One thing we all come to learn sooner or later, once the first flush of lust starts to subside, is that relationships and marriages are a work in progress.
And while we all fight or, at least disagree, from time to time, some fights or behaviours can quickly turn a relationship sour.
But now, it seems, a relationship expert has pointed his highly educated finger at menfolk – claiming that more often than not, it is them and their actions that separate a successful relationship from one that is doomed to fail.
Dr John Gottman is an American psychologist who is world renowned for his work on marital stability and divorce prediction. Gottman has conducted 40 years of breakthrough research with thousands of couples and penned numerous books. As well as this, his work on marriage and parenting has earned him numerous major awards.
Gottman, who has been conducting his research since the 1970s, is maybe most famous for the use of his Love Lab, a kind of Big Brother-esque laboratory where couples “move in” and remain under observation by Gottman and his team for up to 72 hours.
While in there, the couple is left to themselves and encourages to do everyday tasks, just as they would at home, like cooking, cleaning and relaxing. They are observed while in the lab – and then followed up by Gottman’s team for 15-20 years after.
Based on how they fare while inside the walls of the Love Lab, Gottman claims to be able to almost with 100 percent accuracy predict whether or not the couple in question will last – or not.
The man holds the key
So what has Gottman discovered after his four decades of relationship research? Are you ready?
Whether or not a relationship will work in the long run is down to the man.
Yep, that’s right. According to the expert, the results from the Love Lab seem to prove a simple truth: men make or break heterosexual relationships. This, according to Gottman himself, does not mean that a woman doesn’t need to do her part, but the data proves that a man’s actions are the key variable that determines whether a relationship succeeds or fails – which is rather ironic, we think, considering most relationship books are written for women.
“Much of the development in a relationship boils down to how the man appears to the women,” Gottman explains in his book, The Man’s Guide To Women. “Is he trustworthy? Can she feel safe that he will be there for her? Does he listen, is he attentive, engaged and present in the relationship – or does he tend to zone out?”
In another long-term study Gottman and his team conducted, they found – with overwhelming majority – that the marriages that worked well all had one thing in common–the husband was willing to give in to his wife.
“We found that only those newlywed men who are accepting of influence from their wives are ending up in happy, stable marriages,” Gottman said in an interview with the LA Times. On the other hand, the autocrats who refused to listen to their wives’ complaints, met them with stonewalling, contempt and belligerence, ended up with marriages that were pretty much doomed from the beginning, Gottman and his team found.
“If you want to change marriages,” Gottman explains, “you have to talk about the ’emotionally intelligent’ husband. Some men are really good at accepting a wife’s influence, at finding something reasonable in a partner’s complaint to agree with.”
But a larger number of men tend to reject attempts at influence. And while this is very characteristic of violent men, Gottman argues that all men do it to an extent. “They feel, ‘If I give in on this, I’m going to lose everything. I’m going to be totally manipulated and controlled,” the relationship experts explains.
So what can be done? How can you future proof your relationship? Gottman is quick to say that men are the source of all problems in a marriage, but adds that changing their attitudes “is a very powerful lever” in altering the course of a marriage.
“The only way to change marriage for the better is to improve the quality of friendship between a husband and wife and to help them deal with disagreements differently,” Gottman explains. “There has to be a kind of gentleness in the way conflict is managed. Men have to be more accepting of a woman’s position, and women have to be more gentle in starting up discussions.”
Well, well, well… we are intrigued to hear what you think about this, guys. Let us know your thoughts in the comments or tweet us at @Herdotie.