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How To Make A Relationship Last: 5 Secrets Backed By Research

Stashed in: Relationships, @bakadesuyo

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What Really Predicts If A Relationship Will Last

Just ask a couple about their relationship. Yup, that simple. The story they tell predicts with 94% accuracy whether they will divorce in 3 years.

From A Book About Love:

After assessing fifty-two couples based on their oral history interviews, the psychologists Kim Buehlman, John Gottman, and Lynn Katz at the University of Washington found that the way spouses described their history predicted whether they would get divorced within the next three years with 94 percent accuracy. It’s an astonishing statistic: by simply looking at how couples speak about their past, the scientists could foresee their future.

So what differs between the stories told by the happy couples and the not-so-happy couples? It’s not the content. Again, everyone experiences conflict. But couples with a future “glorify the struggle.” To simplify:

BAD: “We fought. It was awful. In fact, my partner is awful.”

GOOD: “We fought. It was awful but we worked it out and now we’re better than ever.”

Here’s Jonah:

Every couple is going to go through hard times and go through points where they wonder if they should still be together. That’s just part of being in a long-term relationship. Then, the question becomes: how do they talk about it? Some couples talk about it almost like a sign from the gods that they shouldn’t be together. Some couples find a way to glorify it. To talk about how it brought them together. How they made it through and how they’re stronger because of what happened.

It’s not what happened. It’s how you interpret what happened. Nobody is happy on mile 20 of the marathon. And if the story stops there, it’s not a good one.

But if you pass the finish line, the struggle makes the victory that much sweeter. And those are the stories that happy couples tell.

(To learn the recipe for a happy marriage, click here.)

Here’s what Jonah had to say about how to make a relationship last:

  • Similarity doesn’t matter: Matching music playlists don’t predict happy marriages. Sorry. Focus on emotions.
  • Arguing is good: Negative communication beats no communication every time.
  • Know it’s going to take work: The healthy way to get to “Romeo and Juliet” is to think “arranged marriage.”
  • Have grit: Devotion. Loyalty. That’s grit. And it predicts success at the office and at home.
  • “Glorify the struggle”: It’s all about the story you tell. Did the conflict lead to a happy ending? Hint: it better.

Love is a challenge. But life is a greater challenge. We’d like a sure-thing that guarantees happiness and takes away all the pain. But that’s fiction.

If you’ll excuse a superhero analogy, you need to stop trying to be Superman. He’s invulnerable. But nobody is invulnerable. Bad things happen to all of us. We cannot avoid pain.

You’d be better off trying to be Wolverine. He isn’t invulnerable. But he can recover from almost any injury. You can’t live a life free from conflict but you can learn to cope with the hard times until the good times return.

And what helps you cope with the problems of life better than anything? And makes you successful and happy? “Our closest relationships determine how we respond to the toughest times in life.” Here’s Jonah:

There is no easy life. Then, the question becomes, how do we cope with it? That’s really what George Vaillant and the Grant Study have looked at. How we adapt to life, how we cope. Vaillant has found that what determines how well you adapt is who you love and how you love them. Our closest relationships determine how we respond to the toughest times in life. What you find is that people who have close relationships live longer. They’re far more successful. They make more money. They’re much, much happier. If you go down the list of everything we think we want in life it’s all tied up with the ability to love and be loved.

And when Jonah asked George Valliant, who led the Grant Study at Harvard, about these results, what did Valliant say?

“I wrote once that when we are old our lives become the sum of everyone we have loved. That’s still true. I believe it more than ever.”

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