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6 of the Biggest Myths About Happy Relationships

GottmanDr. John Gottman, at the University of Washington has spent four decades analysing couples communication both verbally and nonverbally, following couples for years to see which relationships survive. With this experience Gottman claims to be able to predict the outcome of a relationship with up to 94 percent accuracy.

Gottman, with the nickname ‘the Einstein of Love’ with his research partner, also his wife, now teaches other marriage therapists the most common misunderstandings about love based on observations from his studies.

Myth: Marriage should be fair

Couples who believe in the saying “I scratch your back, you should scratch mine” are usually in serious trouble. The best marriages are the ones in which each of you are really invested in your partner’s interests, as opposed to your own. The happiest couples have a high level of trust, which lets them give without expecting anything in return because they know their partner has their back.

Myth: Your partner is not a mind reader

You need to be clear with your partner exactly what you want. Open communication is essential for a happy relationship. In addition to openness, the Gottmans’ have found that successful couples also understand each other’s feelings and needs without having to be told all the time. There is a link between satisfied marriages and a husband’s ability to interpret his wife’s non-verbal cues.

Myth: Couples who have screaming fights are heading for divorce

The Gottmans have identified three types of couple in what they call ‘happy and stable relationships. “Volatiles” is one of the three. The other two, are ‘validaters’ and ‘avoiders.’

Happy volatile couples can have intense fights, but they balance arguments with kindness and attentiveness, having five positive experiences to the one negative. Couples heading for divorce have barely one positive experience for one negative.

Myth: Talk things out until you agree with each other

More than two-thirds of the problems in a marriage are managed, not solved, with couples who will just ‘agree to disagree.’ If couples cannot move on from a recurring fight, there may be core-value differences between them both from which a compromise needs to be found.

For example, a fight about finances is not just about actual cash, but about the meaning of money, power, freedom, and security.

Myth: Gender differences are behind your mega fights

Men and women are equally in touch with their emotions. It is cultural upbringing and family environment that has more influence on your willingness to express your emotions than gender.

Research has shown that when women thought long term about their lives, they reported themselves as more emotional than men. But when participants rated their emotions on a moment-to-moment basis, the gender differences disappeared.

Myth: You repeat your parents’ relationship problems

How you deal with your childhood baggage is more important than the fact that you have any. None of us escape childhood without some strange ideas, but that doesn’t mean you cannot have a great relationship. Let your partner know what certain words and actions might dig up old feelings and provoke a reaction so that you can avoid those weaknesses.

Myth: Opposites attract

Research does not support for the idea that one partner’s strengths compensate for the other’s weaknesses and vice versa. You can be opposites in some small ways, but with core issues, it’s best to be similar. For example, if one person wants to talk about anger and sadness while the other thinks you should keep negative feelings to yourself, each partner will feel resentment to the other.