John Gottman on Trust and Betrayal
by Dr. Gottman.
The nation's top marriage expert explains why trust is essential to couples and communities--and how we can build it. In this excerpt from his talk, Dr. Gottman discusses his trailblazing work on the science of trust, exploring its importance for couples and communities alike.
For more than 40 years, I’ve studied what makes marriages work. I’ve observed thousands of couples, and many of them—the masters—can skillfully solve their problems.
Yet many others get stuck in their conflicts. Even couples who attend one of my institute’s workshops or therapy sessions have a hard time putting what they learn into practice.
I’ve found that we can help 70 to 75 percent of these couples. But what about the other 20 to 25 percent? How do we help them? What separates them from the masters?
To answer this, I looked at focus groups we did around the United States, involving couples at every social class level and from every ethnic and racial group in the country. I looked at work we did that was funded by the federal Administration of Children and Families, looking in particular at couples about to have a baby. I looked at a large study we did of newlyweds, starting a few months after their wedding. I looked at work we did with the families of soldiers who were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
What I found was that the number one most important issue that came up to these couples was trust and betrayal. I started to see their conflicts like a fan opening up, and every region of the fan was a different area of trust. Can I trust you to be there and listen to me when I’m upset? Can I trust you to choose me over your mother, over your friends? Can I trust you to work for our family? To not take drugs? Can I trust you to not cheat on me and be sexually faithful? Can I tru