Couples can cultivate happy, long-lasting relationships by following these seven principles (or secrets) and genuinely exploring what each soul can bring to a loving connection.
To use the words of psychologist John Gottman, founder of the Gottman Institute, a psychologist with over 40 years of research on marriage, divorce and relationships, I’m going to ask you: are you a relationship expert or a relationship disaster?
Understanding the critical points of a happy relationship makes, without a doubt, a big difference in your life as a couple.
In the article below, we explore the seven secrets (also known as “principles”) to a happy relationship revealed by psychologist Gottman himself:
Improve your love map
This principle relies on understanding your partner and their world to help you maintain physical contact and better prepare for stressful moments and events, and conflicts that may arise in your relationship. Gottman advises us to have a “love map” for our couple partner.
How do you create a love map? There are a few critical points to touch on:
- Important people in your partner’s life (friends, potential friends, rivals);
- important recent events in their life;
- future events;
- what is causing them current stress/worries;
- self-exploration exercise: Who am I?
Other important points to mention and then discuss:
- moments of success;
- my wounds and healing;
- my emotional world;
- my mission in the world;
- who I want to become.
All of these things need to be discussed and explored with your partner.
Nurture love and admiration
This principle is based on the idea of growing love, reminding yourself moment by moment of the positive emotions and the reason why you fell in love with your partner. The aspects of love and admiration are the antidote to contempt.
Start by writing “I appreciate….”, then list three positive characteristics you appreciate in your partner along with a specific memory or example, then share these notes with your partner.
“I appreciate that you always know how to put a smile on my face. The other day when I had a hard day at work, you cooked dinner, put on a funny movie and listened patiently while I talked about what was bothering me. This helped me feel much better and detached from my problems.”
It’s important to remember the positive parts of your time together and why you were attracted to each other.
Turn to each other… and not with your back to each other.
This principle is based on the idea of staying positively connected. When you turn towards your partner, you show them that you value their presence and what they have to say. What does it mean to “turn towards him?”. As I’ve said before, the little details matter and made a difference: eye contact, smiling, listening.
- more trust;
- emotional connection;
- and more passion;
Important tips for practising this habit:
- don’t give advice, listen;
- show genuine interest;
- always communicate openly;
- take your loved one’s side;
- express an “us against all” attitude;
- validates emotions (empathises).
Allow your partner to influence you.
This principle is about making decisions together and seeking common ground (sharing power in your relationship). Allowing your partner to influence you doesn’t mean they control everything – it’s about working as a team, listening and taking advice when you need a different opinion.
Solve problems that have a solution
This principle is about problem-solving and communication. According to Gottman, there are two types of relationship problems: conflicts that can be resolved and perpetual problems that can’t be resolved. All couples need to determine what they are experiencing in their relationship.
One of the essential pieces of advice to solve problems that have a solution: start the conversation without contempt or criticism. Then present solutions and also accept solutions. Compromise is also necessary for this situation.