John Gottman took his 40 years of research on the masters (and disasters) of “marriage” and distilled it down into the concept of the Sound Relationship House. The seven levels of the house depict his understanding on what creates a strong, viable relationship.
I love this metaphor. Houses are universal. Seeking and creating shelter has been around since the beginning of time. Houses are built using the materials at hand – brick homes come from Midwestern clay, homes in Thailand are built from teak. In India homes are constructed from wood, stone and mud, and here in the Northwest, houses are built from wood from our abundant forests.
Similarly, our relationships are built from the internal resources of each person involved. What we bring is what we have to offer.
Houses are meant to offer shelter – from the sun, the rain, the wind, and worse. So is our primary relationship. Within both structures, we seek to feel sheltered and safe.
There is a science and an art to building houses; there is a science and art to building a strong, viable, harmonious relationships. Maintaining a house takes consistent time, effort, and attending. It takes work. So does a relationship. After years, most houses need remodeling, a new coat of paint. So do long-term relationships.
Not all houses are welcoming: not all houses are ‘home.’ The same is true with relationships. There are relationships that continue “for the kids,” or because it would be too costly to divorce. Relationships where two people lead parallel lives, walking through their days feeling distant and emotionally disengaged.
People who strive to make their relationship ‘home’ recognize that physical and emotional safety is imperative, absolutely imperative. Maintaining and deepening the connection is also a priority. Both parties are willing to accept responsibility for his or her thoughts, words, feelings and actions. Each person demonstrates consistent interest and caring for their partner’s experiences and inner world.
This is ‘home’ in the best sense of the word.