How do you know what makes a relationship work, that it is constructive, fruitful, fruitful, in the long term?
John M Gottman's "Love Lab" has revealed its secrets, after hosting volunteer couples for 16 years. Couples are immersed in this somewhat special laboratory, where they are invited for a weekend. Researchers observe them through a glass without complexion and couples are monitored on some physiological parameters (heartbeat, blood pressure …).
The conclusions of this study are quite transposable into other types of relationships, such as friendship relationships, parenthood, or professional relationships.
When we talk about soft skills, the skills acquired in one context are transferable to others (personal, intimate, professional life).Only the issues and durations in which relationships take place differ.
In couple relationships, the stakes are particularly high, with today a divorce or separation rate of 67%.
Studies from the Love Lab have made it possible to predict the advent of a divorce with an accuracy rate of 91%, after 5 minutes of observation.
Or on the contrary great, because these seven principles make it possible to become active on what makes a couple work?
The emotional intelligence of the couple is a key factor, which changes the game. It signs its ability to counterbalance negative feelings with positive feelings.
Faced with the rate of separations observed today, how to overcome what is not inevitable? How to avoid the deleterious effects related to the physical and psychological stress caused by a separation or a dysfunctional couple? And gain longevity: 4 years more life for people who live in a satisfying couple!
At the birth of the first child, 67% of couples experience a dizzying drop in their marital satisfaction rate.
When couple therapies focus on what doesn't work and try to improve it, this study reveals what works.
Divorce prediction indices
- A brutal start: a negative, accusatory, sarcastic or contemptuous tone from the outset.
- The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse
- Criticism, blame (criticism is a generalized grievance instead of remaining specific)
- Contempt, sarcasm, mockery, condescension, cynicism, signs of disgust (verbal and non-verbal cues like eyes going up to heaven or sneers)
- Defensive attitude
- Evasion, mutism, (which affects 85% of men in couples)
- Drowning, which, under the repeated assault of the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse, leads to the emotional disinvestment of the relationship.
- Body language: the manifestations of stress (heart panic, cold sweats, adrenaline secretion, increased blood pressure, etc.). The evolution of the species has led men to a slow resorption of stress (hence an increased occurrence of avoidance of situations via evasion) and women to return to calm more quickly. In addition, under the influence of stress, attention drops and we no longer have any creativity or taking a step back to resolve the conflict.
- The failure of attempts at rapprochement: attempts at rapprochement are everything that will allow you to take a step back, such as a pause, the sentence that defuses the conflict, a sign of complicity, humor …
- Bad memories: the past is reread with dark glasses and even past happy moments become dark or are swept away.
It is often when it is in a permanent red phase that a couple asks for help. Which may be a little too late…
Signs of the beginning of the end of the couple's life:
- marital problems are considered serious
- one has the impression that it is useless to discuss it outside the couple
- we lead parallel lives
- loneliness sets in
Extramarital affairs are usually a manifestation of the end of the couple and not the cause.
The 7 principles of working couples
Law n°1: Enriching your tender card
Each member of the couple knows the inner universe of the other, his joys, his tastes and his worries. The information is updated daily, and with moments of regular privileged exchanges. This card of the tender makes it possible to adapt to the birth of a child, which constitutes a major upheaval of the system, a real metamorphosis. This card of the tender is used to build and enrich the relationship, permanently.
Law n°2: Cultivate tenderness and mutual esteem
Each member of the couple is convinced that the other deserves to be honored and respected. It is the antidote to contempt, the ability to remember the qualities of the other, to bring him positive thoughts. It protects the couple from the 4 riders. When it weakens or has disappeared, it can be re-educated through behavioral exercises.
Law n°3: Turn to each other, instead of turning away from each other
Establish the connection, by the look, by the welcome made to the offer of the other, the small gestures on a daily basis, the discussions with broken sticks, the romanticism, the mutual aid, the supportive presence (really listen, without giving advice), the taking into account of the emotional needs of the other.
