Analytics and data don’t sound like a formula for romance or a good marriage, but John Gottman, PhD, has devoted 40 years to figuring out the math that makes relationships work. In his “Love Lab” at the University of Washington, he has analysed how couples communicate verbally and nonverbally and followed them for years to find out if the relationships survive. More than 200 published articles later, he claims to be able to predict the outcome of a relationship with up to 94 percent accuracy. Dubbed “the Einstein of Love” by Psychology Today, Gottman – along with his wife and research partner, Julie Gottman – now teaches other marriage therapists the most common misunderstandings about love based on observations from the Love Lab.
Myth: Marriage should be fair
Couples who engage in quid pro quo thinking – if I scratch your back, you should scratch mine – are usually in serious trouble, John Gottman says: “We become emotional accountants only when there’s something wrong with the relationship.”
He cites a 1977 study by Bernard Murstein as the first to find that quid pro quo thinking was a characteristic of ailing relationships rather than happy ones. “We’ve found in our research that the best marriages are the ones in which you are really invested in your partner’s interests, as opposed to your own,” Julie Gottman says. Good marriages and the happiest relationships have a high level of trust, which lets them give without expecting anything in return because they know their partner has their back.
Myth: You should tell your partner exactly what you want
Make no mistake: Open communication is an essential tool for a happy relationship. But the Gottmans have found that successful couples also understand each other’s feelings and needs without having to be told all the time. One of John Gottman’s studies found a link between good marriages and a husband’s ability to interpret his wife’s nonverbal cues.