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6 Reasons Why You Should Take Your Relationship Outdoors By Laura Dexter

Michael Basta

Here is an interesting article about the benefits to the outdoors for couples:

Here is an interesting article about the benefits to the outdoors for couples:

Here is an interesting article about the benefits to the outdoors for couples. Enjoy, Sonoma Couples Workshops:

6 Reasons Why You Should Take Your Relationship Outdoors 

By Laura Dexter

Great relationships don't happen overnight. Getting to know someone is part of what dating is all about. Determining what common ground you have that goes beyond things you already know you like to do by yourself. Exploring the beautiful outdoors together helps you get to know your partner by the way he or she reacts to various situations. Couples working together can learn a lot about each other when their interactions go beyond the same four walls. 

1. Interaction without distraction

Put down the technology and take a weekend or more to immerse yourself in a natural setting. The real world is out there: forests, parks, beaches, farmlands and the like. How well can you and your partner communicate without text messages, email, telephones, and the internet? Do you really talk about everything at mealtime and when the television is on? Being outdoors means focusing on the environment around you and the person with whom you wish to share Mother Nature’s glory. 

2. Rainbows and mud

Outdoor interactions are a great way to learn how your partner handles adversity in less than ideal situations. Camping trips or hikes to enjoy the mountains, fresh air and forestry don’t always go as planned. What starts out as kittens and rainbows can quickly turn to mountain lions and mud if the weather turns nasty. Being together in unforeseen situations helps couples determine how well they can see a silver lining in those gray clouds. You also learn to work together to turn lemons into lemonade.

3. Finances. 

Does your partner always want to go out to expensive or middle-of-the-road restaurants or clubs? Couples in it for the long haul must go beyond the standard date night fare and be more mindful of everyday life and those never-ending bills.  Being outdoors for a picnic or neighborhood concert saves money. It also reminds us that with good company and conversation, some of the best things in life are free.

4. Plant a garden or landscape together.

This project allows both people to see if they think alike when it comes to creating a vision, implementing it, and seeing it through to the end. So, you want to buy a house and live happily ever after? When it comes to lawn and garden work, do you and your partner agree it should be done by the two of you or would you prefer to hire a service?  Learning about practical living decisions is part of the relationship process. The more you know, the better you can make suitable choices for your lifestyle … without fighting about it later. 

5. Compatibility.

Traveling together can be harder than you think. Hitting the road and spending days on end with the same person is fine, unless you have different ideas on where you want to go and what you want to do. How much patience will you and your partner need to be around each other 24 hours a day? Couples who travel together, especially during the early months of their relationship, learn how to cope with those little idiosyncrasies that can often lead to major dramas.

6. Healthy Activities.

This is a no-brainer. Being with your significant other when you’re walking, running, bicycling, or swimming lets you develop goals to reach together. One reason the quality of life index ranks high in California is the weather and geography are perfect for outdoor exercise.

In addition to getting in shape or maintaining your physique, outdoor activity helps to increase brain function and decrease stress. Breathing fresh air and simplifying our lifestyles is all about being in the great outdoors. Couples who strive to spend time together outdoors appreciate each other and Mother Nature at the same time. What’s not to like?  

Laura Dexter is an avid hiker and runner who travels around the country, taking part in marathons and  10Ks throughout the year. When she’s not writing about her races or travels, you’ll find her hiking in Colorado with her husband and three children.

Don't Be Afraid to Visit Sonoma County

Michael Basta


Since the fires of last October, which ravaged our area (Sonoma County and Santa Rosa in particular, and the North Bay Area in general), and more recently the barrage of fires that California has endured this summer, many people seem reluctant to visit the Sonoma wine country. I am writing this entry to put it out to the universe that we are still standing and the place is still beautiful. Moreover, there is more going on here than just wine. Although, we have great wine if you happen to be into it. Here is an article that I found in the NY Times that sings the praises of our area:

And by the way, we are hosting two upcoming couples workshops:

Gottman Art and Science of Love at the Flamingo in Santa Rosa on September 8 and 9

Gottman Art and Science of Love 2 at Sally Tomatoes in Rohnert Park on October 20 and 21

For more information, please visit:

Gott Married!

Michael Basta

Molly and Wes1878.jpg

I had the great privilege to be asked to be the officiant at the wedding of this wonderful young couple, Molly and Wes. I have know Molly since she was in kindergarten with my daughter Rayna, and Wes since he was in middle school with Molly and Rayna. It truly would have been honor enough for me to be asked to brew some beer for the wedding, but for some reason they actually trusted me to officiate. 

Despite no formal training or experience on my part, we were able to collaborate effectively to pull off a wonderful ceremony, which included music and readings from their siblings, a little audience participation, and some beautiful vows written by the each partner. My biggest contribution was saying a few words inspired by the couple's already established strengths from the frame of reference of John Gottman, Ph.D, the preeminent relationship researcher.  

Many thanks to Molly and Wes for the opportunity to play such an important role in what turned out to be an incredible day, and for giving me license to dress up a little like Father Guido Sarducci. 

