Can you think of two basic traits that may lead to lasting relationships? You may be surprised by the answer. Research suggests that relationship success comes down to two traits – kindness and generosity. Psychologist John Gottman has been studying couples issues over the past four decades at The Gottman Institute in an effort to figure out what makes marriages fail or succeed. He specifically looked at the spirit couples bring to their relationship. Some couples bring contempt, criticism, and hostility, while others bring kindness and generosity. The researchers also found that contempt, meanness, disdain, and disrespect are the most common factors that tear couples apart. Kindness and emotional stability are most important predictors of marital satisfaction.
What does kindness look like? Kindness is putting your spouse’s needs ahead of your own on occasion, listening and validating the other person’s feelings, expressing love, caring, and concern for another, and acknowledging/appreciating the other person’s positive traits. Think of kindness like a muscle that needs to be used consistently in order to grow. Practicing kindness is especially difficult during a fight, but the way you fight can have lasting consequences. Lashing out with hurtful and angry words would not be considered kindness. Yet it’s okay to express anger constructively, not by attacking the character of the person, but by expressing your feelings assertively.
As I’ve said before, marriage takes work, especially if you want to be in a good one. Remember, find out what your partner’s needs are and don’t assume they are the same as your own. Kindness and generosity don’t have to include tangible gifts, but instead give the gift of grace. Avoid assuming that your partner has ill intention and don’t seek to always win. Instead, reinforce the good in each other. Celebrate the joy and accomplishments you’ve made together or separately and let go of the petty grievances. Keep the positive spirit and you’ll experience more joy in your relationships.