Nurturing Fondness and Admiration

Cultivating a Lasting Love

In the journey of marriage, amidst the ebb and flow of life’s challenges, nurturing fondness and admiration stands as a beacon, guiding couples to a harbor of enduring affection. John Gottman, a luminary in the field of relationship psychology, underscores the importance of this principle in his acclaimed marital stability theories. Through years of meticulous research, Gottman has unearthed the bedrock upon which strong, resilient, and loving marriages are built: a deep-seated appreciation for one another that transcends momentary conflicts and the wear of time.

Fondness and admiration are two of the most crucial elements in a rewarding and long-lasting romance. Although happily married couples may feel driven to distraction at times by their partner’s personality flaws, they still feel that the person they married is worthy of honor and respect. When this sense is completely missing from a marriage, the relationship cannot be revived.

Gottman, 1999

The Foundation of Fondness and Admiration

At the heart of Gottman’s philosophy lies the notion that a robust marital edifice is constructed on mutual respect and a genuine enjoyment of each other’s company. Fondness and admiration are not merely fleeting sentiments; they are the sinew that binds partners together, empowering them to withstand the vicissitudes of life. Gottman’s work reveals that couples who actively maintain an atmosphere of appreciation are more likely to cultivate a relationship characterized by connection and longevity.

Of course, some marriages do come up empty. In these relationships the antagonism has metastasized like a virulent cancer, even going backward in time and destroying the couple’s positive memories. We saw that sad result in the marriage of Peter and Cynthia, who argued over washing her car. Their relationship was ruined by his contempt and her defensiveness. When they were asked the same questions about their early years, it became clear that their love was gone. They could remember very little about the beginning of their relationship. When asked what they used to do when they were dating, they gave each other a brief “help me out here” glance and then sat silently, racking their brains for an answer. Peter couldn’t remember a single thing he admired about Cynthia back then. Their marriage was not salvageable.

Gottman, 1999

The Antidote to Contempt

Gottman identifies contempt as the most lethal of the “Four Horsemen” that herald relationship demise. It is the antithesis of fondness and admiration, eroding the very soul of marital union. To combat this, he advocates for the conscious cultivation of positivity towards one’s partner, which acts as a bulwark against the insidious creep of disdain.

At first, this may all seem obvious to the point of being ridiculous: People who are happily married like eachother. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be happily married. But fondness and admiration can be fragile unless you remain aware of how crucial they are to the friendship that is at the core of any good marriage. By simply reminding yourself of your spouse’s positive qualities–even as you grapple with each other’s flaws–you can prevent a happy marriage from deteriorating. The simple reason is that fondness and admiration are antidotes for contempt. If you maintain a sense of respect for your spouse, you are less likely to act disgusted with him or her when you disagree. So fondness and admiration prevent the couple from being trounced by the four horsemen.

Gottman, 1999

If your mutual fondness and admiration have been completely extinguished, your marriage is in dire trouble. Without the fundamental belief that your spouse is worthy of honor and respect, where is the basis for any kind of rewarding relationship? But there are many couples like Rory and Lisa, whose fondness and admiration have receded to barely detectable levels. Although it seems that the fire is out, some embers still burn. Fanning them is the crucial first step in salvaging such a marriage.

Gottman, 1999

Practical Strategies for Nurturing Fondness and Admiration

Reflective Honoring

Encouraging couples to reminisce about the inception of their relationship, to recall the qualities that drew them to each other, is a powerful exercise. This reflective honoring can rekindle the initial sparks of admiration, reminding partners of the treasure they found in each other.

Verbal Affirmations

Regular verbal affirmations of each other’s positive qualities and contributions reinforce the culture of appreciation. Whether it’s acknowledging a partner’s kindness, intelligence, or humor, these affirmations are the daily bread that nourish the marriage.

Celebrating Each Other

In the whirlwind of daily responsibilities, taking time to celebrate each other’s accomplishments, both large and small, is essential. Celebrations are affirmations made visible, showcasing the value one places on their partner’s endeavors.

Rituals of Connection

Establishing rituals of connection, such as a daily moment of gratitude expressed towards each other, can fortify the bond. These rituals become the cherished customs that underscore a couple’s unique narrative.

