The publication, Atlantic.com, recently highlighted the results of four decades of studies done by the Gottman Institute. John Gottman and his wife, Julie, were interviewed on the research results and they shared some simple, but profound findings.
Basically, there are two categories of couples: couples who give and receive kindness and generosity and couples who give and receive contempt, criticism, and hostility.
The Gottmans think of kindness as a muscle. Some people’s muscle is naturally stronger than others, but everyone can exercise it and make the kindness muscle strong.
When a partner makes what the Gottmans call a “bid” or a request, the other person has a choice of either turning toward his or her mate or turning away from his or her mate.
“If your partner expresses a need,” says Julie Gottman, and you are tired, stressed, or distracted, the generous spirit comes in when your partner makes a bid, and you still turn toward your partner.”
The easy route in that situation is to turn away from your partner and focus on an ipad, book, or television and mumble, “Uh huh.” Neglecting these small opportunities for emotional connection slowly erodes a relationship.
Gottman calls the people who can turn toward their mates under stress and discomfort “masters.” The people who turn away from their mates are called “disasters.” Another quality of a “master” is someone who scans his or her environment for things he or she can appreciate in a partner. The “disasters” scan the environment for a partner’s mistakes.
The Gottmans found that contempt is the number one factor that rips couples apart. Their study revealed that mates who are focused on criticizing their partners miss 50 percent of the positive things their mates are doing and see negativity when it’s not there. In short, being mean is the kiss of death for a relationship.
Kindness, on the other hand, cements couples. Research shows that kindness is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage or committed relationship.