As researchers claim, a lasting relationship is based on kindness and generosity. Let’s see how they’ve come to such a conclusion.
According to sad statistics, the majority of marriages are unsuccessful leading either to divorce and separation or degrading into bitterness and devastation. Ty Tashiro, the psychologist, underlines the fact that only three out of ten marrying couples stay in a healthy meaningful relationship. With researchers getting worried about the increase in divorces in the 1970s and their influence on children, psychologists have decided to scientifically study the patterns the newly-wed are interacting with each other.
Who? When? How?
John Gottman has been one of these researchers. Together with his colleague, they founded the so-called “Love Lab” at Washington University, where they met the newly-weds and asked them to tell about their relationship with electrodes connected to their bodies. During their talk, the electrodes were measuring their heartbeat, perspiration, and bloodstream. In six years, the same couples were checked upon to see if they stayed together.
According to the research results, Gottman has divided family couples into two groups, “masters” and “disasters.” As you can guess, “the masters” have been happy ever after; “the disasters” have either fallen apart or been permanently unhappy in their marriage. “The masters” were looking calm during the interview while their physiology was telling quite opposite things. Fast heartbeat, active perspiration, increased bloodstream. It turned out that the more physiologically active people were in the lab, the sooner their relationship got worse with time.
Why does physiology matter here, you may ask? The point is that they’ve displayed all the signs of the “fight-or-flight” regime in their relationship. They were sitting by their partner’s side and talking, but their body accepted it as if they were fighting with a tiger. Even talking about pleasant or routine aspects of their problems, they were ready to attack and defend.
On the contrary, “the masters” demonstrated a low level of physiological activity. They felt calm by each other’s side, which helped them to be kind and tender even when they had an argument. It doesn’t mean that the “masters” have had better physiological qualities by default; it means that these people created an atmosphere of trust and intimacy, which made them feel more emotional and physically comfortable with each other.
To dig deeper into the matter, Gottman went even further. As a part of his next research, he founded a laboratory where the couples could spend a day alone as if they were in a hotel. He observed them cooking, cleaning, eating, listening to music, communicating, and having fun. At this point, the psychologist made his most important discovery explaining why some relationships are flourishing and others fading.
During a day, partners are receiving a request for interaction Gottman has called “an invitation.” For instance, a husband notices a nice bird and tells his wife: “Look, what a bird!” It is not about the bird but his wife’s reaction to his words; she may either accept his invitation, display her interest in the bird, and engage in interaction, or simply reject her man’s request for interaction.
Thus, Gottman has come to the conclusion that these interactions-invitations have a profound impact on family well-being. Those family couples who broke up after 6 years of a marriage union accepted such invitations 33% of their time. Only 3 out of 10 invitations for soul connection were eagerly met. The partners who preserved their union after 6 years accepted the invitation 87% of their time. In 9 cases out of 10, they succeeded to satisfy their partner’s emotional needs.
“The masters” have a nice wise habit. They are looking for things they would appreciate and be grateful for. “The disasters” are searching for mistakes and constantly criticizing their partners for them. People treating their partners coldly and with contempt are killing their relationship. A minimal emotional response or intentionally ignoring your second part’s needs also kills their ability to cope with viruses and cancer. These factors indicate that a relationship is doomed.
Likewise, kindness significantly enhances a union of two caring hearts. Together with emotional stability, kindness is the most important factor of satisfaction in marriage and of its stability. Kindness makes both partners feel they are loved and cared about. Here, let’s consider the fact that the more good things you receive, the better you become. This is how love and generosity flourish in a relationship.
There are two ways to consider kindness. You can think it is a trait that is either present or absent. Or you can consider it a muscle that becomes stronger if trained properly. “The masters” believe that kindness is a muscle; in other words, they know that a kind relationship requires constant diligent work. If your partner expresses some need when you are tired, sad, disappointed, or emotionally exhausted, generosity comes to your rescue and you still accept their invitation for interaction. Of course, it may be easier to ignore your partner’s need, but in the long run, ignoring creates a distance between partners and gives birth to insults.
You can practice kindness by being generous towards your partner’s intentions. For instance, a wife is late for a romantic date because she has stopped to buy a present for her husband on this special occasion. He may get offended and insulted that she doesn’t appreciate his efforts and time as he has asked to leave work earlier to spend an evening together. Just imagine her inspired by the present she has brought for her husband joining him in a sour mood because he has wrongly interpreted her motivation.
Once you learn to mercifully interpret your partner’s actions and intentions, any conflict can be considerably smoothened. Even in a relationship with partners dissatisfied, there are things people are trying to do correctly. Mainly, a partner is trying to do the right thing even if he does it badly. So, you have to value their intentions.
Another kindness strategy is connected with common joy. “The disasters” fail to join others’ good news. Researchers distinguish between four main ways of responding to favorable news: passively-destructive, actively-destructive, passively-constructive, and actively-constructive. You would be right to assume that the last variant is the best. To answer this way when a partner is sharing the good news with you, you have to stop doing the things you are at the moment and actively respond to that piece of news. An active response implies that you warm-heartedly express your congratulations and ask positive questions relevant to the matter.
All in all, there are many reasons why a relationship gets ruined, but predominantly, the core of such failure is a lack of kindness. Routine may leave us no time for romance and intimacy, but to live together happily for a long time, we need to practice the art of kindness and generosity towards each other.