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Integrating Internal Family Systems and Gottman Principles for Healthier Relationships

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Relationships are complex and require constant effort to maintain and improve. However, by integrating the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model and Gottman principles, couples can cultivate greater self-awareness, empathy, and communication skills to deepen their connection and build a healthier relationship. In this article, we will explore how these two approaches can complement each other and provide practical tools for couples to enhance their relationship.

Internal Family Systems (IFS) Model

The Internal Family Systems (IFS) model is a therapeutic approach that has gained popularity throughout recent years. It’s a model that helps individuals better understand their internal landscape and the different parts of themselves. It assumes that everyone has various “parts” within themselves, and these parts interact with each other to shape their emotions, behavior, and beliefs. For instance, a person may have a part that is critical of themselves, while another part wants to be kind and compassionate. At the heart of IFS is the idea that individuals have a “Self” or a core essence that is fundamentally good, curious, and compassionate. However, this Self can become obscured or overwhelmed by the presence of “parts” that are more reactive, defensive, or protective. These parts may be formed as a result of traumatic experiences, societal messages, or other external factors. IFS aims to help individuals identify and work with these parts to cultivate inner harmony and balance.

Gottman Principles

Dr. John Gottman is a renowned psychologist and relationship expert who has studied couples for decades. His research has identified key principles for building and maintaining a healthy relationship. These principles include developing effective communication skills, managing conflict constructively, building intimacy and connection, and creating shared meaning.

Combining IFS and Gottman Principles

By combining the IFS model and Gottman principles, couples can deepen their understanding of themselves and each other, improve communication, and develop practical skills to manage conflicts and build a more fulfilling relationship. Here are some ways that IFS and Gottman’s principles can be integrated:

  1. Identify and work with your parts

The first step in integrating IFS and Gottman’s principles is to identify and work with your internal parts. This involves learning to recognize when different parts of yourself are activated, and understanding how they influence your behavior and emotions. For instance, you may have a part that becomes defensive or engages in the Four Horsemen that Gottman discusses, when your partner gives you feedback. By recognizing and working with this part, you can learn to listen more openly and respond more constructively.

  1. Develop effective communication skills

Gottman method emphasizes the importance of effective communication in building a healthy relationship. By learning to listen actively, express your needs clearly, and respond empathetically, couples can enhance their understanding of each other and build deeper connections. IFS can complement this approach by helping individuals identify and communicate their different parts, allowing them to express themselves more authentically and effectively.

  1. Manage conflict constructively

Conflict is inevitable in any relationship, but how couples manage it can make all the difference. Gottman’s principles emphasize the importance of managing conflicts constructively, by learning to approach disagreements with curiosity and empathy, rather than defensiveness or criticism. IFS can help couples understand the different parts of themselves that are triggered in conflict, allowing them to respond more mindfully and compassionately.

  1. Build intimacy and connection

Developing intimacy and connection is essential to building a fulfilling relationship. It is important to build a culture of appreciation, create shared experiences, and prioritize the relationship. IFS complements this approach by helping individuals identify and work with their different parts that may block intimacy, such as fear, shame, or vulnerability.

By integrating the IFS model and Gottman principles, couples can develop greater self-awareness, empathy, and communication skills to deepen their connection and build a healthier relationship. Whether you are looking to resolve conflicts, enhance intimacy, or improve communication, this integrated approach can provide practical tools and insights to help you achieve your goals. With practice and commitment, couples can cultivate a deeper understanding of themselves and each other, leading to a more fulfilling and meaningful relationship.

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Janet Bayramyan is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Los Angeles, CA and owner of Road to Wellness Therapy . She is certified in both Attachment Focused EMDR, Brainspotting therapy, and trained in Internal Family Systems (parts work) and the Havening Techniques. She is licensed in California, Florida, South Carolina, Texas, Connecticut, and North Carolina and can provide virtual therapy for clients residing in any one of those states. Janet’s passion and specialties include trauma recovery, relationship wellness, and anxiety support. Janet’s background is Russian, Armenian, and American and she takes into consideration how one’s cultural background impacts mental health and life experiences. Janet also provides mentorship, supervision, and consultations to associate therapists in her private practice. Visit her website at and follow her on instagram and tik tok at

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