To assess the current state of your fondness and admiration system, answer the following:
Using a journal or lined piece of paper, write the numbers one through twenty in a column on the left side of the page (one number per row). Read each statement and write True or False next to each number that corresponds to the questions below. Score 1 point for each question you answer true, and mark it in the journal. Or you can complete this questionnaire online. [Questionnaire]

  1. I can easily list three things I admire about my partner.
  2. When we are apart, I often think fondly of my partner.
  3. I will often find some way to tell my partner “I love you.”
  4. I often touch or kiss my partner affectionately.
  5. My partner really respects me.
  6. I feel loved and cared for in this relationship.
  7. I feel accepted and liked by my partner.
  8. My partner finds me sexy and attractive.
  9. My partner turns me on sexually.
  10. There is fire and passion in this relationship.
  11. Romance is definitely still a part of our relationship.
  12. I am really proud of my partner.
  13. My partner enjoys my achievements and accomplishments.
  14. I can easily tell you why I married my partner.
  15. If I had it all to do over again, I would marry the same person.
  16. We rarely go to sleep without some show of love or affection.
  17. When I come into a room, my partner is glad to see me.
  18. My partner appreciates the things I do in this marriage.
  19. My spouse generally likes my personality.
  20. Our sex life is generally satisfying..

Scoring: Give yourself one point for each “true” answer.

10 or above: This is an area of strength for your marriage. Because you value each other highly, you have a shield that can protect your relationship from being overwhelmed by any negativity that also exists between you. Although it might seem obvious to you that people who are in love have a high regard for each other, it’s common for spouses to lose sight of some of their fondness and admiration over time. Remember that this fondness and admiration is a gift worth cherishing. Completing the exercises in this lesson from time to time will help you to reaffirm your positive feelings for each other.

Below 10: Your marriage could stand some improvement in this area. Don’t be discouraged by a low score. There are many couples in whom the fondness and admiration system has not died but is buried under layers of negativity, hurt feelings, and betrayal. By reviving the positive feelings that still lie deep below, you can vastly improve your marriage.

If your fondness and admiration are being chipped away, the route to bringing them back always begins with realizing how valuable they are. They are crucial to the long-term happiness of a relationship because they prevent contempt–one of the marriage killing four horsemen—from becoming an overwhelming presence in your life. Contempt is a corrosive that, over time, breaks down the bond between husband and wife. The better in touch you are with your deep-seated positive feelings for each other, the less likely you are to act contemptuous of your spouse when you have a difference of opinion.

Facing the Flames

There’s nothing complicated about reviving or enhancing your fondness and admiration. Even positive feelings that have long been buried can be exhumed simply by thinking and talking about them. You can do this by meditating a bit on your partner and what makes you cherish him or her. If you’re feeling out of practice or have too much stress or anger to do this “free form,” the following exercises will guide you. As simple as these exercises may seem to be, they have enormous power.

When you acknowledge and openly discuss positive aspects of your partner and your marriage, your bond is strengthened. This makes it much easier to address the problem areas in your marriage and make some positive changes. Feel free to do these exercises as often as you wish. They are not intended only for troubled relationships. If your marriage is stable and happy, working through these exercises is an excellent way to heighten the romance.

From the list below, choose three items that you think are characteristic of your partner. If there are more than three, still choose just three. (You can choose another three if you decide to do this exercise again.) If you’re having difficulty coming up with three, feel free to define the word characteristic very loosely Even if you can recall only one instance when your partner displayed this characteristic, you can choose it. Write down your answers in your journal or on a piece of paper.

  • Loving
  • Sensitive
  • Brave
  • Intelligent
  • Thoughtful
  • Generous
  • Loyal
  • Truthful
  • Strong
  • Energetic
  • Sexy
  • Decisive
  • Creative
  • Imaginative
  • Fun
  • Attractive
  • Interesting
  • Supportive
  • Funny
  • Considerate
  • Affectionate
  • Organized
  • Resourceful
  • Athletic
  • Cheerful
  • Coordinated
  • Graceful
  • Elegant
  • Gracious
  • Playful
  • Caring
  • A great friend
  • Exciting
  • Thrifty
  • Full of plans
  • Shy
  • Vulnerable
  • Committed
  • Involved
  • Expressive
  • Active
  • Careful
  • Reserved
  • Adventurous
  • Receptive
  • Reliable
  • Responsible
  • Dependable
  • Nurturing
  • Warm
  • Virile
  • Kind
  • Gentle
  • Practical
  • Lusty
  • Witty
  • Relaxed
  • Beautiful
  • Handsome
  • Rich
  • Calm
  • Lively
  • A great partner
  • A great parent
  • Assertive
  • Protective
  • Sweet
  • Tender
  • Powerful
  • Flexible
  • Understanding
  • Totally silly

For each item you wrote down, briefly think of an actual incident that illustrates this characteristic of your partner. Write the characteristic and the incident in your notebook or journal as follows:

Characteristic __________________
Incident _______________________

Characteristic __________________
Incident _______________________

Characteristic __________________
Incident _______________________

Now, share your list with your partner. Let him or her know what it is about these traits that you value so highly. In his workshops, Gottman could see the positive benefits of this exercise immediately. The room was filled with warm smiles and laughter. Couples who began the session sitting stiffly and awkwardly suddenly seem relaxed. Just looking at them, you could tell that something they had lost was being regained. The sense of hope that their marriage could be saved was almost palpable.

