John Gottman, a researcher who studies marital stability, found that in order to create happiness with an intimate partner, it is not enough to simply get rid of negative behaviors, but to build in behaviors that accentuate the positive and reduce the impact of the negative.
Gottman explains that love has to be nurtured and savored through regular actions that build the foundation of friendship (Gottman, 1999). He found that there are three vital components to marital friendship that create a solid foundation to a relationship: Love Maps, Fondness and Admiration, and Turning Towards.
Love Maps: This term represents the cognitive space that one partner holds of the other partner’s world. It includes knowledge of your partner’s likes and dislikes, personality quirks, or unique talents. It also includes an understanding of your partner’s current inner world – what is stressing your partner out, what can generally make him or her happy, and what he or she is looking forward to. Gottman found that at the beginning of relationships, couples are very aware of each other’s love maps, but over time, they can begin to neglect them. By keeping up to date on these love maps, you can keep up with how your partner grows and changes, enhancing the connection.
Fondness and Admiration: Gottman explains that although this can seem like a simple concept, it can be challenging to maintain over time. By staying fond of your partner, the loss of respect or empathy towards him or her becomes less likely. Sharing praise and appreciation for each other helps to overcome the negative bias of scanning the environment for what is not going well in the relationship. Gottman finds that expressing specific, recent, and timely praise is more effective than expressing global or general admiration.
Turning Towards: This occurs when you make a bid for your partner’s attention, and your partner turns towards you rather than away. Driver and Gottman (2004) found that happy couples respond positively to their partner’s bid for attention about 85% of the time. With this high level of reciprocity, the couple develops what is called a full “emotional bank account” within the relationship. When this bank account is full, negative occurrences within your relationship or within life in general have a lower impact. On the other hand, Gottman and Driver explain, if the emotional bank account is empty, every argument has the potential to hinder or be destructive to your relationship.
Driver, J. L., & Gottman, J. M. (2004). Daily marital interactions and positive affect during marital conflict among newlywed couples. Family Process, 43(3), 301-314.
Gottman, J.M. (1999). The marriage clinic: A scientifically based marital therapy. New York, NY: Norton.
Gottman, J. M., & Gottman, J. S. (2006). Ten lessons to transform your marriage. New York, NY: Random House, Inc.
Meunier, V., & Baker, W. (2012). Positive couple relationships: The evidence for long-lasting relationship satisfaction and happiness. In S. Roffey (Eds.), Positive relationships: Evidence based practice across the world (73-89). Austin, TX: Springer.