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Research says a brilliant, lasting relationship boils down to a couple of things.
And I have seen how this applies not only to romantic relationships, but to friendships and family relationships also, despite the fact that most of the research I share below was based on the science of marital therapy.
So don’t skip this article because you’re not currently in a romantic relationship, marriage or partnership, I promise there will be something here for you too!
With that said, the reigning King of Marriage Research, Professor John Gottman is the one we turn to for all things relationships.
He did the research, got the data and wrote the book: The Marriage Clinic: A Scientifically Based Marital Therapy.
He knows what produces lasting brilliant relationships and what dooms them.
And as I say, I have seen how this has been applied in my own family, and I’m not talking romance here. Some things are universal.
Let’s dive in…
Communication matters, but only sometimes
We’ve all heard that in any relationship speaking openly and honestly is the way to keep your relationship on track.
Ah, but wait just a second.
Giving feedback might be a handy tool, but the kind of feedback matters. Far too often the feedback is negative.
Just remember you don’t want to be right, you just want to be happy.
I’m happy, I’m positive, I’m positively happy
The best relationships have ‘negative sentiment vetoes’, which basically mean you are biased towards the positive aspects of your partner, or family member or friend.
When they do something negative your perspective is that it was a momentary lapse, and situational.
Something happened to mess with their natural positivity. Basically you see them as who they really are, the lovely person that you know so well.
Positivity comes before problem solving.
Negative Neds or Nellies – be warned
The opposite is true in relationships that have ‘positive sentiment vetoes.’
When you reach this point in a relationship even well meant and normally what’s considered to be a good thing are seen through a negative light.
You have a gift for me. How lovely, thank you, is not what’s said. Giving me presents. That’s suspicious.
Or why would you get me this when you know I wanted that?
Giving the benefit of the doubt, choosing to believe the best, makes for fewer problems.
Makes sense doesn’t it?
Look for the good and you tend to find it
Create a brilliant relationship culture
That’s what it takes…the creation of your relationship culture.
There’s an agreement in all relationships, sometimes spoken sometimes unspoken. Don’t just break it because you want to remake it.
Share your new goals, or rules and work out what will work for you both.
Create your own little world that works well for both of you, with your own rituals or symbols that mesh your relationship together.
I’ve talked before about the evening ritual we have in our world, and you can find it here.
Turn towards a lasting brilliant relationship
Each time you are together there is a request for connection.
Those who turn towards more often than away have a far greater chance of maintaining a lasting happy relationship. Be it with a family member, friend or lover.
The connection request can be simple. You’re in the middle of something, or reading or on a device and a question is asked, or something is pointed out.
Don’t just give a part of your attention. This is easy to do, I know, I’ve done it myself. But it isn’t respectful and it isn’t appreciative of the other.
Stop what you’re doing, and give all your attention. That’s turning towards.
Successful long-term relationships are created through small words, small gestures, and small acts.
So says John M. Gottman, Eight Dates: A Plan for Making Love Last Forever
And this is relevant to us all whether we are talking about friendships born of love, or family or romantic relationships. The little things always matter the most.
Be the one you want
Sounds weird I know. But the best relationships begin with you. They begin with your own self-development.
If you want someone to be kind, you too have to be kind.
If you want some respect, you have to have respect not just for them, but for you.
Basically you want to live in the energy of being the one you’d like to spend time with.
Not that you need to be perfect. Who is? But in order to have that brilliant, lasting relationship you have to embody the qualities you’d like to experience.
Become a magnet for attracting the energy you want to experience in all your relationships.
Constant generosity and kindness count
Albert Schweitzer said it so much better than I could:
Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust and hostility to evaporate.
Kindness isn’t a fixed trait, something you’re born with or not. It’s more like a muscle, naturally stronger in some than others. But like any muscle the more it’s exercised the stronger it becomes.
Kindness and generosity go hand in hand. Kindness is generosity in action.
Want to know what does hurt relationships according to Professor Gottman?
Criticism and/or contempt
You get to complain, (no, it shouldn’t be a habit) you don’t get to criticize.
If you really want to mess up your relationships make the complaint personal. You always, you never, or the problem with you is…and you’ll be well on your way to undermining your relationship.
Contempt is sending the message that the other person isn’t as good as you.
Or they don’t know as much as you.
That eye-rolling thing that teenagers do because, well they’re kids, doesn’t work out so well for adults.
The sarcastic come-back that teens are so good at, is only going to cause problems.
According to the professor, contempt isn’t found in relationships that last.
So here we are, back to positivity. It matters because the negative never solves anything.
And there you have it – these 8 things can guide you towards having a brilliant lasting relationship…
- Watch your feedback
- Positivity resolves problems
- Look for the good
- Create a nurturing relationship culture
- Answer requests
- Be the one you’d want to be around
- Kindness counts
- Ditch the criticism and/or contempt
I give the last word to Professor Gottman:
Admit when you’re wrong. Shut up when you’re right.
Encourage one another.