What are the keys to a successful marriage or relationship? Many articles and books have been written on this subject. Advice regarding how to have a good relationship or marriage can be found almost as far back as when humans started keeping written records. There is some good advice out there and some that is not very helpful. There are the conservative comments about just sticking it out no matter what and some less traditional. For example, some might suggest “looking outside of your relationship for that which is missing.” The advice is given with the intent of keeping the partners together no matter what.
In the last few decades there has been more actual research carried out to give some scientific basis to the question of “what leads to a successful and satisfying relationship?” One of the experts in the field of couple and marriage relationships is John Gottman. He has been studying couples for decades and has found certain practices leave a relationship in a more vulnerable position making it more likely that the relationship will end. But, some practices strengthen a relationship.
Interaction patterns he has found to affect relationships in a negative manner include:
- showing contempt
- shutting the other person out (i.e. Silent treatment)
These are all interactions that prevent open communication which could lead to problem solving. Gottman proposes that there are several steps that partners may take in moving away from problematic or conflicting interactions.
He has stated that one step involves paying more positive attention to your partner. Couples who are experiencing conflict tend to focus on the negatives in each other and in their relationship. That is, they look at the partner through a negative lens failing to see positive attributes or actions. When one becomes aware of this practice, it is important to consciously focus on the positive attributes or actions of the other person. This is at times difficult if the relationship has deteriorated and is in a crisis mode. If that is the case, couple’s counseling may be helpful in assisting the couple to move out of the crisis mode.
Other steps that may help partners have a better relationship include showing interest in the partner’s life. It is important to listen to your partner as they talk about their day, hopes, and activities engaging in conversation to show interest in their lives. Showing verbal and physical affection also shows our partners that they are important. It could be as simple as smiling, holding hands, giving a hug or saying “I love you” or “take care.”
Other steps include being appreciative and showing concern for their well-being.
Gottman also found that to build a loving and successful relationship the positive interactions must outweigh the negative ones. He has found in his research that there is a ratio that seems to provide the right balance. He has stated that for every negative interaction there must be five positive ones to keep the relationship in a good place.
Relationships are challenging at times but there is an upside to having a successful and loving relationship. Successful relationships lead us to feel more satisfied with our lives and also contribute to a healthier and less stressful lifestyle. On the other hand, relationships that experience conflict often lead us to feel less satisfied with our lives and to feel stress.
These steps have been proven to work and applying them to our relationships brings about the positive outcome we want to experience as we move through life with our partner. Use these keys to a successful marriage or relationship and begin experiencing the joy you both deserve. If you need guidance, call a qualified couple’s counselor like Maria Rodrigquez-Fischer. Maria can be reached at 919-401-8261.