Social scientists have been studying marriages since the 1970s, so they can better understand the effects of relationships on couples, their kids, and their success in life.
This has included bringing couples into labs to observe them. The results of these studies has pointed to several important ingredients to happy relationships, but there appears to be one ingredient that has the power to make or break a couple's future more than any other.
Thanks to the work of a psychologist named John Gottman, the world has learned tons about it all. In 1986, he set up the "Love Lab" with his colleague Robert Levenson at the University of Washington. The duo would bring newlyweds into the lab and watch them closely as they interacted.
At the conclusion of his study, Gottman then broke couples into two major groups: The "Masters" and the "Disasters."
Following his research, he followed six years later and found that the majority of the "Disasters" had broken up, while the majority of the "Masters" were still happily together.
What Gottman Learned from the "Masters" and "Disasters"
In the lab, Gottman's data showed that the "Disasters" tended to be in fight-or-flight mode most of the time around each other. When they would be in conversation, either one or both of the partners would constantly attack the other. When this occurred, both of their blood pressures would go up, their breathing rates would increase.
The "Masters" on the other hand were calm and amazingly connected. There was lots of trust and physical comfort between them, thus their body vitals (heart and breathing rates) were much better.
The Secret Ingredient to Amazing Relationships Is...
Couples who are kind to each other tended to stay together. Period.
This means giving each other the benefit of the doubt, plenty of encouragement, and careful listening. It's about creating a positive environment in which the other feels safe.
Of course, there are other elements that impact relationships, but the beauty of it is that being kind to each other is 100% free. It's a decision that we can all make in any given moment.
The question to ask in any scenario (no matter how difficult the moment may be) is, "Am I doing or saying the kindest thing possible?"
Before flying off the handle and/or saying or doing something you regret, try asking yourself that question. Then, make the right decision for the longevity of your relationship.