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Can you predict whether a relationship will last?
Relationship psychologist John Gottman can. Across six studies, Gottman has predicted whether couples will stay together or divorce with up to 94% accuracy.
His predictions aren’t based on couples’ sexuality, income, or family structure.
Rather, he looks at how partners act and react to each other, noting things like body language, tone of voice, and even physiological factors such as heart rate.
Here are a few telltale signs he uses to separate the “masters” from the “disasters” of marriage.
Couples who show signs of being in “fight or flight mode”, racing heart (>100 bpm), fast blood flow, high adrenaline… are more likely to split up.
These couples are preparing to attack and be attacked, even when they appear calm and talk about mundane things.
Gottman also uses verbal cues to assess relationship health: do couples criticize rather than complain?
Do they speak to each other with contempt or stonewall the other person (ignoring them completely)?
These are all signs of a relationship in distress.
By observing markers of relationship distress, Jon Gottman can predict with 94% accuracy whether a relationship will fail
what can we do to prevent breakups, and even strengthenour relationships?
In relationships, we often make seemingly mundane comments.
For example, a husband may remark to his wife about a pretty bird outside the window.
Your partner may share a dream or a memory from your last vacation. These are called “bids” for attention.
And how we react to these bids, Gottman says, powerfully predicts relationship success.
In a 1990 study, Gottman studied how 130 married couples responded to each others’ bids.
Six years later, he compared the behaviors of those still together and the couples that had since divorced.
Couples who stayed together had responded to their partners’ bids an average of 86% of the time.
The couples who divorced only responded to their partner an average of 33% of the time.
Gottman gives an example from his own marriage. One night, his wife, Julie, was unloading the dryer and grumbling to herself.
Considering that this might be a “bid” for connection, Gottman asked her what was wrong. He turned toward her bid.
Julie answered that she hated folding laundry. Gottman then offered to fold the laundry for her instead.
In doing so, Gottman signaled that he cared about what she was thinking and created an opportunity to connect.
Gottman turned on jazz music, reminding his wife that they had not been to a jazz club in a while. They then spontaneously decided to date.
Small moments like these add up to perform an essential function in a relationship: funding a couple’s “emotional bank” or stockpile of goodwill.
Even healthy, happy couples disagree and experience times of stress.
But each time an individual chooses to “turn toward” their partner, they create trust and intimacy.
And this emotional bank carries them through times of conflict and hardship.
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How to stay together in a relationship?
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