by Todd Creager
Couples bicker a lot.
They don’t even listen all that well to each other.
They don’t agree on much and are very different in their likes and dislikes.
Does this sound like a good prognosis for a relationship? Maybe…
This couple can be a thriving couple if they are doing what researchers and marriage therapists John and Julie Gottman have discovered what truly makes a happy couple.
What the Gottmans have discovered is some clear common attributes of the healthy, happy couple and while I don’t necessarily applaud bickering and do applaud good listening, there are far more significant indicators of what makes a couple tick.
Here are three of the main consistent observed patterns of the “happy” couples:
1) They are intimately familiar with each other’s world
They know each other’s likes and dislikes.
They remember each other’s significant life events.
They know each other’s dreams and aspirations.
They know about each other’s challenges growing up as a child.
They know each other’s favorite food and music.
As John Gottman says, “…these couples have made plenty of cognitive room for their marriage.”
2) They consistently express their fondness and admiration for each other via compliments, words and gestures of appreciation and affection
This is where many couples overlook what I call their “interpersonal power.” I wrote in the second chapter of my book (“Beware of Your Perceptions of Your Partner”) that we need to see the best in our partner and sometimes need to overlook the worst.
This does not mean to suppress or push your complaints and feelings under the rug.
It means that you cannot live in your negative feelings.
Find what you like about your partner and express this positive regard with compliments, appreciative statements and loving affection.
Couples who did this consistently could overcome the negative moments and these expressions of fondness and appreciation were great repairing tools for the inevitable pains they and all couples inevitably go through.
3) They consistently turned toward each other rather than away
These patterns were seen in the simple day to day life chores, activities and dialogues. I met Julie Gottman last week at a Couples Conference in Newport Beach and she described a happy couple they observed where the wife mentioned some pleasant scene she was looking at on the lake (the lab was nicely located right on a lake).
The husband responded with a seemingly very interested “Huh!” Even that simple three letter word created a feeling to togetherness.
That simple word was an example of him turning towards his wife rather than away.
These happy couples could be observed doing chores together, showing interest in what the other was saying, taking walks together and was interested in each others point of view even if different than their own.
In future newsletters, I will follow this theme and write about what couples can do to “beef up” their relationship in these and other key areas that were found to be the difference makers between happy and distressed couples.
From Sarah: Todd Creager is fantastic – an accomplished Speaker, Therapist, Consultant and Author. His advice is both insightful and practical. You can find much more at his Center for Successful Relationships on how to become a happy couple–>>