.
And this is just the beginning!* You may find that you already have everything you need to cook up a lifetime of love. Bon appetite!
*It is also the end of the recipe metaphor.