Unveiling Your Relationship: The Revealing Power of How You Tell Your Relationship Story

By Frieda Friedemann

Romantic relationships are of profound significance to many people. When in harmony they are a source of great joy and happiness. When relationships get out of balance, however, they can also become a cause for severe sadness and pain. This is the first blog in a series about Dr. John Gottman’s research on what makes love last.

Knowing when a relationship is out of balance? 

No relationship can be perfectly balanced at all times. Conflicts are part of their nature. It is normal for couples to be accommodating towards each other, give each other the benefit of doubt. Therefore it may be a considerable challenge to realize at which point conflict turns into a threat to the relationship. However, if you are in a relationship and feeling bad about yourself due to what your partner is saying you may benefit from seeking individual assistance from a psychologist to understand what is happening.

What makes a good relationship?

Dr John Gottman is a psychologist who is highly recognised for his work on divorce prediction. His analyses of communication and behaviour within relationships make him an expert on whether a relationship is stable despite conflict or whether the division runs so deep that the relationship is likely to end. 

Break-up prediction 

The Buehlman Scoring –  an assessment developed in Dr. Gottman’s lab – examines what couples say during an interview and how they say it. It is a highly accurate predictor of whether couples will break up in the next five years: Many couples that scored low on the assessment were later divorced. 

During the interview couples were asked to tell the story of their relationship. Five dimensions were assessed: 

  1. Fondness and Admiration
  2. Me-ness vs. We-ness
  3. A Love Map of the Partner’s Inner World
  4. Glorifying struggles vs. Flailing in chaos 
  5. Disappointment vs. Satisfaction

How do you tell your story? The Buehlman Scoring

DimensionLow Score (RED FLAG)High Score (GREEN FLAG)
Fondness and AdmirationCold, contemptuous recounting of the past.Recounting the past with warmth, affection and respect.
Fondness and AdmirationRemembering negatives > positives.Remembering positives >  negatives.
Me-ness vs. We-nessThe couples history is remembered from two individual perspectives rather than from one shared one.Memories of working well as a team.
Me-ness vs. We-nessPersonal growth is prioritized, the relationship is viewed as a “zero-sum game”.Similar values, beliefs and goals are mentioned.
A Love Map of the partner’s inner worldImpersonal and guarded recounting of the past.Distinct memories and detailed descriptions of each other.
Glorifying struggles vs. Flailing in chaos Describing the past as chaotic, “life and the relationship just happened to them”.The notion that overcoming challenges only strengthened commitment to each other is present.
Disappointment vs. SatisfactionCynicism about long-term commitment is evident. The belief that the relationship “has met their expectations” is evident. 

Low scores indicate a higher threat to the relationship. 

Seeking help

If your relationship impacts your mental health take the first step towards healing today and call us at the Centre for Clinical Psychology in Melbourne on 03 9077 0122 to book your appointment. We can help you develop the skills and strategies you need to manage your emotions and improve your mental health. Remember: You’re not alone!


John Mordechai Gottman, & Silver, N. (2013). What makes love last?: how to build trust and avoid betrayal. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.