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The Three Things That Predict Happy Relationships

Are you a master or a disaster?

Photo via Flickr user (cc) Russell Mondy

Since the 1970s, psychologists John and Julie Gottman—who happen to be married—have conducted scientific research to help couples build loving relationships. After one such study in 1986, Gottman checked back on the couples six years later. The couples that were together and happy he labeled “masters.” The couples that were apart or unhappy he named “disasters.” The study revealed a major discovery. When being interviewed about their spouses, the disasters had quickened heartbeats, active sweat glands, and fast blood flow. They were in fight-or-flight mode. The masters were physically comfortable, calm, connected, and exhibited affectionate behavior.


Another major breakthrough was discovered while watching couples on vacation. Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, such as sharing part of an article they were reading or asking the other person to take a look at an unusual bird flying by the window. These requests, called “bids,” are solicits for interest, support, or connection. In the six-year follow-up, couples that were still together turned toward or attended to the bid 87 percent of the time, and couples that were divorced paid attention to the bid only 33 percent of the time.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Khai G.

By observing these interactions, Gottman could predict a couple’s ability to stay to together with 94 percent certainty. “There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman told The Atlantic, “which is this: They are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”

Finally, the Gottmans found that the number-one factor that tears couples apart is contempt. Partners who focus solely on their significant other’s negative traits miss out on 50 percent of their positive behaviors and find negativity where it doesn’t exist. On the other hand, kindness keeps couples together and is the most important predictor of marriage stability and satisfaction. “Kindness doesn’t mean that we don’t express our anger,” Julie Gottman told The Atlantic, “but the kindness informs how we choose to express the anger. You can throw spears at your partner. Or you can explain why you’re hurt and angry, and that’s the kinder path.”

(Via The Atlantic)

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