- Despite what many marital therapists
teach, communicating well and learning how to solve conflicts are not the
keys to preserving marriage, says a new report on 25 years of landmark
- Even happy couples can't "validate"
each other in the middle of an argument or use the rules for fighting fair
that therapists favor, says John Gottman, a University of Washington psychology
professor who says his research can be used to predict, with 91% accuracy,
whether a couple will stay together.
- He bases his findings in part on his
study of 650 couples tracked for 14 years; the couples have not been in
therapy. Part of his research involves observing partners interacting in
a lab setting, as well as conducting periodic, extensive interviews.
- Most couples really can't solve the core
issues they argue about over and over again; they'd be better off to make
peace with the problem to some degree and accept their differences, says
Gottman in his book out this week, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage
Work (Crown, $23).
- The linchpin of a lasting marriage, Gottman
finds, is a simple concept with a profound impact: friendship. Successful
couples have "a mutual respect for and enjoyment of each other's company."
- Couples who last "know each other
intimately " they are well versed in each other's likes, dislikes,
personality quirks, hopes and dreams. They have an abiding regard for each
other and express this fondness" in big and little ways, day in and
- The quality of their friendship also
is the determining factor in whether couples are satisfied with the sex,
romance and passion in their marriages, Gottman finds.
- Successful couples don't let the negative
thoughts they have about each other - which all couples have - outweigh
the positive ones. And when they do disagree, they make frequent "repair
attempts" to fix the damage; their friendship ensures attempts are
- Suggesting that men and women come from
different planets, such as Mars and Venus, doesn't help, Gottman says.
"Gender differences may contribute to marital problems, but they don't
- In successful couples, husbands can be
influenced by wives, as well as the other way around, Gottman finds. That
doesn't mean the husband is a "wimp," Gottman says, but rather
that there is reciprocity in the relationship.