There is a great article in The Atlantic, about what happy couples do differently than unhappy couples or ones that break up. It is based on the life work of psychologist, John Gottman and the great thing is that it’s something everyone can do, starting today.
Back in 1986, John created ‘The Love Lab’, where he and his team studied newlyweds. The couples were attached to electrodes and asked questions about their relationship. The electrodes measured heart rate, blood flow and sweat production.
Couples fell into one of 2 groups: The ‘Masters’ and the ‘Disasters’. The electrode readings from the Disasters showed increase heart rate, blood flow and sweat production. They were in a constant state of flight or fight, ready to either attract or defend. 6 years later, this group had either broken up or were very unhappy. In contrast, the Masters were physically calm and emotional connected. They had created an environment of trust; even when they fought. The masters were happy together after 6 years.
What did the Masters and Disasters do differently? Gottman wanted to find out! He created a bed and breakfast style environment, where couples hang out as they would and researchers could study them. The researchers found that couples are constantly making ‘bids for attention’. These bids can be about very small things, but each one is important. In The Atlantic article, Gottman uses this example: The husband sees a bird through the window and points it out to his wife.
If she responds with interest or support, even very briefly, that is a sign of a happy relationship. They are Masters. Alternatively, if she didn’t respond, or said something dismissive or rude, such as: ‘Don’t interrupt me’, then, the bid has been turned away and is typically how the ‘Disasters’ respond.
The attention bids had a huge effect of the well being of the marriage. The couples who had divorced 6 years later, had only positively responded to the bids 33 percent of the time. In contrast, the couples who were happy and still together, had responded 87% of the time.
When you have ADHD, responding to your partner’s bids might feel like hard work. Because it takes a lot of effort to disengage your focus from what you were doing, respond to your partner, and then try and focus again. However, it is possible, and since this is THE key to a happy, long lasting relationship, it is also vital.
Gottman says he can predict with 94% certainly where couples will be together and happy years down the road based on these types of interactions.
Your homework this week:
1. Notice when your partner makes a bid for your attention.
2. Notice how you respond.
3. Notice what you are doing when you don’t respond positively. Is there is a theme? Is it always when you are working on your computer or watching TV?
4. Can you improve your stats? Can you improve how often you respond positivity?
5. Check out the full article here: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/happily-ever-after/372573/
Learning about the masters and the disasters is a great concept in being able to see if your marriage is going to work or if it is broken if you do not change. A lot of this has to do with the way you communicate. Recently in an interpersonal relations class we looked in to some of Gottmans research and discovered that it is about how you are communicating, not whether or not you are communicating.
These are all really insightful tips on how to save a relationship. My husband and I have been struggling with a lot of stress against each other and I think some of your homework assignments can really help save our marriage. Being aware and noticing your responses, or what my husbands needs are allows me to open up for a less selfish relationship.