In a follow-up study in , he designed a lab on the University of Washington campus to look like a beautiful bed and breakfast retreat. He invited newlywed couples to spend the day at this retreat and watched them as they did what couples normally do on vacation: cook, clean, listen to music, eat, chat, and hang out.
14.1. What Is Marriage? What Is a Family?
And Gottman made a critical discovery in this study—one that gets at the heart of why some relationships thrive while others languish. The wife now has a choice. Though the bird-bid might seem minor and silly, it can actually reveal a lot about the health of the relationship. The husband thought the bird was important enough to bring it up in conversation and the question is whether his wife recognizes and respects that.
People who turned toward their partners in the study responded by engaging the bidder, showing interest and support in the bid. These bidding interactions had profound effects on marital well-being. Only three in ten of their bids for emotional connection were met with intimacy. By observing these types of interactions, Gottman can predict with up to 94 percent certainty whether couples—straight or gay, rich or poor, childless or not—will be broken up, together and unhappy, or together and happy several years later. Much of it comes down to the spirit couples bring to the relationship.
Do they bring kindness and generosity; or contempt, criticism, and hostility? They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. And people who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them not only kill the love in the relationship, but they also kill their partner's ability to fight off viruses and cancers.
Being mean is the death knell of relationships. Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from theirs has shown that kindness along with emotional stability is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved. There are two ways to think about kindness. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people, that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise.
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. Neglect creates distance between partners and breeds resentment in the one who is being ignored. The hardest time to practice kindness is, of course, during a fight—but this is also the most important time to be kind. Letting contempt and aggression spiral out of control during a conflict can inflict irrevocable damage on a relationship.
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How can we protect our daughters from abusive relationships?
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