Relationship researcher and psychologist, John Gottman has spent the last 40 years observing newlyweds and learning the science behind which behaviors lead to a happy and long-lasting marriage. Throughout his research, he has been able to pinpoint with 94% accuracy which relationships will become successful marriages.
In June alone, almost one million American couples will exchange vows and commit to a lifelong relationship filled with love and happiness. All of these couples are looking forward to fulfilling their promises made on their wedding day, and Gottman’s research is a wealth of knowledge to help make that happen.
By observing couples interact throughout the day, Gottman discovered that we behave interpersonally in one of two ways; there are the masters and the disasters (as named by Gottman). The masters are the couples who have successful and happy marriages. Not surprisingly, the couples deemed as disasters are the ones that report extreme unhappiness or divorce. Gottman points out a few important qualities that the masters display:
While in the lab, couples were asked to interact with each other and discuss their favorite memories, some difficulties that they were having, and stories of how they met. Gottman realized that disaster couples had extremely alarming physiological responses as they were interacting. In simple terms; as they were talking, the individuals would have a fight-or-flight response. Their bodies were reacting to the interactions just like as if they were talking to a saber toothed tiger, even though outwardly they looked calm. The masters were well connected and displayed a sort of trust that made them more emotionally and physically comfortable.
While observing couples in their natural environments, Gottman noticed that masters had a habit of surveying the environment for positive things they can appreciate and be thankful for. By doing this, they build a culture of respect and appreciation within the relationship. Not only were they looking towards their environment positively, but also to their partner. Scanning your partner for what the partner is doing right and respecting him, and expressing appreciation is something that every master did. On the other hand, the disasters were scanning for partner’s mistakes, and waiting for opportunities to criticize them. Contempt was the number one factor that tore couples apart. People who were focused on critically analyzing their partners missed an average of 50% of the positive things their partners did. They would even see negativity when it didn’t exist. It’s kindness that glues couples together.
At various points throughout interactions, we make attempts to connect. Gottman called these attempts “bids”. For example, you and your husband to be are watching an episode of Law and Order and suddenly he says “Did you hear that noise?” At this point you have one of two options. You can say “SHH! Now I have to rewind!” or, you can take an interest in his concern and pause the show to investigate the noise with him. Of course this is just an example, but the point is that master couples responded with interest in 87% of their partner’s bids, whereas the disaster couples only showed interest 33% of the time.
Lots of times in our relationships, we have the best of intentions but don’t always execute them properly. But for all of the couples getting married this summer, the research is clear that the number one thing you can do to keep a healthy marriage, is to exercise kindness. From everyone at Springs Events, we wish you all a Happily Ever After!