From the data they gathered, John Gottman (and team) separated the couples into two major groups: the Masters and the Disasters. The masters were still happily together after 6 years. The disasters had either broken up or were unhappy in their marriages.
By observing these types of interactions, Gottman can predict with up to 94 percent certainty whether couples — straight or gay, rich or poor, childless or not — will be broken up, together and unhappy, or together and happy several years later.
Much of it comes down to the ‘spirit’ couples bring to the relationship – personality characteristics. Do they bring kindness and generosity; or contempt, criticism, and hostility?
Gottman concludes, “there’s a habit of mind that the Masters have. They are scanning the social environment for things about their partner they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building a culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. On the other hand, the Disasters are scanning the social environment for their partners’ mistakes.”
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.
People who give their partner the cold shoulder — deliberately ignoring the partner or responding minimally — damage the relationship by making their partner feel worthless and invisible, as if they are not there, and certainly, not valued. Being mean is the death bell of relationships.
Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from Gottman has shown that kindness, along with emotional stability, are the most important predictors of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated.
There’s a great deal of evidence showing the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to love and generosity in a relationship. Please note: this means that one partner can bring out goodness in the other – by way of example.
Gottman gives an example: “Disasters will say things differently in a fight. Disasters will say ‘You’re late. What’s wrong with you? You’re just like your mom.’ Masters will say ‘I feel bad for picking on you about being late, and I know it’s not your fault, but it’s really annoying that you’re late again.’”
Masters appear to take the time to choose their words. They don’t ignore their feelings like some Disasters do (only to blow up later). They own their perceptions and approach the partner with a desire to share and solve the problem. Disasters will often approach as though they are an expert on the other and there is no invitation for a discussion.
Couples can learn to communicate with respect. They can learn about connection-bids. But they have to be motivated.
Excerpts from: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/happily-ever-after/372573/#ixzz3InrNj0bN