Is each unhappy marriage unhappy in its own way, as Tolstoy might say, or do all miserable marriages share something dysfunctional in common?
Kindness can change everything...
I just read this fantastic article that sums up the work of Drs. John and Julie Gottman over the last few decades about what ingredients are needed to make a lasting relationship. For those of you who are not familiar with Dr. John Gottman, he has his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in the field of Mathematics as well as his Master's and Doctorate degrees in Psychology.
This means that Dr. Gottman quantifies the world of Psychology in ways that no other Psychologist ever has. He gives us tangible facts based on years of data collection and research analysis. His brilliant mind has provided the rest of us in the Psychology world the opportunity to focus on and expand upon what is working in a relationship rather than focusing on what's not working.
If you want the hard and not so fast facts, click here to check out this published research for more extensive details on marital stress.
This article is definitely worth reading all the way through if you are in any stage of a relationship or hoping to be in one at some point in your future. Here are some of my favorite points from my reading:
"Gottman separated the couples into two major groups: the masters and the disasters. The masters were still happily together after six years. The disasters had either broken up or were chronically unhappy in their marriages."
"The problem was that the disasters showed all the signs of arousal — of being in fight-or-flight mode — in their relationships. Having a conversation sitting next to their spouse was, to their bodies, like facing off with a saber-toothed tiger."
"Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it’s not there."
"Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from theirs has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved."
"There are two ways to think about kindness. You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don’t. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people, that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise. Masters tend to think about kindness as a muscle. They know that they have to exercise it to keep it in shape. They know, in other words, that a good relationship requires sustained hard work."
“Kindness doesn’t mean that we don’t express our anger,” Julie Gottman explained, “but the kindness informs how we choose to express the anger. You can throw spears at your partner. Or you can explain why you’re hurt and angry, and that’s the kinder path.”
"Active constructive responding was also associated with higher relationship quality and more intimacy between partners."
"There are many reasons why relationships fail, but if you look at what drives the deterioration of many relationships, it’s often a breakdown of kindness. As the normal stresses of a life together pile up—with children, career, friend, in-laws, and other distractions crowding out the time for romance and intimacy—couples may put less effort into their relationship and let the petty grievances they hold against one another tear them apart."
"In most marriages, levels of satisfaction drop dramatically within the first few years together. But among couples who not only endure, but live happily together for years and years, the spirit of kindness and generosity guides them forward."