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Dr. John Gottman on communication between men and women

(CNN) -- Dr. John Gottman runs the "Love Lab" at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he analyzes the way couples communicate with each other and studies what their bodies are doing as they discuss issues in their relationship. As a result of years of study, he can predict with 90 percent accuracy whether a couple will stay married or divorce. He is the author of "Relationship Cure."

CNN Moderator: What are the signs of a lasting relationship? What are the signs that a relationship will fail?

Dr. John Gottman: The signs of a lasting relationship are that people really work to build the friendship in the marriage. Also, that they manage the amount of conflict between them. The signs of a relationship that is heading for disaster is that people neglect their friendship and intimacy and allow conflict to escalate and become contemptuous and insulting.

Question from chat room: If a couple fails to have those characteristics you consider essential to a healthy marriage, should they give up on the relationship?

Dr. John Gottman: Let me say that the characteristics are not in the people. They're really in the way that the people communicate with each other. That is very changeable. So my answer is don't give up.

Question from chat room: How long does it take to evaluate an average couple for compatibility?

Dr. John Gottman: We can evaluate a marriage in three hours.

Question from chat room: Is it possible for a couple to find out if they would match in their future lives?

Dr. John Gottman: Yes. It's absolutely possible to find out if you really match with one another. The basis is really affection and respect for one another. So, ask yourself whether you feel respected in this relationship and whether you feel like your partner is really fond of you.

Question from chat room: Can the same tips be used in same-sex relationships? Are the communication problems the same?

Dr. John Gottman: We have studied same-sex relationships for the past 12 years. In many ways they are different than heterosexual relationships. They do not have the same kind of power struggles that men and women have but they really need to work on repairing things when they become very negative. Basically, the same principles do apply.

Question from chat room: How can I volunteer for the Love Lab?

Dr. John Gottman: You can call our toll-free number at 888-523-9042. Leave your name and telephone number or email address.

Question from chat room: Does financial status have any impact in a relationship?

Dr. John Gottman: It depends what you mean by financial status. Poverty is very bad for relationships in general. But for the most part what's important is whether you think you have enough money. A rich person is a person who feels he or she has a enough.

Question from chat room: What is the importance of sex in a happy marriage?

Dr. John Gottman: Sex is quite important in a happy marriage. What people don't realize is that a good sexual relationship emerges from affection and respect and humor toward one another in very small moments of every day interaction.

Question from chat room: How about age? Can a 30-year-old woman and a 52-year-old man have a successful marriage?

Dr. John Gottman: Age is a lot less important than communicating with affection and respect.

Question from chat room: Dr. Gottman, how do we deal with long distance relationships and how can we keep them alive?

Dr. John Gottman: Long distance relationships require special attention. The advantage is that when people are apart they keep re-courting one another.

Question from chat room: What can I do to let go of past hurt and betrayal, so that I can love my partner again?

Dr. John Gottman: The only way that I think you can let go of past hurt and betrayal is by having those hurts listened to and honored. There has to be not only forgiveness, but also restitution for past wrongs.

Question from chat room: What is the importance of joint family in the life of a couple?

Dr. John Gottman: Joint family is really critical in many ways. One of the ways it's important is in building community. Another way it's important is in honoring the legacy that we receive from both our families.

Question from chat room: How important are religious and ethnic differences between people on relationships?

Dr. John Gottman: I believe that every marriage is a cross-cultural experience regardless of whether people are from different or the same cultures. They come from different families and the family they create is a brand new culture that has never existed before.

Question from chat room: Why do people stay in destructive relationships?

Dr. John Gottman: The reason people stay in destructive relationships is that they have trouble giving up the dream of what their partner could be like. Often it takes a critical event for people to give up a false dream.

Question from chat room: What to do about insatiable jealousy?

Dr. John Gottman: I believe that every person has areas of enduring vulnerability. For a marriage to succeed, these vulnerabilities need to be understood and honored.

Question from chat room: In general, how long should the initial courtship process last before the marriage itself?

Dr. John Gottman: I believe that the courtship should last the entire life of the marriage.

Question from chat room: How can I know whether I love a particular person or I simply am addicted to her?

Dr. John Gottman: If you're addicted to something you keep requiring larger and larger doses to get the same affect. If you're in love with somebody you keep enjoying whatever you get.

Question from chat room: What kind of importance do children have in a relationship? Would you advise a pair to have children as soon as possible?

Dr. John Gottman: Marriages can work with or without children. A child is the source of both enormous joy and potential stress. I would advise people to put off having children until their partnership really feels secure.

Question from chat room: How should the wife react when she finds out that her husband is cheating on her?

Dr. John Gottman: I believe that all betrayals in relationships should be confronted and not tolerated.

Question from chat room: Do you believe that marriage is a natural state of existence for mankind, or a socially induced behavior?

Dr. John Gottman: The evidence suggests that marriage is, in fact, a relationship that confers both health and longevity. Fundamentally, we are highly social creatures.

Question from chat room: Is it infidelity to think of another man while in a relationship?

Dr. John Gottman: No.

Question from chat room: Which are the main points to consider in the relationship before the marriage?

Dr. John Gottman: Ask yourself whether you like the way you are being treated. Are you being treated with kindness, respect and consideration? Do you feel really important in your partner's world?

Question from chat room: How do you view cyber relationships?

Dr. John Gottman: The Internet is another way of getting to know people. It has great potential for good and also great potential for betrayal. It depends entirely on how it is used.

Question from chat room: How has the disposable society idea affected our relationships?

Dr. John Gottman: I think it's weakened commitment. It has also had the good side-effect of reducing the stigma of failed relationships.

Question from chat room: Who are more faithful, women or man?

Dr. John Gottman: In the 1940s, Kinsey showed that 70 percent of men had had an extramarital affair, but only 40 percent of women had had an extramarital affair. More recent research shows that there are no differences between men and women at this point. Most sociologists think that the differences Kinsey observed were due to the lack of opportunity that women had for meeting interesting men.

Question from chat room: How can men be sensitive to women without compromising on their egos?

Dr. John Gottman: Men need to realize that the only way to be powerful in a relationship is to be capable of being influenced. To be affected by a woman is not a loss of ego, but is actually gaining power.

Question from chat room: Do we really need relationships?

Dr. John Gottman: Scientists have found that relationships are necessary for physical health, mental health and increased longevity. They are more important than diet, exercise and health habits.

Question from chat room: What is the main reason for a person to stray from a marriage into an extra-marital affair?

Dr. John Gottman: There are many reasons for extra-marital affairs. The primary reason is not sex. It's finding someone who considers you interesting and attractive. Therefore, most affairs occur because of the deterioration of the marriage.

CNN Moderator: Do you have any final thoughts to share with us today?

Dr. John Gottman: We offer two-day workshops for couples here in Seattle. Our research shows that these workshops are effective for about 80 percent of the couples that attend. If you're interested, call our toll-free number 888-523-9042. And tell them you'd like information about our two-day workshops. We also offer workshops for same-sex couples.

CNN Moderator: Thank you for joining us today.

Dr. John Gottman: Goodbye everybody. Thanks for joining me.

This is an edited transcript of a chat with Dr. John Gottman who appeared in's chat room after his appearance on Beyond the Mind on CNN International. Dr. Gottman joined the chat room via telephone from Seattle, Washington. CNN provided a typist for Dr. Gottman. The chat took place on Sunday, June 10, 2001 at 3 p.m. EDT.

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