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Home » Even Healthy Couples Fight — The Difference Is How: Julie and John Gottman (Transcript)

Even Healthy Couples Fight — The Difference Is How: Julie and John Gottman (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Julie and John Gottman’s talk titled “Even Healthy Couples Fight — The Difference Is How” at TED 2024 conference.

Listen to the audio version here:


JULIE GOTTMAN: So most of us think that fighting is bad for romantic relationships, right? How many people do you know who say, “Hey, I had a great fight the other day.” “Oh, yeah. My partner and I fight all the time and we’re super happy.”

JOHN GOTTMAN: Fifty-two years ago, we put love under the microscope. Julie and I are the founders of the Gottman Institute and the Love Lab, and we’ve made the study of relationships our life’s work. And our research tells us that fighting is good for relationships, not bad.

The Importance of How Couples Fight

JULIE GOTTMAN: In our lab, we saw that almost all couples fight. In fact, how they fight in the first three minutes predicts with 96 percent accuracy not only how the rest of the conversation will go, but how the rest of the relationship will go six years down the road. My God, I know, it’s terrifying, isn’t it?

So it’s not if we fight that determines relationship success, it’s how we fight.

JOHN GOTTMAN: In fact, our research has revealed that some fighting actually increases connection, and even improves our sex life. So how do we fight right?

Observing Couples in the Love Lab

JULIE GOTTMAN: Early on, John and his colleague Robert Levinson in their lab simply watched couples interacting. Sounds simple, but nobody had ever done that before.

JOHN GOTTMAN: Over time, 3,000 couples came to the lab. As they were being videotaped, they wore monitors that measured such things as respiration, heart rate and stress hormones. And then they had a conflict discussion and they talked about the events of their day.

JULIE GOTTMAN: Afterwards, they rated how they felt during each conversation before returning home. They would return to the lab every year or two and repeat the same procedure, and some were followed for as long as 20 years.

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