This post is written by School Mum Contributor Carolyn
As someone in the throes of divorce proceedings, I’m probably the last person that should be handing out advice on how to have a happy marriage. If you want to hear about how to have an unhappy marriage, I’ve got a long list, but you might not find that so helpful.
But I’m an optimist, so I’m always looking for great advice that will come in handy next time.
Luckily, Dr John Gottman of the Gottman Love Lab Experience (is it just me or does that sound like an 80s supergroup?) has recently shared his findings on what makes a happy marriage, after working with couples for the past 40 years or so as a researcher and couples counsellor.
The Gottman Love Lab Experience calls itself “the world’s first science-based relationship evaluation service”, and it measures three key areas of your relationship:
- shared meaning.
Couples in Seattle, in the US, can check into the lab for the day and have their relationship assessed by experts, but the site also offers therapists a new online tool – the Gottman Relationship Checkup – which offers the therapist a way to score couples’ strengths and vulnerabilities, with feedback for possible treatment options.
Dr Gottman has new data after recently conducting a study of 40,000 couples. The results show a snapshot of what typical couples who are in therapy are experiencing:
- 66 per cent of couples had at least one partner considering leaving, and the same number reported having issues with trust in their relationship.
- A whopping 82 per cent of couples sometimes feel lonely in their relationship.
- 83 per cent of people would like more romance in their relationship.
- Just over half (55 per cent) of couples reported they had problems with their sex life.
- And half (49 per cent) had an issue with the frequency of their sex life.
The top three things couples fight about are:
- not having fun any more
- lack of emotional connection.
Dr Gottman says the biggest obstacle to navigating conflict in a constructive way is flooding. Flooding happens when your heart rate gets over 100 beats per minute and it’s basically impossible for you to communicate in a calm and constructive way. He says when flooding occurs, the best thing you can do is take a structured time out and come back to the discussion when everyone is calm.
Dr Gottman says 96 per cent of couples are flooded during a conflict, and this can cause communication to be erratic, irrational and possibly damaging to the relationship.
One more thing to think about, if you’re in a long-term relationship, is that Dr Gottman says the number one predictor of divorce is contempt. If you’re calling your partner names, talking about them behind their back, or hitting below the belt in other ways, it’s probably time to see a marriage counsellor if you want your relationship to recover.