Law n°4: Let yourself be influenced by your partner
It is accepting to take into account the different point of view of the other, and to let oneself be influenced by it, it is to respect the other and integrate him into the decision-making process. It is accepting a balanced sharing of power, agreeing to give in to win, authentically taking into account the values of the other, finding a work-life balance for each member of the couple. This benefits each member of the couple and also children whose both parents are emotionally intelligent.
There are asymmetries here: it is often easier for a woman to be infuenced by her husband than the other way around. Moreover, when a woman uses one of the four riders, the couple is little destabilized. While when a man uses one of the riders, the impact is strong and destabilizes the couple.
When a man agrees to be influenced, it reinforces Laws 1, 2 and 3.
Finally, women are often more emotionally intelligent than men, as society encourages them from childhood to develop social interaction and feelings, so they are often one step ahead.
Law n°5: Solving solvable problems
Marital conflicts can be divided into two categories: permanent conflicts and soluble conflicts. The distinction is made in particular by the intensity of the emotions they generate. Solvable conflicts relate to specific situations, which can find a compromise solution.
Permanent conflicts concern deeper points, such as conflicts of value, trust, security.To resolve a conflict in the long term, it is necessary to know how to forgive, to draw a line under old resentments, to consider the defects of the other with indulgence.
To solve a solvable problem:
- start the discussion smoothly. It is mainly the woman who addresses the delicate subjects. If she knows that her influence is accepted, then she will tend to start smoothly. If this startup mode is not possible, then you might as well postpone the discussion to a more convenient time. Talk about the facts, about what is wrong, using the "I" and without judgment towards the other, being factual, clear, courteous.
- make attempts at rapprochement and accept them from the other. Recognize what is true, its share, its wrongs. Getting the message across. Talk about your feelings. Say what works. Metacommunicate. Place the discussion at the level of the couple, not the individuals.
- soothe each other. Practice individual and then relational stress management. Make the couple a haven of peace, do not let external stress sabotage the relationship (the common sources of stress are those from work, the in-laws, money management, sexuality, domestic tasks, parenthood …)
- learn to compromise. Find common ground, negotiate a win-win solution.
- be tolerant of the other's defects
Law n°6: Overcoming blockages
Blockages, on the other hand, occur on deeper points, which can refer to childhood wounds. The objective is twofold: to get to deal with it and to maintain the dialogue.One of the goals – often unconscious – of the couple is to help each other realize their dreams, to achieve what makes sense individually. Only sometimes dreams are hidden, and require a work of awareness and individual explanation and then at the level of the couple. Then a partial compromise zone can be found, and the non-negotiable hard core explained.
Law n°7: Going in the same direction
The couple is sustainable and fulfilling, when it is based on a shared meaning, the creation of an inner life, a common culture. The common culture is nourished by family rituals, harmony on the roles of each, the sharing of deep individual goals, shared symbols.
The couple is like a garden, it requires daily care, to grow and beautify.
In a very concrete way, here are the five magical hours that participate:
- separations: separate in the morning with knowledge of at least one event of the day of the other (2min/d *5 days: 10 min/week)
- reunion: talk serenely at the end of each working day (20 min*5d: 1h40/week)
- manifestations of affection: through physical contact and forgiveness of minor irritations before falling asleep (5min/d*7d: 35 min/week)
- the weekly appointment: a shared moment, of quality, to update the map of the tender and turn to each other (2 hours / week)
Once a week, ask yourself the questions of marital clean-up, and talk about it but not before sleeping! These questions investigate the individual state and the state of the relationship (interactions, emotions, feelings).
Finally, be forgiving of yourselves, abandoning self-criticism and judgment, and accepting yourself with your qualities and flaws, practicing gratitude.
In the light of this article:
- in what context -pro/personal- do you have resonances?
- what are you already doing?
- what more could you do?
- what are you going to stop doing?
- How will you implement what you have discovered again?
Sources: John M Gottman & Nan Silver: The seven principles for making a marriage work, a practical guide from the country's foremost relationship expertCarlo Trippi, Imago Therapy: A New Approach to the Couple's Adventure