Making It Last

Making it Last

By Lisa Von Wahlde, MSW, LCSW

Although we live in a world with a variety of ways to ‘talk’ to people at our literal fingertips, it can still be a challenge to communicate within our closest relationships. Drs. John and Julie Gottman, experts in couple’s therapy, have researched couples over the past 30 years and can determine with 95% accuracy whether a couple will remain together in the next 5 years based on how they communicate with one another.  So, what do couples who stay together do that couples who break up don’t?

  • They complain without blaming the other person. That is, the partner communicates his/her dislike of a behavior not of the other partner. Our partner’s behavior can drive us nuts, but, we still love them!
  • Couples who communicate well also take responsibility for the role they play in a conflict. Drs. Gottman state that one doesn’t need to take, and in fact, shouldn’t take, all responsibility for relational conflict. Surprisingly, if a partner takes even a small portion of responsibility in a fight, it will encourage the other partner to do the same. Share and share alike!
  • Good communicators also continue to ‘get to know’ one another throughout the relationship, not just at its beginning. We learn new things about ourselves each day based on our experiences, with whom we interact, what we read, etc.   So, it stands to reason that there are always new things to learn about our partner. Stay curious about your partner.
  • Another important factor in what makes or breaks a relationship is communicating appreciation. As children, we are taught to say “please” and “thank you”. How is it that over the course of a relationship, these words get used less? Drs. Gottman encourage couples to “treat your partner the way that you would a guest.” Most people would not be rude to or name-call a guest. Simply put, couples who stay connected are ones who are nice to one another.
  • Lastly, couples who communicate well are those who can tell their partner that they need a ‘time out’ during an argument. Instead of allowing the fight to escalate, hurtful words spoken and voices raised, healthy couples are those who can recognize when an argument is no longer productive and can take a break to cool off, calm down, and then regroup to solve the conflict.


Remember that the whole point of a conflict is to solve a problem. At the core of intimate relationships is a deep desire to be understood by someone.  Shift the emphasis in relationships from ‘talking to’ to ‘communicating with’.