The Science of Trust: Emotional Attunement for Couples

An eminent therapist explains what makes couples compatible and how to sustain a happy marriage.

For the past thirty-five years, John Gottman’s research has been internationally recognized for its unprecedented ability to precisely measure interactive processes in couples and to predict the long-term success or failure of relationships. In this groundbreaking book, he presents a new approach to understanding and changing couples: a fundamental social skill called “emotional attunement,” which describes a couple’s ability to fully process and move on from negative emotional events, ultimately creating a stronger relationship.

Gottman draws from this longitudinal research and theory to show how emotional attunement can downregulate negative affect, help couples focus on positive traits and memories, and even help prevent domestic violence. He offers a detailed intervention devised to cultivate attunement, thereby helping couples connect, respect, and show affection. Emotional attunement is extended to tackle the subjects of flooding, the story we tell ourselves about our relationship, conflict, personality, changing relationships, and gender. Gottman also explains how to create emotional attunement when it is missing, to lay a foundation that will carry the relationship through difficult times.

Gottman encourages couples to cultivate attunement through awareness, tolerance, understanding, non-defensive listening, and empathy. These qualities, he argues, inspire confidence in couples, and the sense that despite the inevitable struggles, the relationship is enduring and resilient.

This book, an essential follow-up to his 1999 The Marriage Clinic, offers therapists, students, and researchers detailed intervention for working with couples, and offers couples a roadmap to a stronger future together.

Nanci Arvizu, Writing and Reviews Editor

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3 Comments

  1. Important, credible, useful, but not particularly enjoyable I wanted to give this book five stars. My shelves are full of relationship books and parenting books (my specialty), and Gottman is prominent among them. Gottman’s credibility is essentially unsurpassed, and his work has been enormously influential in both a research and a practical sense. As soon as I heard about The Science of Trust I ordered it, anxiously awaiting an opportunity to delve into Gottman’s latest offering. Unfortunately, my five-star hopes were not met. 

  2. Great advance on relationships; takes patience to read Gottman’s work is deservedly renowned, and this is no exception. Unlike a lot of other “next books” that are repeats of an ongoing theme with very little added, The Science of Trust feels mostly new. If you’ve read Gottman’s other works, the parts that foundational are presented in a useful context and with additional elements, so even reading about them again creates new insights. And, of course, the focus on “trust” as a key new ingredient in successful relationships is very…

  3. A Scientific Approach You can hardly read a book or magazine article about marriage without the author mentioning John M Gottman’s work. He studies couples in a lab and comes up with some interesting facts. Like one thing I didn’t know before reading this book was that couples who get therapy are more likely to divorce. This book also explains how couples build trust and what erodes trust. Basically John M. Gottman believes that “emotional attunement creates intimate trust.” Throughout the book there are real-life…

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