In Part 1 of our happy marriage blog series, we uncovered the statistics on marriage in America and shared Psychologist John Gottman’s 1986 study of newlyweds at the University of Washington. “The Love Lab,” as it was warmly referred it to, measured physiological signs that correlated with a couple’s likelihood of staying married.
Dividing them into two groups, “the masters” and “the disasters,” researchers showed that the creation of a climate of trust and intimacy has a strong correlation with marital longevity. By creating this climate of connection, the happy couples–aka. “the masters”–showed low physiological arousal illustrating a capacity to make each partner more comfortable, both physically and emotionally. On the other hand, the “disasters” demonstrated physiological signs of arousal that illustrated a readiness to to attack and be attacked.
In order to determine what the masters had done to create this climate of emotional comfort, trust, and intimacy, they conducted a follow-up study in 1990. Transforming their lab into a bed and breakfast type retreat, they studied 130 newlywed couples as they went through their typical vacation-type activity. What he discovered was that couples who responded to their partner’s “bids” were, in fact, expressing signs of interest or support that correlated with the happiness and health of their marriage.
For example, if you would say to your partner something as trivial as “I really like this coffee,” your lack of response or disinterest would be recorded as “turning away” from their bid. Conversely, “turning toward” their bid would show your respect and interest in your partner’s request for connection in that moment.
- “Couples who had divorced after a six-year follow up had “turn-toward bids” 33 percent of the time. Only three in ten of their bids for emotional connection were met with intimacy.”
- “The couples who were still together after six years had “turn-toward bids” 87 percent of the time. Nine times out of ten, they were meeting their partner’s emotional needs.”
The moral of the story? If you want to have a long and happy marriage, connect with your partner when they reach out to you. While it may seem insignificant at the time, in fact, showing your interest and support with the mundane details of life demonstrates your respect and attentiveness while allowing you to connect with your partner in the present moment.
If there’s any clear way to ensure your marriage ends in divorce, it’s to ignore your partner’s bids. Among other things, turning toward your partner’s bids can insulate your marriage from the inevitable hiccups of married life. If you want to stay married forever, practice kindness, shine light on the successes in your partner and marriage, share your partner’s joys, and be generous in understanding your partner’s intentions behind their behaviors.
Do you believe that marriages are happier now than ever before?