Friday, August 22, 2014

A happy marriage

On the long drive back from San Francisco to Los Angeles (381 miles through mostly flat, boring, parched conditions and a foul-smelling patch of cows, manure and fertilizer) the husband and I listened to an audiobook of Malcolm Gladwell's best-seller Blink to break up the monotony of The Five.   

The part we found most fascinating was a chapter Gladwell devotes to a marriage researcher named John Gottman. Gottman, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington, has spent the past four decades studying thousands of couples in search of what makes marriages last. He does funny things that scientists do, like hooking up his subjects to electrodes and asking them questions about their relationship while measuring their blood flow, heart rate and how much they sweat. 

Then I came across this eye-opening article about Gottman in The AtlanticGottman has fine tuned his craft so well he can predict whether certain couples -- gay or straight, rich or poor, childless or not -- will be broken up, together and unhappy, or together and happy several years later. And he can do this with up to 94 percent accuracy.

So science has confirmed that kindness is the thing that glues couples together. According to Gottman, it's the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, validated and ultimately, loved. Seems like a no-brainer, right?

I've been doing a lot of thinking about this topic, especially as the husband and I will celebrate our 11-year anniversary tomorrow. There's no secret to a happy marriage. Gottman's forty years-worth of research is pretty spot-on. Exercise that kindness muscle and the glue that keeps the two of you together will stay sticky.


Read the full article about John Gottman's research here. (The Atlantic)

A dissection of Gottman's love lab. (Slate)