When we talk to our closest friends about our problems, what we want from them most is their understanding and support.  Dr. Gottman’s research has taught him a great variety of things about relationships of all kinds, but whenever he discusses romantic relationships he begins with a deeply meaningful idea: The most important predictor of a good relationship is the friendship at its core. Couples who “know each other intimately [and] are well versed in each other’s likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes, and dreams” are the couples who make it. 

To deepen your connection with your partner, and to build on the first two skills of intimate conversation we described in our previous blog posts this week, we offer you this powerful exercise. Its simplicity is beautiful, allowing you to apply it in everyday conversations to build trust and friendship with your partner – Dr. Gottman’s keys to romance.

When your partner answers a question, respond in your own words, reflecting the emotion that you just heard back to them. Remember, you don’t have to hit the ball out of the park right off the bat. To extend this sports metaphor unreasonably, as long as you are in the ballpark, your understanding and encouragement will open your partner up to sharing more with you.


David comes home very late from a meeting with an old friend, and flops into an armchair in the living room next to his wife Lisa. Both are exhausted, and David is stressed. He wants to talk.

Failing to Deepen Connection:

David: Rich was ridiculous tonight. I’m not sure what to do with him.

Lisa: You sound like you’re mad at him.

David: (frowning) I guess.

Lisa: What are you so mad about?

David: I don’t know, we’re both tired. Let’s just go to bed…

Succeeding in Deepening Connection:

David: Rich was ridiculous tonight. I’m not sure what to do with him.

Lisa: Are you feeling like you need to do something with him?

David: I’m just so frustrated, he seems like he’s trapped in life.

Lisa: It sounds like you feel responsible, is that what’s making you frustrated?

David: (sigh) Yeah. He’s relying on me, we’ve known each other since we were little, and I know his family life isn’t exactly peaceful.

Lisa: He’s lucky to have you, someone who cares so much about him. I’m lucky to have you.

David: Let’s invite him over to dinner Tuesday night? I’m sure he would relax. I would relax.

Lisa: (laughing) We would all relax…

Try this at home with your partner this weekend! On Monday, look forward to more teasers from Dr. Gottman’s upcoming book What Makes Love Last that will teach you skills for increasing your compassion and empathy in your relationships with your loved ones.

Have a beautiful weekend!

More in The Archives
Weekend Homework Assignment: Following Up With Statements That Deepen Connection

Ellie Lisitsa is a staff writer at The Gottman Institute and a regular contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog. Ellie is pursuing her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on Cognitive Dissonance at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.