When we make a commitment to our partner, our usual expectation is that our relationship will last for life and that our love will see us through the inevitable hard times.
Yet, when reality sinks in, we have to acknowledge that while love is one of the components of a relationship’s longevity, it really takes more to make it through the long haul. It takes community and family support (which isn’t as available as it once was in our society) – and it takes skill. Many of us have failed to learn how to negotiate our way through relationship difficulties to build a lasting connection.
Psychologists have carried out substantial research over the past several decades trying to understand the secrets of why some couples are able to stay together and others are not. For instance, John Gottman, Ph.D., at the University of Washington, has studied over 2,000 couples, and he has had remarkable success in predicting which couples will make it and which will not. Contrary to popular wisdom, one of his findings is that increased sex does not necessarily improve a relationship. He also found that financial problems do not always imply trouble for a couple.
One of Gottman’s major findings is that couples who fight are not necessarily on the road to a breakup. In fact, he makes the point that arguments may be constructive in building a long-term relationship because they help us to clarify our needs and increase mutual respect between partners. But whether the arguments will lead to a breakup or not depends on how the couple resolves its conflicts. There are positive ways to resolve conflicts that may strengthen the relationship.
One finding to emerge from the research is that couples
Arguments don’t necessarily mean your relationship are likely to succeed if they have a healthy balance between
positive and negative emotions and interactions.In fact, strong relationships have a five to one ratio – five parts positive interaction to one part negative.Couples who break up, on the other hand, tend to have more negative than positive interactions.
Dr. Baya Mebarek, Psy.D.,LMFT