The “honeymoon” phase in any committed relationship is not meant to last—eventually it becomes obvious that sharing a life with another person requires a special set of skills. Many couples start to come apart seven years after the wedding because our culture doesn’t teach us how to maintain and strengthen our emotional bonds. That’s where The Gottman Institute comes in. The seven ideas below, drawn from four decades of real science, will make your love last a lifetime.
1. Seek Help Early
The average couple waits six years before seeking help for relationship problems—and keep in mind, half of all marriages that end do so in the first seven years. This means the average couple lives with unhappiness for far too long. If you feel there’s any sign of trouble in your marriage early on, seek help.
2. Edit Yourself
The most successful couples are kind to each other. They avoid saying every critical thought when discussing touchy topics, and they will find ways to express their needs and concerns respectfully without criticizing or blaming their partner.
3. Soften Your “Start Up”
Arguments often start because one partner escalates the conflict by making a critical or contemptuous remark. Bringing up problems gently and without blame works much better and allows couples to calmly engage in conflict.
4. Accept Influence from Your Partner
In studying heterosexual couples, we found that a relationship succeeds to the extent that the husband can accept influence from his wife. For instance, a woman might say to her husband, “do you have to work Thursday night? My mother is coming that weekend, and I need your help getting ready.” He replies, “my plans are set, and I’m not changing them.” As you might guess, this guy is in a shaky marriage. A husband’s ability to be influenced by his wife (rather than vice-versa) is crucial because research shows that women are already well practiced at accepting influence from men. A true partnership only occurs when a husband can do the same thing.
5. Have High Standards
Happy couples have high standards for their relationship. They expect to be treated with kindness, love, affection, and respect. They do not tolerate emotional or physical abuse. They expect their partner to be loyal. The most successful couples are those who, even as newlyweds, refuse to accept hurtful behavior from one another. Low levels of tolerance for bad behavior in the beginning of a relationship equals a happier couple down the road.
6. Learn to Repair
Happy couples know how to repair an argument before it gets completely out of control. Examples of repair attempts include using humor, offering a caring remark (“I understand that this is hard for you”), making it clear you’re on common ground (“we’ll tackle this problem together”), backing down (sometimes you often have to yield to win), and in general offering signs of appreciation for your partner and their feelings along the way. If an argument gets too heated, take a 20-minute break, and agree to approach the topic again when you are both calm.
7. Focus on the Positives
In a happy marriage, while discussing problems, couples make at least five times as many positive statements to and about each other and their relationship as negative ones. A good marriage must have a rich climate of positivity. Make regular deposits in your emotional bank account!
About The Gottman Institute
Founded by John and Julie Gottman in Seattle, The Gottman Institute has been the world’s most trusted relationship company for more than 20 years. That’s because the Gottman Method is grounded on what actually works in relationships that are happy and stable, not idealistic notions or anecdotal evidence of what a relationship should be. The Gottman Institute’s popular weekend workshop for couples, The Art and Science of Love, is offered five times per year in Seattle. Follow The Gottman Institute on Facebook and Instagram here!