When a journalist involved in a confusing relationship sought help to salvage it, she decided attending a workshop developed by relationship experts John and Julie Gottman would be a top option.
The Gottmans held their meetings at a Seattle cafe, built a fulfilling, honest relationship after past ones turned sour, and devoted their professional lives to discovering a formula for happy relationships, Eve Fairbanks wrote for The Huffington Post.
For years, the Gottmans had studied the behaviors of couples to determine which actions and attitudes led them to happier, more fulfilling relationships — or divorce. They had begun to predict with 94 percent accuracy the success or failure of a couple's relationship, according to Fairbanks.
"This was magic — a virtually foolproof way of distinguishing toxic partnerships from healthy ones even before the couples knew themselves — but it was also science, so it appealed to our contemporary desire to use empirical data to better our lives," Fairbanks wrote for The Huffington Post.
In her piece, Fairbanks outlined some of the Gottmans' basic findings so that she and others like her could use them to improve their relationships.
One major takeaway — stay optimistic when dealing with your partner.
The Atlantic's 2014 profile on the Gottmans further detailed their efforts: "Masters," or people involved in stable partnerships, respond to their partner's "bids" for connection positively 87 percent of the time.
According to Fairbanks, a "bid" means a lover trying to reach out to his or her partner.
A "master" mostly looks to engage in the bid, while a "disaster," someone in a difficult relationship, responds more passively, The Huffington Post article explained.
Another John Gottman experiment found that relationships succeed more when a person puts their partner's needs first, Fairbanks said.
"They found that couples that stay happy used a lot of 'we,' whereas couples that turned out unhappy used 'I,' 'me' and 'mine,'" Fairbanks wrote. "They also discovered that when partners with a good long-term outlook argued, they somehow managed to maintain a ratio of five positive comments to one negative one."
To reach this conclusion, John Gottman and his collaborator psychologist Robert Levenson created a mock apartment to observe couples doing normal things together.
"It was just like being at a bed and breakfast,” he told Fairbanks, “except you were hooked up to electrodes and there were surveillance cameras hanging from the ceiling.”
John Gottman and Levenson then analyzed data from couples' interactions and followed up with participants years later.
In a KUOW.org interview, Julie Gottman also warned against complacency, which makes relationships boring, and suggested that couples ask their partners open-ended questions to help combat this.
She said examples include "How would you like our lives to change in the next three to five years?" or, "What adventures would you like to have that you haven’t had yet?"
“Open-ended questions are questions that have a whole story as an answer,” Julie Gottman told KUOW.org. “Even though our relationship may feel the same over the years, the reality is that each person is evolving and changing over time.”
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Payton Davis is the Deseret News National intern. Send him an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter, @Davis_DNN.