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Study: Top 3 Things Couples Fight About and Other Things You Should Know

Study: Top 3 Things Couples Fight About and Other Things You Should Know

Fresh off attending the 2018 Psychotherapy Networker Symposium in Washington DC, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop with John Gottman.  Dr. Gottman is a dominant figure on the relationship research and couples therapy scene since the mid 80’s, when he began observing couples fighting in his “original couples laboratory,” dubbed the Love Lab.  His findings provided some of the scientific underpinnings of what we know about what maintains and erodes intimate relationships.

The Love Lab has been given new life and a new name; the Gottman Love Lab Experience is now being offered as “the world’s first science-based relationship evaluation service,” measuring three primary important areas of your relationship; friendship, conflict and shared meaning.

Along with this cutting edge assessment opportunity for couples who are able to make it to Seattle, Washington, he is also offering therapists a new online tool, the Gottman Relationship Checkup, providing the ability to receive a score reviewing couples strengths and vulnerabilities, with feedback for possible treatment suggestions.

From a recent study Dr. Gottman conducted of 40,000 Relationship Checkup participants, he has new data.  I compiled some relationship research nuggets on heterosexual couples from his presentation.  You might find some of the results surprising!

For how many couples in therapy is at least one partner considering an exit?   66%

82% of couples are having problems with loneliness in the relationship

Study: Top 3 Things Couples Fight About and Other Things You Should KnowWhat About Problems with Intimacy and Sex?

Romance 83%

Sex Quality 55%

Sex Frequency 49%

How many partners had problems with trust?   66%


The Top 3 Things Couples Fight About

86% Not having fun anymore

76% Finances

74% No emotional connection

Speaking of conflict, the biggest obstacle to productively navigating conflict in relationships is flooding.  This means the heart gets to 100 beats per minute which makes it nearly impossible to communicate from a calm, grounded place as your physiology will get the best of you.  In fact, when flooded, communication can be erratic, irrational and possibly damaging to the relationship.  The antidote is self-soothing or helping each other soothe, if possible.  Sometimes leaving the situation (in a structured time out) is the best thing a couple can do for a relationship.

96% of couples are flooded during conflict

Though I didn’t catch all of the numbers Dr. Gottman shared at his presentation, particularly the gay and lesbian stats, what I did notice was a trend demonstrating that compared to heterosexual couples, they did a much better job with conflict and communication.

“As far as interaction, gay and lesbian couples really have a lot to teach heterosexual couples.”

– John Gottman

Something to think about.  I will leave you with one more nugget and it’s an important one to consider for those who are struggling in married or long term relationships:  The #1 predictor of divorce is contempt.  If you are calling your partner names, assassinating their character or hitting below the belt in other ways…and you would like to save your relationship, please seek counseling for help.

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of with emotional and relationship health articles, guides, courses and other tools for individuals and couples. She is a frequent consultant for the media having appeared in,, and others. Lisa has a private practice in Marin County, CA and offers Emotional Health and Relationship Consultations via email, phone or video conference.

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