7 Principles of Happy Relationships
Last week I wrote a post called "12 Incredible Statistics About Sex and Relationships” and promised to give you the 7 Principles of Happy Relationships this week. So as promised, here they are.
This research comes from Dr. John Gottman, a relationship expert based in Seattle, Washington. He obtained his data through the various normal methods of research, such as surveys and studies. However, one of the more innovative ways he discovered the solutions that I've mentioned below, was to invite couples into a Love Lab. This was a specific studio apartment, or rather a laboratory, at the University of Washington, where they would be monitored by video cameras, microphones and even sensors tracking bodily signs of stress or relaxation. The research was carried out over 16 years and is the most extensive and innovate research ever into marriage and divorce.
1. Enhance Your Love Maps
To have a truly fulfilling relationship, you must have an in-dept understanding of each other, according to the experts. Specifically, this means that you need to know each others' hopes, worries, fears, beliefs and goals. This makes a lot of sense - how could you expect to have a good relationship without knowing the other person's fundamental needs and values?!
“Emotionally intelligent couples are intimately familiar with each other’s world. I call this having a richly detailed love map—my term for that part of your brain where you store all the relevant information about your partner’s life. Another way of saying this is that these couples have made plenty of cognitive room for their marriage. They remember the major events in each other’s history, and they keep updating their information as the facts and feelings of their spouse’s world change"
2. Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration
"Fondness and admiration are two of the most crucial elements in a rewarding and long-lasting romance. Although happily married couples may feel driven to distraction at times by their partner’s personality flaws, they still feel that the person they married is worthy of honor and respect. When this sense is completely missing from a marriage, the relationship cannot be revived."
I like this point a lot because it’s super simple. Appreciate the good things about your partner and about your relationship. Be grateful for what they do for you and for what you have together. It’s definitely easy to understand, but is it easy to practice on a regular basis? Understanding these points will be a piece of cake, but remembering and implementing them is the crucial bit.
“When you acknowledge and openly discuss positive aspects of your partner and your marriage, your bond is strengthened. This makes it much easier to address the problem areas in your marriage and make some positive changes."
3. Turn Toward Each Other Instead of Away
"In marriage people periodically make what I call “bids” for their partner’s attention, affection, humor, or support. People either turn toward one another after these bids or they turn away. Turning toward is the basis of emotional connection, romance, passion, and a good sex life."
4. Let Your Partner Influence You
It seems like this one specifically relates to men. It turns out that we’re not perfect - who knew?! Time to pull up the socks. Check out these 3 quotes that make a pretty clear point.
“Studies have shown that marriages where the husband resists sharing power are four times more likely to end or drone on unhappily than marriages where the husband does not resist."
“Research shows that a husband who can accept influence from his wife also tends to be an outstanding father. He is familiar with his children’s world and knows all about their friends and their fears. Because he is not afraid of emotions, he teaches his children to respect their own feelings—and themselves."
“Time and again we can separate the happy from the unstable couples based on whether the husband is willing to accept influence from his wife."
5. Solve Your Solvable Problems
I loved this principle because it highlighted a point that I was always unsure about. Do we need to solve and agree on everything to have a happy relationship? The answer: we do not.
"Despite what many therapists will tell you, you don’t have to resolve your major marital conflicts for your marriage to thrive."
6. Overcome Gridlock
This point is crucial because it takes into account that many couples have perpetual problems even though they are happy together. The key take-away message here is to be able to communicate about reoccurring contentious issues and understand the positive intent behind them, without hurting each other.
"Keep working on your unresolvable conflicts. Couples who are demanding of their marriage are more likely to have deeply satisfying unions than those who lower their expectations."
7. Create Shared Meaning
This involves understanding each other’s values on a deeper level so that they can become part of your relationship and family life, sharing what your roles are within the relationship and what their personal goals are. This will only strengthen the bond between the couple. This may include developing family rituals such as enjoying family dinner together every evening or celebrating special occasions in certain ways.
“Developing a culture doesn’t mean a couple sees eye to eye on every aspect of their life’s philosophy. Instead there is a meshing. They find a way of honoring each other’s dreams even if they don’t always share them. The culture that they develop together incorporates both of their dreams. And it is flexible enough to change as husband and wife grow and develop. When a marriage has this shared sense of meaning, conflict is much less intense and perpetual problems are unlikely to lead to gridlock."
I hope you enjoyed this post and got some useful insights from the experts!
Gottman, J. and Silver, N. (1999) The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert. Harmony.