Arrivederci America, Michael Basta, Master Gottman Therapist and Trainer, wedding officiant, and Guido Sarducci impersonator. 


Questions to Ask Before You Commit

Michael Basta


It has been documented that as a relationship progresses over time the number of open ended questions (such as "What are your favorite bands?", "Where have you traveled and where do you still want to go?", or " What do you see yourself doing in the future?") that partners ask each other tend to diminish. Close ended questions (such as "Did you feed the dog?") tend to dominate. Gottman has shown that couples that do well tend to stay curious about each other and continue to ask more open ended questions. 

This article by Kelsey Borresen from the Huffington Post suggests some interesting open ended questions for  couples considering long term commitment to ask each other. The choice of questions is very well considered in that they open up space for conversation about very important topics, such as the meaning of commitment and betrayal, how to fight, life dreams, attachment styles/need for connection vs. space, sexuality, boundaries with extended family, and sharing of responsibilities. Well done! CLICK HERE TO READ.

Michael Basta


Love, Sex, and Relationships

Michael Basta


I read this article in the NY Times by Tara Parker-Pope (click here to read) sighting research on "love, sex, and relationships." She makes some interesting points and notes gender differences consistent with John Gottman's findings. John tells a story, referencing Emily Nagoski's book, Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life (click here for reference) , about a man that asked him about when female Viagra will be on the market. John's response was "We already have it, it's called listening." Although, this is a glib over-simplification, it illustrates the point that generally speaking men and women have different erotic pathways; or to roughly quote the comedian, Billy Crystal, "Women need a reason to have sex. Men only need a place. 

Happy Holidays, Mike

Should Your Spouse Be Your Best Friend?

Michael Basta


The Gottmans' Sound Relationship House Theory emphasizes the importance of friendship as the foundation for a solid intimate relationship. The Gottman's don't come to this position lightly as they have 40+ years of research to back up their position. However, this NY Times article distinguishes between what we commonly assume to be a best friend relationship and that of an intimate relationship. It is thought provoking and worth a read in my opinion. Click here to check it out. 

Michael Basta, LCSW

Chronic Anger and Health

Michael Basta


Here is an article that I found from the New York Times dated June 23, 2016 titled "How You Fight With Your Partner May Affect Different Body Parts." It is written about Dr. John Gottman's long time collaborator, Dr. Robert Levenson, of U.C. Berkeley, and refers to his 20 year longitudinal study of couples interactions-reported in the journal Emotion- that demonstrates a correlation between chronic anger and cardiac problems, and also showed a correlation between stonewalling and musculoskeletal problems (like back and neck pain). Click here to read


Michael Basta interviewed by Chris Martenson of Peak Prosperity

Michael Basta


I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Chris Martenson of Peak Prosperity, a blogger and co-author of the book Prosper: How to Prepare for the Future and Create a World Worth Inheriting. Chris and his co-author, Adam Taggart, are interested in creating resilience on a number of levels from economic to relational and personal. They are drawn to John Gottman's research and Gottman Method and asked me to chat with them on their podcast. Unable to channel John Gottman directly, I did my best to represent the Gottman Method, only getting tongue tied a couple of times. 

Click here to listen!

Michael Basta, LCSW


Marriage and Shamu the Whale

Michael Basta

After two days in a retreat with relationship experts, John and Julie Gottman and my talented group of Gottman Master Trainer colleagues on Orcas Island, it took me a while to wrap my head around the concept of one partner training the other in an intimate relationship as a trainer would with an exotic animal. First of all, we had gone out on an boat trip together the previous year to see beautiful Orca Whales. We learned that bad things had happened to these beautiful creatures when they were captured and kept in places like Seaworld. Secondly, as a Gottman therapist I see the value in incremental behavior change ("small things often"), but where is the friendship, emotional connection, mutually respectful management of conflict, making life dreams come true, and shared meaning in the training of one's partner like an animal in captivity.

I was introduced to What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage from a colleague who said that the 2006 New York Times article inspired his work with couples. Despite my skepticism, I not only read the article, but see the sense in it. This is how I wrap my perspective on couples (based upon the research and theories of the Gottman's) around "Shamu". First of all, Gottman's research shows us that 69% of all couples problems are perpetual (meaning they are not solvable because they are based in personality differences). The author of "Shamu", Maureen Dowd, notes that nagging and arguing about behaviors that are part of her partner's personality, such as being forgetful, often late, or messy, leads to greater conflict and disconnection. On the other hand, as we have been trained as Gottman therapists, being mindful of the times that one's partner remembers, comes on time, or cleans up, and then expressing appreciation for these actions, is predictably more likely to be a winning strategy for closeness and conflict management. Moreover, stopping and taking a breath (and being aware of the underlying emotion that one's partner feels) rather than offering advice or platitudes will likely work better than the alternative when one's partner is distressed. 

Michael Basta, LCSW, Gottman Method Couples Therapist (and sea mammal advocate)

Click Here to read the article.

