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A Researcher Invented A 3-Minute Game That Can Protect A Marriage From The Biggest Problem That Ruins Relationships

Photo: ASDF_MEDIA | Shutterstock
couple smiling at each other

Protecting our most important relationships is something that is important to each of us. Marriage is one of the relationships that is the most essential to protect. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most difficult to navigate.

Luckily, one researcher has invented a clever way to work on your marriage, and it only takes three minutes.

A researcher and psychologist has invented a simple game to protect marriages.

Dr. John Gottman is a psychologist whose work focuses on marriage and relationships. According to his institute’s website, he is “world-renowned for his work on marital stability and divorce prediction.” Gottman and his wife, Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman, co-founded The Gottman Institute, which is dedicated to helping couples and furthering families.

Entrepreneur and Silicon Valley staple Matt Schnuck recently shared a game Gottman created in a thread on X that has gone viral, with 3 million views on the initial post. 

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Schnuck acknowledged Gottman’s prolific work, and said that he could “[predict] divorce with 91% accuracy.” According to Schnuck, Gottman said that the number one problem that ends relationships is contempt. To combat this, Gottman tapped into the opposite of contempt, gratitude.

Relationships can be protected from contempt by playing gratitude tennis.

Gottman’s simple three-minute game that can help protect marriages and other relationships is known as gratitude tennis. This stems from the idea that contempt, which is most damaging to relationships, is the opposite of gratitude, which can be one of the most healing things for relationships

Gratitude tennis is easy to play. To start, set a three-minute timer. Then, the first “player” states something they are grateful for. The rest of the players take turns doing the same thing until the timer goes off. It’s even more beneficial if the expressions of gratitude are about the other people playing the game.

Researcher invented 3-minute game that can protect marriagesPhoto: andresr from Getty Images Signature / Canva Pro

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In this way, the players are essentially “serving” gratitude back and forth to one another, as tennis players would serve a ball.

Schnuck said that this “creates a structure where everyone involved has a chance to receive [gratitude].” It can be played in multiple settings, at home with family members, or even with co-workers.

Other experts back up the concept of gratitude tennis.

Gottman and Schnuck are not the only ones to support the benefits of gratitude tennis. Dr. Andrew D. Huberman, a professor at Stanford, shared ideas that reinforce the advantages of gratitude tennis. He stated that “the major positive effects of gratitude … mainly stem from receiving gratitude, not giving it.”

This is contrary to what many believe surrounding the benefits of expressing gratitude and doing things like keeping a gratitude journal. According to Huberman, the benefit comes from feeling someone else’s gratitude for us. 

Entrepreneur Sahil Bloom agreed. When writing about gratitude tennis in his newsletter, Bloom said, “The idea is to give and receive several points of gratitude within a short window. This exercise is extremely beneficial for strong, healthy relationships, or challenged ones.” Based on Bloom’s perspective, gratitude tennis can be used to strengthen struggling relationships or bolster ones that are already doing well.



Gratitude tennis is a clever idea. By playing gratitude tennis, we are both letting others know why we are grateful for them and having that gratitude reciprocated. It’s not surprising that this simple act can strengthen relationships, warding off the danger of contempt. 

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Mary-Faith Martinez is a writer for YourTango who covers entertainment, news, and human interest topics.