The author Leo Tolstoy claimed that all happy families are alike, but all the unhappy ones are miserable each in their own unique way. Is that true?
It turns out that the unhappy ones have a lot in common too.
John and Julie Gottman are psychologists that have studied couples since the 1970’s. By observing couples interacting or talking about each other they can predict with 94% certainty which ones will be happily together several years later. The glue that keeps couples together is kindness and generosity. When one partner turns towards another to voice an idea or an observation, this can be met with various degrees of enthusiasm or rejection. This is known as “turning towards” or “turning away”. The couples that were divorced in a follow-up study six year’s later, only had “turn towards” rates of 33% in the initial study. The couples who were still together had turn towards rates of 87%.
Contempt is the biggest nail in the coffin where relationships are concerned. Partners who are focused on criticizing miss a full half of all the positive actions their partners perform. And people who ignore their partners, damage not only the relationship itself, but their partner’s self-worth and physical health, lowering their ability to fight off diseases.