How to Have a Successful Relationship: Part 1 – Relationship Myths

This three-part series delivers tips on relationships from Dr. John Gottman, a world renowned expert on relationships and marital stability. Having researched the subject since the 1970’s, Gottman is most famous for his ability to predict if a couple were going to divorce based on his observations of their interactions. This three-part series covers relationship myths; behaviours that predict the end of a relationship, and guidelines for a happy relationship. 

Part 1 - Relationship myths

According to Dr. John Gottman there are several relationship myths that can undermine a relationship - including ideas commonly promoted by relationship counsellors. Understanding these myths helps a couple to have more realistic expectations of their relationship.

Calm, open communication about our grievances leads to a better relationship
Couples are often advised that in place of screaming arguments, non-judgmental listening and acceptance of your partner’s relationships issues - including reflecting back and validating these statements - will transform your relationship. Gottman advises that when applied to intimate relationships this often does more harm than good, as the bottom line is that this method of communication is an invitation for one partner to trash the other while expecting the other to calmly accept it. Even when applied successfully in the short term it is rarely a sustainable solution, often leading to distress within the relationship.

Major differences of opinion will destroy a relationship
Gottman believes that contrary to popular belief a good relationship does not always involve the resolution of conflict. His research found that 69 percent of conflicts involved perpetual or unresolvable problems, and that differences in values and ways of seeing the world can be the source of years of disagreements without either party ever changing. Successful couples understand this and accepts each others differences, often resolving to agree to disagree.

Happy marriages are unusually open and honest
Many successful marriages allow space for arguments to “blow over” rather than see every argument as needing to be thoroughly dissected and analysed. Often each partner can have some space and return some time later pleased to see each other without having to dig up the issue again in order to feel it is ‘resolved’.

Gender differences are a big problem
Gottman accepts that gender differences affect relationships, however he believes that while they impact relationship problems they do not actually cause them. He found around 70 percent of couples believed the quality of friendship they had with their partner was a greater determining factor in relationship happiness than anything related to gender differences.


Part 2 of the series will introduce behaviours that when used persistently can predict the end of a relationship, followed by Part 3, tips for a happy and affair proof relationship

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