Building Love

Source: Huffington Post, Aug 2015

The article proposes a recipe for becoming a love “master” instead of a love “disaster” by responding the right way to what Gottman calls your partner’s “bids for connection.”

A “bid” is when your lover points out your kitchen window and marvels, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” You could go “Wow!” and get binoculars (an active “turn-towards”); mumble “Huh,” and keep reading your newspaper (a passive reaction, less good); or say, “I’m sick of your fucking birds. What about the broken garage door?” Gottman found that masters turn towards their partners’ bids 87 percent of the time. Love, he concluded, comes down to “a habit of mind.”

… asked the machine to create equations that associated certain behaviors and physiology with long-term happiness. What emerged were fascinating and often surprising observations on lasting love.

They found that couples that stay happy used a lot of “we,” whereas couples that turned out unhappy used “I,” “me” and “mine.” They also discovered that when partners with a good long-term outlook argued, they somehow managed to maintain a ratio of five positive comments to one negative one. “At the time, everybody was enamored with this idea that romantic relationships were full of fireworks,” Levenson remembered. “Well, that was not the finding. It is the capacity of couples to calm down, to soothe, to sort of reduce the level of arousal for each other, that is the most important factor in predicting whether the marriage will last.”  

They imagined that a happy relationship was built consecutively in seven layers.

  • The foundation was a strong friendship, based on John’s laboratory findings that couples who spoke more fluidly and in more detail about each other and their pasts were more likely to stay together.
  • Then came sharing admiration, “turning towards” each others’ bids and developing positive feelings about the coupling.
  • Once that had all clicked into place, a pair could proceed through learning to manage their fights with, among other techniques, a process they dubbed “dreams within conflict,” whereby people try to see the positive dream inside what looks like a partner’s negative position.
  • At the top–the pinnacle of a great relationship–came helping each others’ dreams come true and building a shared sense of purpose, like volunteering or traveling the world.

 

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