The Science of Happily Ever After

    Relationships - the source of so much joy and for many so much pain. 


    Of all the people who get married, only three in ten remain in healthy, happy marriages. 

    For the past four decades, social scientists have been trying to figure out what keeps couples together and why so many relationships fall apart. 

    One scientist thinks he has found the answer. 

    The answer began to be formed in 1986 when renowned psychologist John Gottman setup the "The Love Lab" to study how couples interact. 

    Inside the "Love Lab" researchers hooked couples up to electrodes and asked them to speak about their relationship. 

    They monitored the subjects blood flow, heart rate and how much sweat is produced. 

    Participants were asked a series of questions like how they meet, moments of joy and challenges they faced. 

    As they spoke, the electrodes measured the subjects' blood flow, heart rates, and how much they sweat they produced. 

    Then the participants were sent home and six years later the researchers followed to see if they were still together. 

    They discovered 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. 

    Physiologically the disasters showed all markers of people under stress with their bodies responding with a similar profile to the flight or fight response. 

    The masters, on the other hand showed no such stress when talking about their relationship; their bodies were calm. 

    They experienced a sense of love and intimacy when speaking about their partners. 

    No one (consciously) gets in to a relationship to be unhappy, so what was going on? 

    Somehow those who were part of the disasters group, who started off feeling good being around their partner, had gone through a process where what once felt good, now felt stressful. 

    To the point it was eventually intolerable. 

    As a student of NLP, it's in our nature to be curious. 

    To ask what process could account for such a high failure rate of relationships? 

    What's the pattern? 

    And what do 'successful' couples do that keeps their love and happiness alive? 

    Gottman wanted to know too. 

    So he designed a new lab, that looked like a beautiful retreat. 

    He invited 130 couples to his retreat and observed them as they interacted with each other. 

    Throughout the day partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls "bids." 

    For example a husband might say to his wife "darling, look at this thing on the TV, you won't believe it." 

    What happened next would become very insightful for the long term health of their    
    relationship. 

    Whether the partner called would tend to respond and "turn toward" the request for connection or did they "turn away" and be dismissive of it. 

    For example saying "why are you bothering me, can't you see I'm busy!" 

    Gottman discovered that those who turned toward the bid for connection just one in every 3 times, were divorced within his six-year follow up. 

    While those who were happily married six years later, had responded to their partner's bids for connection 87% of the time. 

    Gottman who can predict with 94% accuracy if couples will stay together for years and be happy concluded that... 

    Masters of happy relationships actively scan the environment and their partner for what they are doing right that they can compliment and appreciate. 

    Disasters actively scan for what their partners are doing wrong which they then    
    criticise. 

    The phrase "the gentle drop wears the rock" springs to mind. 

    Contempt they discovered is the number one factor that tears couples apart. 

    Kindness and emotional stability research has found is what keeps relationships together. 

    If you want to have better relationship (and these are a good rule for just about everyone); 

         - Actively seek out what appreciate and acknowledge 

         - Practice being kind and understanding 

         - Answer the "bid" for connection from your partner often and happily 

    These rules aren't just useful for couples in relationship; they can do wonders when applied to your friendships, relationship with yourself, your family and in your career. 

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