Improving Interpersonal Relationship Difficulties

Couples seek relationship counselling for a range of issues including relationship difficulties.


Some common issues that are addressed in therapy include:

> Communication challenges

> Frequent conflict

> Emotional separation

> Sexual challenges

> Infidelity

> Financial concerns

> Parenting challenges

At Positive Wellbeing Psychology, we have use a range of therapy approaches and strategies for relationship difficulties including the Gottman’s Method of Relationship Therapy to help you feel more satisfied in your relationship.

What are the goals and principles of the Gottman Method to Relationship Therapy?

To disarm conflicting verbal communication, increase intimacy, respect and affection, remove barriers that create a feeling of stagnancy in conflicting situations and create a heightened sense of empathy and understanding within the context of the relationship.

What are some factors that often affect intimacy?

For some, achieving intimacy in their relationships can feel quite difficult. There are many things that can get in the way so we have outlined a few areas that may impact intimacy in relationships:

> Communication – poor communication in relationships is the root of many problems. For a more connected relationship learning to communicate in a healthy, loving, and non-judgmental way is critical.
> Unresolved issues – past hurts, anger, resentment, lack of trust or a sense of feeling unappreciated can be major roadblocks to intimacy.
> External stressors – money worries, stressful work situations, family drama or simply not having the time to focus on your relationship can cause tension that will get in the way of your feelings of connection and closeness.
> Childhood trauma – traumatic events from one’s childhood can shape the way one forms relationship as adults. There is a myriad of ways that these experiences can affect us. For example, if someone has been abused as a child, they may find it hard to trust and be close to others.

How to make a relationship or marriage last against the test of time?

Dr John and Julie Gottman developed nine components of healthy relationships known as ‘The Sound Relationship House Theory’. This theory is the foundation of the Gottman Method and counselling sessions work to meet each of the principles listed in theory. They came up with a diagram of a house which represents the relationship and it has seven different levels in it. The principle included important factors to be considered to maintain a close relationship.

What are some strategies to facilitate a closer relationship with my partner?

> Build love maps – each partner draws a map of everything their significant other loves, likes, hates and dive into their world. This helps each other think about their partner’s deepest desires and needs.
> Share fondness and admiration – look at each other as a bank account and make regular emotional deposits into each other. This means making a point to give your partner compliments, gifts, respect and anything else your partner will appreciate.
> Turn towards instead of away – always accept your partner’s “bids” for an emotional connection or special moment. Even if these bids are for something very small and seemingly insignificant, they do matter in the long run.
> The positive perspective – this principle ties back to the importance of the foundation of deep friendship. Develop your friendship with each other and do enjoyable activities or spend time together.
> Manage conflict – be open to compromise with your partner and discuss your problems. Dr Gottman saw in his research that stonewalling is a large predictor of divorce, so it is important to talk things through rather than push them to the side.
> Make life dreams come true – support your partner’s goals and aspirations with all aspects of life.
> Create shared meaning – have a sense of purpose in your relationship and strive towards building a legacy. This can be very motivating especially during difficult times with your relationship.
> Increase trust – it is vital that couples know their partner has their back.
> Develop commitment – couples must act on the belief that their relationship is a lifelong journey for better or worse. If the relationship becomes worse, both partners must be willing to work to improve it.

What are the big four communication styles that are reliable predictors of divorce?

During Dr John Gottman studies in relationship science, he identified four communication styles that are reliable predictors of divorce. He referred to these negative communication styles as the “four horsemen.” They include:
> Criticism – a personal attack on your partner’s character. It is different from a complaint, which is usually directed at a specific mistake.
> Contempt – the feeling that your partner is worthless and beneath your consideration. It is fuelled by prolonged negative thinking about your partner.
> Defensiveness – a typical response to criticism where the accused partner makes excuses for an error, tries to shift the blame, and refuses to take responsibility.
> Stonewalling – a typical response to contempt where one partner shuts down and refuses to respond or interact with the other.


Gottman’s research indicated that how couples argue as well as how they make up after a disagreement are important factors in determining the health of the relationship. He discovered that 83% of marriages that are impacted by the four horsemen become stable over time if both partners learn how to reconcile successfully after an argument.

How can the Gottman Method help my relationship?

The Gottman Method is a unique, science-based approach to couples counselling. It is based on the Sound Relationship House theory developed by John Gottman, Ph.D., and his wife Julie Gottman, Ph.D. The Gottman’s drew upon four decades of scientific research with more than 3,000 couples to deepen our understanding of relationships, marriage, and couples therapy. Their approach highlights the importance of assessment and skill development in managing conflict, overcoming barriers, increasing understanding, repairing past hurts, and improving connections in relationships.


The Gottman Method encourages couples to build love maps so each partner can learn about the other’s stresses, worries, hopes, joys and history. Admiration and love are strengthened via expressions of respect and appreciation. The Gottman Method emphasizes conflict management rather than conflict resolution. Marriage mates learn how to speak honestly about their convictions and aspirations, and this helps to build trust and commitment to a long-term relationship.

Where to start the journey of improving my relationship?

At Positive Wellbeing Psychology, we are here to listen and provide guidance using theories that have proven to be effective to improve relationship difficulties including in disarming conflicting verbal communication, increasing intimacy, improving respect and affection, removing barriers that create a feeling of stagnancy in conflicting situations, and creating a heightened sense of empathy and understanding within the context of your intimate relationship.

Our Melbourne psychologists have created an online enquiry form to better assist you with starting your therapy journey. To enquire about an appointment with one of warm and compassionate psychologists at Positive Wellbeing Psychology, simply complete our Online Contact Form (click here). We’ll be in touch shortly to answer any of your questions.


Telehealth and In-Person appointments available with one of our Melbourne Psychologist during the day, after-hours and on weekends.

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Our Australian Registered Psychologists are experienced and trained in evidence-based treatment for interpersonal difficulties and relationship difficulties.