We often wonder what makes for great, healthy, and successful relationships? There are countless advice columns and articles dedicated to this subject alone, on a plethora of platforms, from various experts in the field.
In this day and age, when it seems like every marriage is doomed for divorce, it’s no mystery why everyone wants the secrets to happy and long-lasting relationships.
In fact, psychologist John Gottman began to uncover those secrets in the 1970s through a social study and has continued to study couples for the last four decades.
Gottman and his colleague Robert Levenson gathered newlywed couples at their lab, called “The Love Lab,” and hooked them up to electrodes. The couples then answered questions about their relationship, how they met, any major conflicts, and positive memories.
“As they spoke, the electrodes measured the subjects’ blood flow, heart rates, and how much sweat they produced. Then the researchers sent the couples home and followed up with them six years later to see if they were still together,” explained the original article.
Using the data, Gottman separated the couples into two categories: the masters and the disasters.
The disasters, according to Gottman, looked calm on the outside, but on the inside, “their heart rates were quick, their sweat glands were active, and their blood flow was fast.”
In short, they showed a fight-or-flight response to the questions. Even when talking about the most mundane things, these couples were on the defense, prepared to attack or be attacked. And these couples’ relationships deteriorated much faster.
On the other hand, the masters were much different.
According to Gottman, they were calm and connected, even when fighting. The couples had “created a climate of trust and intimacy that made both of them more emotionally and thus physically comfortable.”
In a follow-up study in 1990, where Gottman invited 130 newlywed couples to a bed-and-breakfast retreat, he found that couples with these two important traits are bound to stay together.
The couples who were more likely to last longer were couples who were kind and generous toward each other.
Gottman found that when one partner made requests from the other (he called these “bids”), their partner had the choice to either “turn towards them” or “turn away from them.”
Basically, Gottman observed whether these partners would give in to their spouse’s “bids” or reject them (sometimes even responding with hostility).
“Couples who had divorced after a six-year follow up had ‘turn-toward bids’ 33 percent of the time… The couples who were still together after six years had ‘turn-toward bids’ 87 percent of the time,” the article explained.
This means that these couples, the masters, were meeting each other’s needs, thus, ensuring a relationship that lasts long.
Gottman says that masters have a habit of “scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for.”
Gottman’s wife, Julie, added, “It’s scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right, or scanning him for what he’s doing wrong, and criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.”
This also applies when couples fight, but this is a time when kindness and generosity are needed for a relationship to thrive.
And couples can express kindness and generosity in many ways throughout the relationship, as long as they are meeting each other’s needs.
“If your partner expresses a need, and you are tired, stressed, or distracted, then the generous spirit comes in when a partner makes a bid, and you still turn toward your partner,” said Julie.
Hopefully, all couples can learn a thing or two from this study. Be kind to your partner and treat them with mutual understanding of your collectived, and personal, needs.
Caithlin Pena is a writer and editor for YourTango who enjoys books, movies, and writing fictional short stories as a hobby.