How many couples do you know who are truly happy? Sure, everyone seems happy in the beginning– but how many of them settle into lasting happiness? Psychologists John and Julie Gottman have been studying relationship data for nearly 40 years now, and think they’ve got it figured out. They shared their findings in an interview with “Business Insider”.
Signs to Look For
The Gottmans say watching a couple’s interactions can reveal how happy or unhappy they are. People make ‘bids’ for connection. A bid is when a wife might say, “Honey, this is a really good article!”
How the spouse reacts to that bid is crucial. He can ‘turn toward’ this bid by acknowledging it in a positive way, or he can ‘turn away’ by brushing it off or being unsupportive of it.
It’s not about the magazine article, but about how spouses meet each other’s emotional needs. Happily married spouses ‘turn toward’ each other nearly all of the time, while unhappy spouses or divorced couple ‘turned away’ most of the time.
Contempt, according to the Gottmans, is the nail in the coffin of happiness. People who criticize spouses are ‘scanning’ their spouse for mistakes frequently, and tend to only see the negative when they get into that habit.
Keys to Happiness
Keys to a happy marriage made me want to clunk my head. It’s so simple it’s mind-boggling. According to the Gottmans, two qualities are prevalent in happy marriages: kindness and generosity.
When our spouses treat us with kindness, we feel as though they care about us. When someone is kind to us, the more we want to return that kindness.
Generosity is not just giving tangible things to each other, but intangible things: time, the benefit of the doubt, responding to a ‘bid’.
How have these simple ideas — which everyone from our parents to purple dinosaurs have been trying to drill into our heads since birth — eluded us in our relationships?
It may be time to start re-thinking not just how our partners treat us, but how we treat them.