On The BIG BIG Book

Who "likes" to fill out online forms?

We know it's not a pleasure for most people. But many couples respond differently to The BIG BIG Book. It's a time to calm down, by yourself and reflect on your life.

You'll be asked to examine various problematic aspects of your relationship. You'll also learn what's still going well between you.

Every question in The BIG BIG Book provides your couples therapist with essential information they'll need in order to help both of you.

The BIG BIG Book helps you move into the present and examine your marriage in a new way. You start to put things into perspective. The frame of the problem becomes clearer. You learn how many issues you have, which don't have anything to do with your relationship.

The BIG BIG Book isn’t a fun “compatibility test” you take in 5 minutes.

It’s a thorough couples therapy assessment tool that examines your relationship, from a scientific point of view. It is a part of every Intensive Marriage Retreat.

It is like a road map used at the start of a long trip. A clinical road map tells you where you're going, and what the goals are. We take the time to carefully look at your answers. Learn more below about what this assessment is, and how we use it.

But These Aren't Curiosities

Each and every question provides your therapist with a blueprint, a guideline to help you get on the same team.

An unhappy marriage is every bit a team sport as a successful marriage.

However, in a good marriage you're on the same team, and in a bad one you're on opposing sides. So, when we look at The BIG BIG Book, we read your stories side-by-side. We want to know which side you're on.

  • Do you both agree there is a problem with "Fondness and Admiration"?
  • Do you feel comfortable with disagreements?
  • Do you trust your partner or feel they look to take advantage of you?

But not all questions are about your relationship.

We want to know something about you, as a person, too. Your stresses and troubles. Work pressures and health ailments. We want to know about your children, stepchildren and grandchildren. Every question focuses our understanding of you as a total person, with a complicated life and complex motives.

  • Have you had a recent death in the family?
  • A child diagnosed with a learning disorder?
  • A child who has left for (and then returned from...)  college?

These are important transitions we should know about.

Are you depressed?  As many as 40% of individuals in troubled marriage have one depressed spouse.

That's important for us to know.

Compulsive cleaner? No doubt made worse by the global pandemic.

Maybe it's Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, not that you are just trying to be annoy, or like a clean house.

All these things are important for us to know.


Family History

Understanding your past helps you to make sense of who you are today.

It is a truism to say that our family-of-origin shapes the people we've become today, either by good or bad example. But we don't "psych you out" to point the finger.  We need to understand your past to help you make better sense of today. Or perhaps to help you understand yourself at bit better.

If you were beaten, or sexually/ emotionally abused as a child or teen, that may not stay in your past. It may be showing up in how open you are to lovingly relate to others or respond to them sexually.

We're clinicians first.

That means we know how to psychotherapeutically treat individuals as well as couples. So we know how issues like depression or anxiety can impact you and your marriage. It is a give-and-take between helping you manage whatever concrete issues you might have, and how you and your partner can work together with those issues, to improve your marriage despite them.

Focusing On Today

As important as the past is, however, we want you to function better right here, right now. We want you to have a stronger relationship foundation to enjoy more energy, feel more passionate about life and your partner, and look forward to coming home at the end of the day. There has never been a more crucial time to be on the same page.

  • What are the most stressful aspects of your marriage for you?
  • What hurts do you have a hard time recovering from?
  • What would be the most important (and difficult) thing you could do right now that would dramatically improve your relationship?

  Focusing on Tomorrow

Now more than ever you need dreams and goals. Goals don't have to be mutual. One person can have different hopes and dreams from their partner, and that's alright. But how do we make sure that your dreams don't negatively impact mine?

  • How well does your partner understand your dreams? How well have they listened?  
  • How well do you understand your own?
  • Now, more than ever in the world's worst crisis in our lifetime, can you get on the same page and work together?

In every conflict, science has taught us that there's a dream buried deep inside.  Something you hold dear and cannot let go of. Dr. John Gottman calls these your "bones."  In a fight, you can't give up your bones. Our job is to help you to articulate those dreams, those values, those "bones."

Then we help both of you to recognize that you CAN have your dreams (in fact you must), to become happily married. If you sacrifice what's most precious to you to stay married, we haven't done our jobs.

Therefore, The BIG BIG Book has many questions that focus on today, not the past. And also the future...

Focusing on Sexuality

Some of our couples are best of friends. They just have no sex life. And it's agonizing.

People often believe it's just a matter of lacking "sexual chemistry," but that's not the case. 

Sexual chemistry isn't a "hormone" that runs through your system in the presence of a desirable other. Sexual chemistry is a complex set of variables that we understand and work with you on.

The questions about sexuality in the book are both from the Gottman Institute, and created by Dr. Kathy McMahon (Dr. K) to help us understand that "fingerprint" complexity of your sexual desire and passion. Once we understand it, we can help you work to improve your passions.

More Questions:

Does everyone get the same feedback?


Our clinicians go through hours of training, both in using the Gottman tools, and the many other couples therapy assessment tools we use when joining Couples Therapy Inc, in order to learn how to understand the many assessment instruments that make up The BIG BIG Book. They also spend hours integrating this information into a usable synthesis before presenting it to you. Take notes. No two couples are alike, and therefore each Book is equally unique.

Will I get a copy of it?

No. If you want to record your answers, cut and paste them into a word processing program, such as Word.

The results of the questionnaires do not stand alone. The scores and analysis of the BIG BIG Book are for the clinician’s use, not clients. The results are interpreted in the context of all information obtained about the couple during the assessment process including joint and individual interviews and clinical observations.  In addition, you are asked to answer questions openly and honestly, free of concern about what their partner may think about their answers. They don't see yours, you don't see theirs.

Interpreting these assessments require clinical sensitivity and wisdom. We'll provide you with a thorough therapeutic roadmap during the feedback session.

How much does it cost?

There are no separate charges for retreat clients. The costs are integrated into your clinical fees.

How long does it take to complete?

This varies with the individual. For example, if you have no children, you jump over this section. Also, you don’t have to finish it in one sitting. Complete one page, then stop. You can come back whenever you have time. And if at any point, you would like to answer questions in person, you can do that too (we'll take time during our work to schedule a separate meeting for this.)

We ask that you send a note to our administrator once it is complete, and that you complete it at least one week ahead of your Couple feedback session (sooner is even better.)

It is hard to fill out?

Educationally, anyone with a high school education will have no trouble completing this couples assessment tool. Those with advanced degrees or the neurodiverse often “over-think” it. Try not to.

It's a snapshot of your relationship, your current perspective, right now, in your relationship.  That is what your therapist needs to understand. The True/False Gottman forms are meant to be used clinically, as a guide to treatment, not as a measurement tool. If it's mostly true, put "TRUE."

All of this takes time. Your time and our time. But when it is completed, we have a pretty clear picture of what is going on. We have a clinical road map for the type of work that will be helpful in improving your relationship. Our clients find the entire process a helpful and clarifying one.

Go here to learn more about the types of questions we ask.