5 Tips for Keeping Friendship Alive

Dr. John Gottman conceptualized relationships by creating The Sound Relationship House, which is a model for romantic relationships. The first three levels of the house are called the friendship system. They are the basis of the house and the relationship.

Love maps

Most couples start strong in this area. At first, they spend hours talking on the phone, texting all day, and sharing stories until late at night. They are aware of the past, the present, and their hopes for the future. They learn from each other the peculiarities and ills of each other. As the relationship matures, couples begin to engage in logistical conversations rather than tell stories. “Are you going to pick up the kids at school?” “Remember we have to pay the internet bill?” “Take the meat out of the freezer!”

In the middle of life together, make room for storytelling. We continue to grow and evolve as individuals, and you want to make sure you don’t leave your partner behind. Start by getting into the habit of asking open-ended questions.

  • What is it like to be an only child?
  • How do you feel about your promotion?
  • What’s been going on in your head lately?

Open-ended questions will trigger a story that will tell you more about what keeps your partner awake at night, whether it’s a dream or a challenge.

Hobby and admiration

Think of your best friend. They have traits that you admire and you feel proud of their successes. You presume on others and encourage them when they feel insecure. Usually, at the beginning of a romantic relationship, you do the same with your partner. Everything they do is amazing! However, when the “honeymoon stage” comes to an end, you focus on the behaviors and personality traits that bother you and stop recognizing

all that is right.

Over time, this can lead to contempt. According to research by Dr. Gottman, contempt is a predictor of divorce.

You can show affection and admiration by:

  • Give specific compliments to your partner (e.g., “You look great in this green shirt. It makes your eyes pop out”).
  • Highlighting their qualities and traits (e.g., “You are calm and make stressful situations feel like a breeze”).
  • Say thank you in a meaningful way (e.g., “Thank you for making me laugh after a long day”).

Fun and flexibility

Introduce the game to the relationship and support the interests of others. Couples who can be silly and laugh together stay together. Flexibility is key and requires you to participate in activities that may not interest you because they are important to your partner. It’s about stepping out of your comfort zone for the sake of your connection.

Unfortunately, fun is the first thing that comes out the window when you get caught up in the stressors of life. Like everything else, you need intentionality.

  • When was the last time you did something spontaneous with your partner?
  • When was the last time you did something new in the bedroom?
  • When was the last time you laughed together?

Having a strong friendship correlates with a positive relationship perspective, effective conflict management, and a strong sense of “us.”

In the book Eight Dates, Drs. John and Julie Gottman provide a list of activities in which couples can participate to regain the fun. Here are just a few:

  1. Plan a meal together and invite friends
  2. Go to a spa and enjoy being together in the hot tub or sauna
  3. Tell stories about the most embarrassing or entertaining episodes of your life

Find ways to connect regularly

Booking a massage as a couple or planning a trip to an exotic country is a lot of fun, but these things can’t be done on a daily basis. The connection is maintained with the small day-to-day interactions that bring you closer. Dr. John Gottman and Nan Silver cite a study of newlyweds in the book What Makes Love Last? this concluded that couples who remained happily married during the six-year follow-up had turned to each other 86% of the time. They had also used humor and affection in their interactions. In contrast, couples who did not do so only turned to each other 33% of the time.

Turning to means looking for support, comfort and attention from your partner and being sensitive and in tune. Offers may sound like:

  • How do I look?
  • We take our dog for a walk.
  • Let me tell you what happened when my mom called.

Trust and Commitment

Close long-term friendships are based on trust and commitment. Trust that your friend has your best interest in mind and is invested in friendship. You can count on them when you have problems. The same goes for romantic relationships. If you want to foster friendship within your relationship, you need to make sure that you behave reliably and that you are consistently demonstrating your commitment.

Confidence is not built overnight or with great gestures. You build confidence every day. This is what Dr. John Gottman refers to as sliding door moments. When choosing your relationship before work, family, friends, and hobbies on a regular basis, build trust and commitment.

Final thought

Understanding the importance of a strong friendship can motivate you to reconnect with your partner or keep watering your growing friendship on a daily basis.


The Marriage Minute is an e-newsletter from The Gottman Institute that will enhance your marriage in 60 seconds or less. More than 40 years of research with thousands of couples show a simple fact: small things can often lead to big changes over time. Do you have a minute? Sign up below.



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