Bend Marriage Counselor: ATTUNEment in Relationships

May 24, 2014 by

Bend Marriage Counselor: ATTUNEment in Relationships - Awareness

Trust is the foundation of a healthy long-term relationship, but many couples struggle to understand how to successfully build trust. There’s more to it than just being honest with one another (although that’s certainly an important part of it). Psychology professor and marriage expert John Gottman describes trust-building in relationships using an acronym that his graduate student, Dan Yoshimoto, coined: ATTUNE.

The acronym breaks down into 6 essential components:

A= Awareness

T= Turning Toward



N=Nondefensive Responding

E= Empathy

Each letter deserves to be explored in more depth, so I’m going to break this trust-building acronym into a six-part series. In this first post, I’ll talk about what it means to be aware in your relationship.

Awareness of Your Partner’s Emotions

It’s difficult to build trust if you don’t first recognize your partner’s emotions. You may think that you’re good at picking up on how your partner is feeling at any given time, especially if you’ve been with him or her for a long time, but if you’re honest with yourself, you may realize that you’re sometimes selective in your awareness. For example, if your partner is looking sad and being more quiet than usual but you just want to watch TV before going to bed, you might tell yourself that there’s really nothing wrong, and your partner is just tired. By misreading or coming up with a rationale for your partner’s behavior, you’re failing to recognize their true emotions.

In order to recognize your partner’s emotions, you need to be socially aware and able to empathize. Although some people may seem like they’re naturally more socially aware than others, the good news is that this is a skill that anyone can develop. The best way to improve your awareness of your partner’s emotions is to dialogue: ask your partner how they’re feeling and listen to their answer without interrupting. It might sound simple, but it works. If you have trouble with dialoguing, ask a Bend marriage counselor for help.

When you’re aware of your partner’s emotions, the next step is to turn towards those emotions in order to give your partner support when they’re distressed. I’ll talk more about what that entails in the second part of this series.