John M. Gottman American clinical psychologist and relationship researcher has been studying this area since decades. He defined 7 principles to build up and maintain stable and well-balanced relationship. His main focus is to study dynamics of marriages and the transformation of them. According to his research results he is able to predict if the relationship is going to be stable or the partners are going to be separated. His principles also can help to prevent our relationship from breaking up.
- Deep friendship
The ideal relationship is based on a deep, accepting and loving friendship. This feeling can be a kind of a stable base for the future development. If the attraction, sexuality and intimacy were based on this friendship the relationship would face and deal with difficult times easier. There are also critical communication characteristics and if they are used in conflicts, they can be a bad sign for the future development of the relationship. These communication characteristics are, critic, contempt, defense and building up walls. If we can see these communication characteristics are appearing, becoming used, that can show the frailness of the relationship, which also can show that the mutual strong respect – the friendship might have suffered a damage. The problem with using critics is it doesn’t tend towards the conflict, it’s aimed at our partner. Contempt is very destructive because its aim is to humiliate the partner, its message is that we don’t consider our husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend as our partner and equal anymore. With using defense the problem is that it’s a kind of covert counter-attack and usually just rouses the conflict. When we build up walls around us, when we don’t even consider to react on to our partner’s arguments that can make him/her to feel or think like we don’t have more energy or motivation to care of the relationship. According to experts these four communication elements are able to shake the relationship and worth to keep eye on it and to avoid or resolve them.
- Love map
Love map means a deep and detailed knowledge of our partner. The secret of the good relationship is to be able to “read” our partner’s small fleeting emotions. We must be curious without judgement to know our partner, discovering his/her vulnerabilities, negative and positive characteristics, desires and fears and goals. Very useful often just staying in silence and listen to our partner, just observing.
- Not just observing, also listening!
We must give time to attune to each other, like sharing our day with each other after a difficult day, being an active listener. When we listen and react curiously it has a kind of a reward emotional effect in our partner. Common experiences and rituals are able to strengthen our connection and deepen our relationship.
- Let it go!
Before we get into an argument, consider that is it really worth to get into a conflict or argument about it? Often we slip into disproportionate fights because of small things and also into those where there is no objective truth. For instance, our partner forgot to replace the empty toilet paper roll. Is it really the end of the world? To let things go is not a sign of being weak, it’s respecting the other’s rights and accepting the other on the way she/he is.
- Do if you can!
Professor Gottman divided upcoming problems in the relationship for two groups. The first group includes all of the resolvable problems and conflicts. If we worked on those together that would strengthen the relation and increasing the satisfaction of a stable relationship. For instance if a conflict is becoming too harsh they are able to break off the argument when they are feeling that they are losing their temper. In this case can help if they share their feelings with each other, if they are able to apologize and showing their love. Here I must mention that, very important also to keep in mind that “we actually love each other” in difficult times or during an argument.
- Don’t want to change the partner!
There can be factors in a relationship which on there is no control of the other. This is the second group which includes the unsolvable problems. If a fundamental difference appears between a couple, where is impossible to find the common consensus, to maintain the relationship they must accept this difference and being able to see it from the partner’s point of view. Happy couples are able to build in each other’s goals into their common plans and supporting each other to reach them even if it requires sacrifices.
- Find common goals!
In a balanced stable relationship there is always a common principal, a central conception or value which connects the couple even deeper. To establish it, we can create own habits or traditions. If there is something which is important for two people in the relationship that has an incredible cementing force. Shared experiences and traditions can remind us of this force even if we are going through a difficult time period.
According to Professor Gottman a couple’s happiness mainly depends on if they are matched well or not. Not enough to learn and use effective communication or conflict management techniques. The essence of a long-lasting and satisfied relationship is based on if those two people are match well and depends on if they are able to care of their relationship well and accepting each other’s unsolvable differences.