The Science of Trust: Summary & Review

the science of trust book cover

The Science of Trust provides readers with an overview of the research literature on relationships, including but not confined to the work of the author John Gottman.

Bullet Summary

  • Friendship is key for long-lasting love relationships
  • More communication would greatly improve sex life
  • Trusting trustworthy partners -and people in general- is great for the relationship for general health
  • Mistrust and betrayal are more likely when he has more power, with negative effects, and when she cannot influence him

Full Summary

About The Author: John Gottman is an American psychologist researcher who focused most of his career researching relationships.
He is also the author of “Ten Lessons to Make Marriage Work” and “The Man’s Guide to Women“.

Unhappy Couples Are All The Same

You probably heard about Tolstoj’s famous sentence:

All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Well, Tolstoj was wrong.
Happiness provides the liberty of much diversity of expressions. Unhappy couples have all similar dysfunctions instead.

Expressing Resentment is Wrong

Gottman takes aim at many books that have been written without research, such as The Intimate Enemy. 

The Intimate Enemy postulates that suppressing resentment is bad, so it advised couples to hit each other with rubber bands.
But that has no cathartic effect and instead only builds resentment.

Anger is OK

That being said, anger in itself is not bad.

Many therapists are wrong to believe that anger should be suppressed.
It’s the escalation of anger that is bad, especially when expressed through the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Escalation led to divorce after 5.6 years after the wedding.

Who Dies Young

Gottman says that there are people who, reliably, die young.

These are:

  • Lonely
  • Socially isolated
  • Disconnected

And they’re predominantly men.
Lonely people are more attentive to social cues but tend to misread them. They allow others to treat them unfairly in order to be liked, but they’re also extremely suspicious of potential unfairness.
Such as, they withdraw to avoid the potential hurt of trusting someone, and end up not trusting anyone, including the trustworthy ones.

Something that some men should be attention to.

Trust in a Relationship

Trust in a relationship translates in this sample question:

Are you there for me

And Gottman adds “can I trust you to pick me over your family”, “can I trust you to pick me over your friends”.

Sex and Domestic Violence

Of the couples with domestic violence incidences that Gottman studies, most of them had dissolved after 9 years.

But here is a crazy piece of information:

Gottman says he was shocked to find out that women consistently told them that the best sex they had in their lives was after a beating by their husbands.
As I explain in how to make him crazy, there’s a certain relationship between violence and arousal.

Sex and Communication

Gottman says that all the books on sex and communication talk either about sex or about communication.
He says, though there’s a need for the two fields to combine.
Too many women fake orgasms and too many men think their penis is the only way of giving her an orgasm.

Betrayal and Trust

Gottman says we should not forgive when the pain was too deep, the betrayal too big and the masquerade too evil that forgiving would damage our own sense of self-esteem.

But when -and only when- both partners are willing to reconcile the prognosis is good.

Also, read:

Dominance in Relationships

Gottman says that albeit men are more likely to emerge as leaders in initially leaderless groups, gender is not a good predictor of dominance when:

  • groups meet for extended periods of time
  • members know each other well
  • when the tasks draw on skills and expertise more women’s competence

But the dominance in family power literature is complex and inconclusive.
But Gottman quotes Understanding Family Process, a book from 1993. And you might be better served with these:

the science of trust book cover


For Academicians
Gottman made me chuckle when he made fun of that as a researcher he must define and give clear directives, unlike Oprah or Dr Phil :).
But The Science of Trust does get very technical at times.

Too Long
The part on game theory was unnecessary way too long. It felt to me it had barely much to do with relationships at a certain point.


Great Summary & Review
The first chapter reviews all the major milestones in John Gottman’s decades-long research. That’s really good there.

I liked the dialogue examples, to which Gottman added his own commentary of what the couple was thinking to add further clarity and explanatory power.


All John Gottman books are above average when it comes to content and relationship insights.

The Science of Trust is a bit more academic though and ends up talking a bit less about relationships and more about relationship literature, exploring Sue Johnson, Shirley Glass, attachment styles, etc.

Gottman also gets very technical and somewhat lost around game theory, which felt a bit tangential to the relationship topic.
I wished for a more result-oriented book, this felt a bit more speculative.

Check out the best books on relationships or get the book on Amazon

Scroll to Top