Most couples are helped all the more by talking about the happy events of their past. Below is a questionnaire that can lead you to reconnect with your fondness and admiration for each other. Completing this questionnaire together will bring you face to face, once again, with the early years of your relationship, and help you remember how and why you became a couple.

You will need a few hours of uninterrupted time to complete this exercise. You can ask a close friend or relative to serve as interviewer, you can complete this exercise in one or more sessions with a coach or therapist, or you can just read the questions and talk about them together. There are no right or wrong answers to the questions; they are merely meant to guide you in recalling the love and perspective on intimate relationships that led you to join your lives in the first place.

Part One: The History of Your Relathionship

Discuss how the two of you met and got together.

  • Was there anything about your spouse that made him or her stand out?
  • What were your first impressions of each other?
  • What do you remember most about the time you were first dating?
  • What stands out?
  • How long did you know each other before you got married?
  • What do you remember of this period?
  • What were some of the highlights?
  • Some of the tensions?
  • What types of things did you do together?

Talk about how you decided to get married.

  • Of all the people in the world, what led you to decide that this was the person you wanted to marry?
  • Was it an easy decision?
  • Was it a difficult decision?
  • Were you in love? Talk about this time,

Talk about what the wedding was like

  • Do you remember your wedding? Talk to each other about your memories.
  • Did you have a honeymoon?
  • What do you remember about it?

Talk about the early years

  • What do you remember about the first year you were married?
  • Were there any adjustments you needed to make?

Are you parents?

  • What about the transition to becoming parents? Talk to each other about this period of your marriage.
  • What was it like for the two of you?

Looking back over the years

  • What moments stand out as the really happy times in your marriage?
  • What is a good time for you as a couple?
  • Has this changed over the years?

Many relationships go through periods of ups and downs.

  • Would you say that this is true of your marriage?
  • Can you describe some of these periods?
  • What moments stand out as the really hard times in your marriage?
  • Why do you think you stayed together?
  • How did you get through these difficult times?
  • Have you stopped doing things together that once gave you pleasure?
  • Explore these with one another.

Part Two: YourPhilosophy of Marriage

Talk to each other about why you think some marriages work while others don’t.

Decide together who among the couples you know have particularly good marriages and who have particularly bad marriages.

  • What is different about these two marriages?
  • How would you compare your own marriage to each of these couples’?

Talk to each other about your parents’ marriages.

  • Would you say they were very similar to or different from your own marriage?

Make a chart of the history of your marriage, its major turning points, ups and downs.

  • What were the happiest times for you?
  • For your partner?
  • How has your marriage changed over the years?

Most couples find that recalling their past together recharges their relationship in the here and now. Answering these questions often reminds couples of the love and great expectations that inspired their decision to marry in the first place. This can give couples who thought their marriage was already over the glimmerings of hope that lead them to struggle on to save their relationship. Just repeating the two exercises above from time to time may be enough to salvage and strengthen your fondness and admiration for each other. But if the negativity is deeply entrenched, a marriage may require a longer term, more structured approach, which you’ll find in the next exercise.


In summary, John Gottman’s principle of nurturing fondness and admiration is a cornerstone of a healthy, vibrant marriage. It is a proactive stance, a daily commitment to seeing and celebrating one’s partner, which in turn fortifies the relationship against the inevitable challenges it will face. By nurturing fondness and admiration, couples can build a marriage that not only survives but thrives. It is a profound reminder that, at its core, marriage is a celebration of mutual respect and enduring affection. As your health and wellness life coach, or therapist, my role is to illuminate this path for the couples I work with, equipping them with the tools to not just endure but to flourish in their shared journey through life.


  • Gottman, J.M., & Silver, N. (1999). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. New York: Crown Publishers.
  • Gottman, J.M. (1994). Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  • Gottman, J.M., & DeClaire, J. (2001). The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships. New York: Crown Publishers.
  • Carrère, S., Buehlman, K.T., Gottman, J.M., Coan, J.A., & Ruckstuhl, L. (2000). Predicting marital stability and divorce in newlywed couples. Journal of Family Psychology, 14(1), 42-58.