If you’ve been married for any length of time, you’ve probably experienced a few ups and downs in your relationship. But do you ever wonder about the health of your marriage? In his book, “The Science of Trust,” Dr. John Gottman discusses that, even though healthy marriages can vary greatly in how they look, they share a few common elements.
At its core, a healthy marriage has a strong friendship.
This friendship is reflected in several ways:
- Spouses know one another’s inner world.
- They reflect fondness and admiration.
- Spouses work to notice and are responsive to one another’s needs.
- The couple maintains a positive perspective. In fact, Dr. Gottman found that in healthy relationships, even during conflict, couples tend to use five positives, for every one negative action or comment.
The benefit of this foundation of friendship is that it helps the couple to manage conflict well and accept influence from one another. When things go wrong — and they will—healthy couples repair. They apologize for their transgressions and oftentimes even use humor during their conflicts. Healthy couples also have a strong sense of “we-ness” and work together to make their life dreams come true.
And through all of these elements, healthy couples trust each other and are committed to their marriage.
While healthy marriages have these core elements in common, they can look wildly diverse. Healthy relationships come packaged in a variety of shapes and sizes. How one couple expresses fondness and admiration to one another may not be the same as another couple. But if each works, that’s all that matters. How they work together can be very different.
It turns out that unhappy marriages are far more predictable. In Part 2, I’ll cover the common characteristics of an unhealthy relationship.
Written By: Jackie Dunagan, LAMFT