John and Julie Gottman are considered the foremost experts in couples therapy and being able to predict if a relationship will last, or not. Rather than discuss the signs of what they call a “disaster” I want to relay what they found to be a predominant precursor to what they term a “master” — a successful relationship.
In the simplest terms, the Gottmans said that couples who respond to each other’s “bids” for connection. Basically, being interested in what the other person is saying. The Gottman’s research showed that 87% of successful couples responded correctly to their partner’s bids. This begins with being a good listener and extends to selflessness. If you are busy scrolling through Facebook when your significant other asks you a question, do you put down your phone/tablet/laptop and turn toward your partner to engage, or do you not even flinch and answer half-heartedly?
Hint: the former is good, the latter is not. What do you do?
If you’re interested in learning more about the Gottmans, start with this article.
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“You can be right, or you can be happy.”
A wise friend told me this phrase recently and it resonated deeply. So many of us are taught to be headstrong, stubborn, with a need so deep to win an argument that we would ruin a relationship in order to be proven right.
It’s not worth it.
It never is. If you know you’re right, just drop it and move on. Apologize and move on. Let go and move on. Who is benefitting from you being right? Only your ego. But everything and everyone else will suffer. Is that worth feeling superior or validated?
This is a lesson I’ve learned much later in life than I would have liked, and I have learned it the hard way… I’m gifting it to you now with the hopes that it will change your relationships — romantic or otherwise — for the better.
under Date Night
Everyone has needs when it comes to a relationship and some people have more than others. Some need to hear they are loved every day. Other people need love in the form of affection and touch; to them, actions speak louder than words. And yet others just need to know they can trust you and that’s enough for them.
Being needy is an entirely different thing. Being needy is needing to talk and text all day, every day and expecting your partner to know how you are feeling without telling them… at any given time. Being needy is depending upon someone to complete you, rather than complement you (and yes, being needy is depending upon someone to compliment you as well). Being needy is needing to be doing something, with someone, all the time. Being needy is jumping from relationship to relationship because you’re afraid of being alone. If any of those descriptions sound mildly familiar then try taking some time to yourself to reflect on your life and what’s really important.
In writing my blogs, I sometimes like to remember that it’s not only single people reading. So for this week’s piece, I went to one of the sturdiest relationships in my life, the marriage of my friends Alastair and Lauren. As we ate dinner together last week, I decided to ask them for advice on healthy relationships.
- On how they decided they were right for each other. Practicality is always king. Agreement on where you’re both headed is vital. Alastair and Lauren think of themselves as good roommates and think that, combined with their attraction, made for a great relationship. Common goals are also vital, and the practical understanding of the long-term blueprint was important in their relationship leading into marriage. They also trust each other immensely, and think of each other as their closest confidants. Money is an important point that comes up for them as something they immediately trusted each other with beyond just living together.
- On what keeps them happy. Anticipate the other person’s needs. For example, Lauren and Alastair cook for each other when one is stuck at work (or in a classroom with me, in Alastair’s case). Basically, do nice things without being asked and put your partner before yourself. Life isn’t having sex and talking about G-d, it’s making the decisions to help each other and keep life stable.
- On finding the right person for you. Find an environment that’s conducive for people being together regularly. Jewish events, hobby groups, and universities (within limits — maybe not if you’re in your 30s or older and not in college) are great ways to find people. Finding a place where you’re comfortable with lots of people is great, and while the university option was how they met, they still have lots of faith in meeting at community events.
One final note I’d like to make is how much I enjoy having Alastair and Lauren and their fellow married friends in my Jewish community. In Dallas, we don’t have “singles” events for young Jews, but rather events for young Jewish people in general. While some people don’t love the mixing of singles and couples (how can you tell who to hit on?), I think there’s an added value not just from the fact that those in relationships can also be great people, but in the fact that they can give you a sense of guidance in a very confusing dating landscape.
Having two people in as stable of a relationship as Alastair and Lauren is more than just a great reminder of what I aspire for, but also a great resource to help me get there. So couples of the Jewish world, be sure to stay active in your community as my friends have, you never know who will benefit from your friendship, and the friends you can introduce them to.