Since the beginning of time, humans have tried to figure out the secret to eternal love.
Is it always remembering to bring a cup of tea into bed in the morning? Putting the toilet seat down? Asking how their day was? Diamonds?… Tiffany’s! … Cartier! Black star Frost Gorham Talk to me Harry Winston tell me all about it!
Not a chance, my friends. The secret to eternal love is actually very, very, simple.
Psychologist John Gottman believes he has cracked the code on what it takes to keep a couple together.
In 1986, Gottman set up his 'love lab', whereupon he started gathering research on couples in various stages of their marriages. 40 years, 3,000 couples, 200 academic articles, and 46 books later; Gottman and his wife Julie (also a psychologist) have been nicknamed the 'Einsteins of Love'.
And their formula for a long and loving relationship is simple: bring a kind and generous spirit to the relationship, and leave contempt, criticism, and hostility at the door.
After studying so many different relationships, the Gottmans believe there are but two categories of couples: 'masters' and 'disasters'. Masters stay together happily, Disasters either split up or remain in an unhappy marriage.
Gottman reckons he can predict with 98% accuracy whether or not a couple will stay together, based on the following indicators.
A.) Turn-towards bids
When watching the couples, Gottman notices a regular habit from one partner to another, called a 'bid'. Basically, it's a subtle cry for attention - and if the other partner responds positively,it indicates a happy and kind relationship. If the other partner flicks them off, well, it ain't looking good.
"For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife—a sign of interest or support—hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird." (The Atlantic)
Lesson learnt? Show interest when they make a bid...and mean it. It will connect your interests.
B.) Positive Scanning
'Scanning' is apparently something we all do with our partner; only with some of us we're looking for good habits to commend, others are scanning for negative habits to criticise.
“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained in an interview, “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.”
Lesson learnt? Generally be trying to find something good to say to your partner, not mean.
C.) Showing contempt.
Although it should be pretty obvious, showing contempt towards a partner - giving the cold shoulder, ignoring them, or denying communication - is a love killer. Gottman seems to think this is the final nail in the coffin when it comes to rescuing a relationship. It makes the partner feel meaningless, worthless, and activates the 'fight or flight' mode as they look for a way out.
Lesson learnt? If you feel the need to inflict pain to your partner via contempt, it's not a love that will last the distance.
True love stories that will melt your heart. (Post continues after video)
According to Gottman, kindness isn't an inherited trait: it's something you need to actively work to grow and strengthen, like a muscle. Apparently, Masters tend to think about kindness as a muscle. They know that they have to exercise it to keep it in shape. They know, in other words, that a good relationship requires sustained hard work.
“If your partner expresses a need,” explained Julie Gottman, “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.”
Lesson learnt? If you can still find love, kindness, and time for your partner - even when you are running low on love yourself - then your relationship is a keeper.
E.) Recognise intent.
However clumsy, a partner usually always has good intentions behind their actions. The big factor in love and kindness, says the Gottmans, is recognising the intent behind their actions. Because whilst you believe it could be coming from a deliberately nasty or hurtful place, it often isn't.
"The ability to interpret your partner’s actions and intentions charitably can soften the sharp edge of conflict." (The Atlantic)
Lesson learnt? Just because he left the toilet seat up, doesn't mean he doesn't care about your feels/ blood pressure levels/ expectations of a fully grown man to do one simple task.
So there you have it people. The secret to love is out.
The question is, will you use it?
You can read more about The Gottman Institute on their website, here.