How to Have a Successful Relationship: Part 3 – Principles of a happy relationship

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 and behaviour. This three-part series covers relationship myths; behaviours that predict the end of a relationship, and principles for a happy relationship.

Gottman has a number of principles he believes create the foundation for a happy relationship however they all revolve around one thing – friendship.

Benefits of a relationship based on friendship:

  • More likely to maintain mutual respect
  • More likely to enjoy each other’s company
  • Friendship kindles romance
  • Encourages equality in the relationship as both partners support the other’s hopes and dreams as opposed to one partner making sacrifices for the sake of the other
  • Protects the relationship from becoming adversarial
  • More likely to salvage the relationship when problems do occur
  • Less likely to express disgust in an argument. The expression of disgust is poison to a relationship

Gottman’s additional principles:

Be involved in your partner’s world

In a strong relationship each partner is in touch with the others feelings and needs. They know who the other’s friends are and take an interest in their interests, even if they do not participate directly in them.

Pay attention to each other regularly

Couples in a happy relationship turn towards each other constantly, as opposed to turning away. They do not wait for an intimate dinner or holiday away to get back in touch, they pay attention daily, ask details about the other’s day and show genuine interest in the responses.

Allow your partner to influence you

In strong relationships the power is shared equally and both partner’s opinions are sort out and considered. While women naturally tend to be open to the influence of their partner some men find this more difficult. In a happy relationship the woman’s views and feelings are respected.


There is no doubt that maintaining a long term relationship can be difficult and there will be inevitable obstacles and challenges. Maintaining a happy relationship involves accepting that there is no perfect relationship and that there will be times of frustration and disenchantment, but persisting with investing in the relationship regardless. As Gottman advises, this is certainly made easier by fostering a foundation of friendship and mutual respect.

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