What does it take to forge and maintain a lasting relationship with your life partner? Is passion the secret to fulfilling long-term relationship or maybe constant communication?
Since we’re just as clueless as you, we turned to John M. Gottman, a ‘heavyweight’ in the field of Couples Psychology and the author of several books on relationship healing. This guy spent almost 50 years looking at the “nuts and bolts” of happy couples.
Let’s see what half a decade of studies can teach us about relationships.
Insight #1: Become a ‘fixer’, not a ‘complainer’
Since there are no perfect relationships, the first thing we need to be looking at is our problem-solving abilities.
Think of your relationship as a house that needs constant repairs. If a tile flies off the roof, you don’t go out looking for a new house; you simply replace the missing tile with a new one. By the same logic, if your relationship is going through a rough patch, you don’t “abandon ship”, but find ways to make it work.
Here’s an inspiring talk where Dr. Gottman drops some solid science about relationships: The truth about great relationships. Insightful right!?
In case you didn’t watch the video, this is how Dr. Gottman begins his talk:
“What’s dysfunctional about relationships is not that people get angry, because anger being met by anger is really… it’s kind of common if the masters of relationships repair it. So, repair is essential.”
So, the first trick is to repair each problem as soon as it appears.
Complaining is nothing more than a winding road to nowhere. Repairing, on the other hand, is the straight path to conflict resolution.
Forget about delays, ‘breaks’ and ‘the silent treatment’. Put your problem on the table, discuss it in an open manner, and find common solutions.
You are a team, not two individuals looking to prove each other wrong.
Insight #2: Nurture, nurture, and nurture some more!
Let’s say you’re a great problem solver. You successfully resolve any conflict between you and your partner, and you always find ways to restore balance and peace.
As we learned before, being the kind of person who focuses on solutions rather than useless quarrel is what you should aim for.
But is being a ‘fixer’ enough to ensure the success of a long-term relationship?
Let’s see what Dr. Gottman has to say:
“When I was in graduate school, I was thought when a couple comes in, and you do therapy you say ‘what’s the problem, what are the problems’ and you are a simple problem solver. You help them solve their problems and then when they solve their problems; they’ll have great sex; they’ll have fun, enjoyment, adventure, playfulness. None of that is true. You have to separately nurture all of these systems.”
As crucial as it may be, problem-solving isn’t the only ingredient of fulfilling relationships. When it comes to long-term engagements, nurturing our common interests is what helps us keep things interesting.
How each couple chooses to nurture its relationship is a matter of preferences.
Some couples are thirsty for travel and adventure, while others prefer the comfort of a lazy afternoon in bed. Some engage in playful competition, while others enjoy group activities.
The process of nurturing your relationship through common interests is not only accessible but also extremely satisfying. You’re basically strengthening your relationship by doing what you both like. It can’t get any better than this!
Nurturing your relationship isn’t just a ‘bonus’ strategy, it’s THE STRATEGY. It’s what keeps problems at bay and makes you love each other more with each passing day.
To find out more on how to build a lasting relationship check out one of Gottman’s books called: The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships.
What we found fascinating about this book is that the principles apply to any kind of relationship. ‘Shoot two (or maybe more) birds with one stone!’ seems to be the motto here.
Your long-term relationship kit:
- Conflicts will always erupt between the two of you, so there’s no point in getting upset or frustrated. There are no unsolvable problems, so repair what’s broken and consolidate what’s weak.
- Nurture and enrich your relationship by occasionally clearing your busy schedule for something you both enjoy. Make a list of common interests and stick to it. Treat it like a ‘sacred’ text.
Repair to nurture and nurture to prevent. That is the ‘philosophy’ behind successful long-term relationships.