025: Therapy for Relationship Wellness

Podcast Guests: Don & Carrie Cole

Empty Nest Marriage

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In this Episode

Join the conversation today as Dave and Liz invite doctors Don and Carrie Cole, founders of the Center for Relationship Wellness, onto the Stronger Marriage Connection podcast to bring you some amazing tools and strategies for creating more connection in your relationship. Don and Carrie’s work is backed by years of scientific research with John and Julie Gottman, so you won’t want to miss out on today’s episode!

0:50 – Who are doctors Don and Carrie Cole?
3:37 – Don and Carrie’s roles at the Gottman Institute
5:03 – Some couples struggle with some problems in their relationship at some point. Why?
6:56 – Marathon therapy; how it works and how it helps
8:54 – How COVID has changed the way therapy is done
10:47 – How Don and Carrie work together with couples
12:51 – Why it’s harder for men to connect with therapists
15:33 – How the Gottman method is validating for men in therapy
16:45 – Stress reducing conversations; an idea born out of research 
19:05 – Don & Carrie role play good and bad stress reducing conversations
21:43 – Avoiding the “two don’ts” - don’t problem solve and don’t side with the enemy
24:19 – Creating more rituals of connection
26:10 – Couples are turning away from each other and towards their phones
28:09 – Turning toward moments may be small but they do add up
30:54 – When things aren't feeling right, you have to fix it
32:40 – A gentle startup makes all the difference
35:38 – Couples who are connected to each other have a lot of rituals that they really enjoy doing together
37:56 – Finding out what is at the heart of the issue
39:00 – “You don’t have to change to satisfy me” - honoring your spouse
40:00 – Don & Carrie’s takeaway: be openly curious and proactive with your partner
41:17 – Dave & Liz takeaway: doing small things often to keep the connection strong

About Dr. Don & Carrie Cole

Dr. Carrie Cole is the Director of Research for The Gottman Institute and manages the Gottman Love Lab. She holds a Ph.D. in psychological research and a master’s degree in counseling psychology. She is a licensed professional counselor and an approved LPC supervisor in the State of Texas, a licensed mental health counselor in the State of Washington, and a Certified Gottman Therapist. Carrie is a Master Trainer for The Gottman Institute and trains therapists in Gottman Method Couples Therapy around the world. She is a consultant for the certification program and has led The Art and Science of Love weekend workshop for couples multiple times a year since 2008. Carrie has also published peer-reviewed journal articles independently and with doctors John and Julie Gottman. Her work with couples includes couples therapy, workshops, seminars, and intensive marathon sessions. Carrie and her husband, Dr. Don Cole reside in Seattle, WA.

Dr. Don & Carrie Cole Links


Insights and Invites


Don: Things can't just fix themselves. You have to repair things. When things aren't feeling right, you have to fix it.
Carrie: Couples who are connected to each other have a lot of rituals that they really enjoy doing together.
Liz: The beauty of these tools is that they bring us such hope. Across the board. No matter where we are in our marriage.
Dave: Lack of attention leads to loss of connection.


  • Create meaningful rituals of connection. Set a time each day that works for you and your partner where you can talk about how you’re doing as a couple.
  • Next time you need to bring up an issue to your partner, use a softened startup. Talk about how you feel, what happened (without using “you”), and state what you need inpositive terms. Write it out if you have to. How a conversation starts is likely how it’s going to end. 
  • Have a stress reducing conversation with your partner. If your spouse expresses an emotional experience, try not to problem solve or side with the enemy. Ask good questions. Show compassion, empathy, and validation.

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