Gottman Guides Community to Successful Relationships

February 11, 2011

John Gottman
Photo by David Noe

Winter Park Institute Scholar in Residence John Gottman presented to a capacity crowd his research on the science of trust and betrayal in relationships in a series of lectures on Tuesday, Februrary 8, in the Bush Auditorium. The mixed audience of students, faculty, staff and members of the Winter Park Community was captivated and entertained by the insightful social commentary of Gottman, whose wit added humor to the scientific and complicated topic of social psychology.

Gottman explained to the audience that it is relatively easy to predict whether couples will have a strong and lasting relationship or are bound to break up. “For unhappy couples, it’s easier to become negative and more difficult for them to have positive exchanges,” professed Gottman. “What’s different is that couples in a healthy relationship get into negative states of mind less often and can easily come out of that state.”

Trustworthiness, Gottman said, is the most important trait people look for in a mate. “Trust is correlated with the positive outcomes of happiness and stability. Criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling, however, are the four signs of a relationship doomed to fail.” Gottman then elaborated how the hormone Oxytocin elicits feelings of trust and is largely at work in the brain during relationships.

“Clearly, many audience members were interested by Gottman’s insights about how to successfully navigate the difficult waters of our most intimate relationships,” said Gail Sinclair, executive director of the Winter Park Institute. “My sense is that all who attended took away something valuable and personally applicable from what they heard.”

Later that evening, a capacity crowd of more than 600 attenders listened intently inside Knowles Memorial Chapel as Gottman shared his findings on what makes relationships work. In a lecture that drew upon his three-and-a-half decades of research with more than 3,000 couples at his Seattle Love Lab, Gottman doled out the findings that have enabled him to predict divorce with 91 percent accuracy.

While a discussion on divorce could certainly turn somber, the atmosphere inside Knowles couldn’t have been further from it. Gottman laced his presentation with humorous stories and comical quips, many times making himself the butt of his own jokes, which served to send the message that he is far from the perfect spouse living in a flawless marriage.

The audience, many of whom are in the counseling business and traveled from as far away as Tampa and Jacksonville, laughed and breathed a sigh of relief as Gottman disclosed that even “disasters,” the term he uses for couples headed for divorce, can become “masters.” This turn around can be accomplished, according to Gottman, by making “deposits into each other’s emotional banks accounts," a metaphor he uses to encourage such responses as “turning toward each other” and “building a love map.”

According to Sharon Carnahan, professor of psychology, Gottman has practiced what he preaches by providing his own “love gift for the community.”

For more information on the upcoming Winter Park Institute’s events, please visit

By Justin Braun (MBA Class of 2011) and Kristen Manieri

Office of Public Relations & Community Affairs
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