According to a Business Insider article, successful relationships hinge on just two traits – kindness and generosity (including generosity with your time and emotions).
While the divorce rate may be 1 in 3, according to the article only 3 in 10 relationships are happy and healthy. That is, even if they don’t get divorced, many couples are in unhealthy relationships.
In various studies, researchers discovered that couples could be divided into two groups – masters and disasters. The masters where in healthy relationships; the disasters were not. Interestingly, the researcher found that the couples displayed different physiological states when together in the research environment.
The disasters looked calm during the interviews, but their physiology, measured by the electrodes, told a different story. Their heart rates were quick, their sweat glands were active, and their blood flow was fast….The more physiologically active the couples were in the lab, the quicker their relationships deteriorated over time…The problem was that the disasters showed all the signs of arousal — of being in fight-or-flight mode — in their relationships…Even when they were talking about pleasant or mundane facets of their relationships, they were prepared to attack and be attacked. This sent their heart rates soaring and made them more aggressive toward each other.
The masters, by contrast, showed low physiological arousal. They felt calm and connected together, which translated into warm and affectionate behavior, even when they fought.
In another study, the researcher found that another critical trait of successful couples was how they responded to each other. The researcher explains that one will seek a connection from their partner in what he termed a ‘bid’. How the partner responded to that ‘bid’ – either by responding and connecting, or dismissing it and turning away – was essential for long-term health. He explains:
Say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife — a sign of interest or support — hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird. The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband.
**I would emphasise that it goes both ways – the husband has to “turn towards” his wife in the same way when she makes a “bid”.
Basically, masters bring a healthy habit of mind to the relationship – they are looking for things to appreciate, rather than things to criticise. Treating your partner with contempt is a death sentence to the relationship.
On the other hand, kindness and generosity of spirit acts like glue.
The article goes on to elaborate how people can demonstrate kindness and generosity and the difference between masters and disasters. The article is quite long, but well worth the read if you are looking to deeper your connection with your partner. Changing your attitude can change everything.