Laura (not her real name) and I were best friends from our mid twenties through our thirties. She was beautiful, married to a man who made lots of money, lived in a fancy apartment in the best part of town, had a mother who doted on her, and two little boys. Her husband also criticized her incessantly. Criticized her lateness, her decisions, what she wore. Every time we saw them, you could count on William to put Laura down. It didn’t matter where they were, at home, at someone else’s home, at a restaurant. His barbs kept coming. I don’t know if she suffered his slings and arrows because she could shop wherever and whenever she wanted, or because she was as insecure as he was, but suffer them she did. Listening and watching the two of them in action got to be a real pain in the neck. I haven’t seen Laura in decades, but I know she’s still married to William. This, my dear FOFriends, was, and probably still is, a marriage made in hell, as far as I’m concerned.
I thought about Laura and William yesterday, after my FOFriend, Catherine, sent me an email about successful relationships, as defined by studies coming out of the Relationship Institute in Seattle. Founded in 1998 by Dr. John Gottman, the Institute is a home base for his decades of research on human relationships. The good doctor says criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling (closing off communication) are relationship red flags and more likely to lead to divorce.
Successful relationships are built on a foundation of friendship and sharing, interest in each other’s day-to-day lives, dreams, goals, likes and dislikes, showing signs of affection, and asking each other open-ended questions, which promotes discussion. If one of you isn’t engaging in this kind of behavior, it’s a sign that you probably don’t like each other, according to the Institute’s research.
“Even when successful couples disagree, they show their fondness and admiration for one another,” says Renay Cleary Bradley, the Institute’s director of research. Accusations, hysteria and lack of empathy don’t pave the way to soundness and stability.
This is great stuff. I think every one of us should pass this on to at least two young men and women we know.