The hallmark of every real
relationship is the fight. The first fight, its issue, and whether or
not the fledging relationship can survive it. If the argument gets too
verbally brutal, or the subject is a deal-breaker, the relationship
will end. But, as the relationship wears on, it is the fights that
offer the most clues on whether the relationship will survive.
Famed Psychologist John Gottman, relationship king of the "Love Lab"
(otherwise known as the Gottman Institute) can predict with 90%
accuracy which relationships will fail and which will succeed by
watching 3 minutes of a fight. Or someArial, just an everyday
conversation. He says that all relationships have patterns, sort of
like a thumbprint. And, that by witnessing just a small portion of the
relationship pattern, (the thumbprint, if you will) he can make a
fairly accurate call on whether the relationship will survive.
According to Gottman, a successful relationship will have five
positive emotions for every one negative. The most important
indicators, according to Gottman, however, are what he calls "The Four
Horsemen of the Apocalypse"
The more frequently you or your partner exhibit these behaviors in a
relationship, the worse your chances are:
1) Defensiveness -
"It's not my fault I'm always late."If you or your partner won't
take responsibility for the problems, it's going to be hard to solve
- men tend to do this more often than women. It basically means
shutting down, refusing to discuss a problem. In other words, the
"You're selfish, you never pay the bills
on time, you're mean to old people." This is basically telling yourpartner that you don't like
And the worst,
Gottman says, "any statement made from a higher level. A lot of the
time it's an insult: :You are a bitch. You're scum.' It's trying to
put that person on a lower plane than you, it's hierarchical."
The couples who do tend to make it for the long haul, tend to do more
repair. They diffuse the situation with humor, they soften the
argument with affection, and most importantly, they offer "credit"
when a partner asks for it. When your sweetie says, "I'm getting
better though, I only hit one street sign with your car last week."
The partner that says, "You're right! That is better!" stands a much
better chance for long-term survival than the partner that says, "one
street sign is one street sign too many."
According to a new book called
Blink:The Power Of Thinking Without
Thinking by Malcolm
Gladwell, Gottman says people tend to view relationships two ways:
Positive Sentiment Override
This is where positive sentiment overrides irritability. Gottman says,
"it's like a buffer. Their spouse will do something bad and they'll
say "Oh, he's just in a crummy mood."
Negative Sentiment Override
According to Gottman, "a relatively neutral thing that a partner does
gets perceived as negative. You don't pick up the phone because you're
in the bathroom, and your partner thinks you're purposefully avoiding
them. In the negative sentiment override state, people draw lasting
conclusions about each other. If their spouse does something positive,
it's a selfish person doing a positive thing. Gottman says, "For
example, I'm talking with my wife and she says, 'Will you shut up and
let me finish?' In positive sentiment override, I say, 'Sorry, go
ahead.' I'm not very happy, but I recognize the repair. In negative
sentiment override, I say 'To hell with you, I'm not getting a chance
to finish either. You're such a bitch, you remind me of your mother.'"
Will your relationship last? Well, only time (or three minutes in Dr.
Gottman's Love Lab) will tell. However, whether you talk about every
feeling that pops into your head or head to a spa for an emergency
pedicure every time you have an argument, the key to success seems to
be in genuine and mutual respect for your partner, and a desire to
make the relationship permanent. Even when you're mad. Really mad.
Dating Expert Lisa Daily is an
internationally known dating coach and the author of Stop Getting Dumped!
All you need to know to make men fall madly in love
with you and marry "The One" in 3 years or less.
At bookstores everywhere.
As seen in Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post and Glamour Magazine
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