Small Things Often

Michael Basta

Time continues to go by and I realize that it has been a long time since I have made a blog entry. Mindless of my failing commitment to this blog, I went away with my family to the mountains for a couple of days of eating, drinking, swimming, laughing and enjoying time together. We rented a home in which to stay and while doing the dishes in the kitchen I noticed the plaque (depicted in the above photo) that illustrates an important principle that stems from John Gottman's research on couples.

John Gottman and his research team noted that small moments in which one partner turns towards (rather than away from) their partner amount to deposits into an emotional bank account. For example, when one partner talks, the other listens, or when one partner expresses a concern, the other acts to meet their need. Over time, the deposits, stemming from these acts of turning towards, add up and can shift their relationship in a better trajectory. Hence, the Gottman's developed the motto "Small Things Often", meaning many small acts over time make a difference. These acts, done with knowledge of one's partner's needs, worries, hopes, and dreams will make a bigger difference over time. That is what "Do small things with great love" means to me. 

Happy Summer 2017, 

Michael Basta, LCSW, Sonoma Couples Workshops


Michael Basta

As a couples therapist I am often confronted with couples whose relationships are on the brink of divorce/separation and some of them decide to come to therapy because they realize that the costs of splitting up (i.e. legal fees, disruption to their children's lives, and likelihood that it will be more expensive to live separately) are greater than the costs (both financial and emotional) of going to couples therapy. This article from the New York Times addresses another reality of breaking up, what happens to your dog (or cat)?. CLICK HERE TO READ


An Interesting Article About One Of My Favorite Graduate School Professors

Michael Basta

This is a wonderful article about Dr. Jewelle Taylor Gibbs and her husband, Dr. James Lowell Gibbs Jr., regarding their 60 year marriage. Dr. Taylor-Gibbs was one of my favorite professors as a graduate student in social work at the U.C. Berkeley School of Social Welfare (let's just say, a long time ago). I did not know that her husband was a Stanford University professor, but I will not hold it against him.

Dr. Jewelle Taylor-Gibbs was a great advocate for underserved people in this country and an engaging lecturer. As first year graduate students, we did not understand yet how to choose what materials were the priorities on our massive weekly reading lists. Dr. Taylor-Gibbs would tease us that we were all "weeks behind" when it became clear that none of us had read the correct materials. 

I am thrilled to have found this NY Times article regarding her marriage: CLICK HERE TO READ.

Michael Basta, LCSW, Sonoma Couples Workshops

Great quote about relationships by Rachel Maddow

Michael Basta

Well I guess that I am outing myself as a liberal by posting something by Rachel Maddow. However, what do you expect from someone that graduated from the U.C. Berkeley School of Social Welfare when Ronald Reagan was president. Whatever your political sensibilities are, this quote speaks loudly to anyone who has a strong commitment in their relationship, and especially rings true if one has been in jeopardy of losing their loved one.     "If you have a good relationship, you have to make it the most important thing in your life. The constant in my life is my relationship with Susan, and I feel like, if everything else in my life went away, I'd be ok."  Rachel Maddow (quote supplied by my friend and Marcia's husband Mario Guerrero via Rolling Stone Magazine).     Mike Basta, Sonoma Couples Workshops

Well I guess that I am outing myself as a liberal by posting something by Rachel Maddow. However, what do you expect from someone that graduated from the U.C. Berkeley School of Social Welfare when Ronald Reagan was president. Whatever your political sensibilities are, this quote speaks loudly to anyone who has a strong commitment in their relationship, and especially rings true if one has been in jeopardy of losing their loved one. 

"If you have a good relationship, you have to make it the most important thing in your life. The constant in my life is my relationship with Susan, and I feel like, if everything else in my life went away, I'd be ok."  Rachel Maddow (quote supplied by my friend and Marcia's husband Mario Guerrero via Rolling Stone Magazine).

Mike Basta, Sonoma Couples Workshops

13 Questions to Ask Before Getting Married

Michael Basta


I recently read this article by ELEANOR STANFORD in the New York Times,  called 13 Questions to Ask Before Getting MarriedI found the article to be thoughtful and offering of interesting advice to couples considering marriage. However, as a Gottman Method Couples Therapist I was left with the feeling that something was missing (such as any mention of the most accomplished couples relationship researcher in the history of the planet, Dr. John M. Gottman).

The main piece of Gottman wisdom that I think prospective marital partners need to consider should be a back drop to all of these questions. Specifically, given that 69% of the problems you will face in this relationship will be perpetual, make sure to choose a partner with a set of problems with which you can live. Additionally, a couple of other questions are important to consider, but can't be simply asked. These are:  "Will you have my back when things get difficult?" and "Can we find a way to treat each other with respect and to keep positivity in our relationship even when we are in conflict?" 

On the other hand, the article still has 13 interesting questions. So I encourage couples to read it. I also encourage couples to keep Gottman's research-based perspective in mind when asking these questions. 

Happy New Year, Michael Basta, LCSW, Sonoma Couples Workshops