Statements That Deepen Connection

Here are simple ways to build trust and friendship in your relationship

Here are simple ways to build trust and friendship in your relationship

Here are simple ways to build trust and friendship in your relationship

When you talk to your closest friends about your problems, what you want most from them is their understanding and support. Building and maintaining a strong connection to a reliable support system is one of the most important parts of practicing good self care. 

Dr. Gottman’s research teaches a great variety of things about relationships of all kinds. 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. 

Building Trust and Friendship

To deepen your connection with your partner, and to build on the first two skills of self-care described here and here, here is an exercise. Its beautiful simplicity allows you to apply it in everyday conversations to build trust and friendship with your partner, which are Dr. Gottman’s keys to romance.

The purpose of this exercise is to assist you in the management of daily external stress that comes from outside the relationship. How you manage stress turns out to be very critical. The couples who buffer their relationships from external stressors are more capable of maintaining consistent progress over time.

An Exercise

Try talking to your partner about a recent or upcoming stressor in each of your lives, like an upcoming job deadline or a future event (outside of your relationship) that may prove stressful. When your partner speaks, respond in your own words, reflecting the emotion that you just heard back to them. Don’t give advice. Remember, you don’t have to hit the ball out of the park right off the bat. To extend the metaphor, as long as you are in the ballpark, your understanding and encouragement will open your partner up to sharing more with you. 


Sam comes home very late from a meeting with an old friend and flops into an armchair in the living room next to Charlie. Both are exhausted, but Sam is stressed and needs to talk.

Failing to Deepen Connection

Sam: Rich was ridiculous tonight. I’m not sure what to do with him.
Charlie: You sound like you’re mad at him.
Sam: (frowning) I guess.
Charlie: What are you so mad about?
Sam: I don’t know, we’re both tired. Forget it. Let’s just go to bed…

Succeeding in Deepening Connection

Sam: Rich was ridiculous tonight. I’m not sure what to do with him.
Charlie: Are you feeling like you need to do something with him?
Sam: I’m just so frustrated. He seems like he’s trapped in life.
Charlie: It sounds like you feel responsible, is that what’s making you frustrated?
Sam: (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.
Charlie: He’s lucky to have you, someone who cares so much about him. I’m lucky to have you!
Sam: Let’s invite him over to dinner Tuesday night? I’m sure he would relax. I would relax.
Charlie: (laughing) We would all relax…

Final Thought

As you can see, in the second example Charlie restates how Sam is feeling (“It sounds like you feel responsible”) and empathizes, which tells Sam that Charlie is actively engaged in the conversation. This deepens their connection and ultimately leads to Sam feeling comforted and supported.

Try it at home with your partner. The conversation will give you a great opportunity to turn towards each other, thereby building your Emotional Bank Account.

The Marriage Minute is an email newsletter from The Gottman Institute that will improve your marriage in 60 seconds or less. More than 40 years of research with thousands of couples proves a simple fact: small things often can create big changes over time. Got a minute? Sign up below.

Ellie Lisitsa is a former staff writer at The Gottman Institute and editor for The Gottman Relationship Blog.