And I’m not talking about the small stuff-I’m talking some pretty serious life changes. Remember, if you’re going to spend decades together, some really heavy shit will hit (and break) the fan. Among major life changes people told me their marriages went through (and survived) were: changing religions; moving countries; death of family members (including children); supporting elderly family members; changing political beliefs; even changing sexual orientation; and in a couple cases, realigning gender identification.
Amazingly, these couples survived because their respect for each other allowed them to adapt and allow each person to continue to flourish and grow.
When you commit to someone, you don’t actually know who you’re committing to. You know who they are today, but you have no idea who this person is going to be in five years, ten years. You have to be prepared for the unexpected, and truly ask yourself if you admire this person regardless of the superficial (or not-so-superficial) details, because I promise almost all of [those details] at some point are going to either change or go away.
Being open to this amount of change isn’t easy, of course-in fact, it will be downright soul-destroying at times. And that is why you need to make sure you and your partner know how to fight.
Get Good At Fighting
Much like the body and muscles, it cannot get stronger without stress and challenge. You have to fight. You have to hash things out. Obstacles make the marriage.
John Gottman is a hot-shit psychologist and researcher who has spent over 30 years analyzing married couples, looking for keys to why they stick together (and why they break up). In fact, when it comes to “why do people stick together?” he dominates the field.
What Gottman does is he gets eras on them, and then he asks them to have a fight Notice: he doesn’t ask them to talk about how great the other person is. He doesn’t ask them what they like best about their onlylads dating site relationship. He asks them to fight-they’re told to pick something they’re having problems with and talk about it for the camera.
Gottman then analyses the couple’s discussion (or shouting match) and is able to predict-with startling accuracy-whether or not a couple will divorce.
But what’s most interesting about Gottman’s research is that the things that lead to divorce are not necessarily what you might imagine. He found that successful couples, like unsuccessful couples, fight consistently. And some of them fight furiously. 1
Gottman has been able to narrow down four characteristics of a couple that tend to lead to divorces (or breakups).
He has gone on and called these “the four horsemen” of the relationship apocalypse in his books: 2
- Criticizing your partner’s character (“you’re so stupid” vs “that thing you did was stupid.”)
- Defensiveness (or basically, blame shifting, “I wouldn’t have done that if you weren’t late all the time.”)
- Contempt (putting down your partner and making them feel inferior.)
- Stonewalling (withdrawing from an argument and ignoring your partner.)
The reader emails you all sent back this up as well. Out of the 1,500 I received, almost every single one referenced the importance of dealing well with conflict.
- Never insult or name-call your partner. Put another way: hate the sin, love the sinner. Gottman’s research found that “contempt”-belittling and demeaning a partner-is the number one predictor of divorce.
- Do not bring previous fights/arguments into current ones. This solves nothing and just makes the fight twice as bad as it was before. Yeah, you forgot to pick up groceries on the way home, but what does him being rude to your mother last Thanksgiving have to do with that, or anything?