If you’re presently married or hope to be someday, you should know about the Love Lab.

Founded in 1986 by psychologist, John Gottman, the Love Lab sought to determine what makes marriages succeed or fail. 

To do this, he studied hundreds of couples – he took their histories together, observed how they interacted and even measured the physiological impact each had on the other.

He then tracked the couples over time to see whether their patterns led to happy outcomes or break-ups.

How accurate were Gottman’s methods in predicting a couple’s future success?

Pretty darned accurate – over 90%.

So what was the primary driver of marital bliss?

How both people talked to each other during conflict.

The unsuccessful marriages were ones where one or both partners used negative emotions during fights – criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling (withdrawing from a discussion, most frequently seen among men) were the most corrosive.

Conversely, happy couples used five times more positive behaviors during their disagreements than negative behaviors.

These couples tended to use humor to break the tension and were more apt to express affection and acknowledge the other person’s point of view.

These strategies prevented an argument from getting too heated.

The major takeaways from the study?

The first was the importance of building and maintaining a friendship in the marriage. 

Happy couples really worked at the relationship – they built mutual respect so they could give the other the benefit of the doubt when times were tough.

The second was that you have a choice every time you say something to your partner.  You can say something that either supports them or tears them down.

Couples in unsuccessful marriages were more focused on winning individual “battles” and wound up losing the marriage in the long run.

Interested in learning more about the Love Lab?

Check out Gottman’s Ted Talk or his website.

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