By PhD student, Michelle Pate, MA, MBA
Did you know there is a very important element to creating a healthy relationship that lasts? The people who have this in their relationship say it is what bonds them and makes their relationship grow. The ones who don’t have it either complain or get to work on improving themselves to be a good partner. Some don’t even know it exists and wonder why they get awful partners.
This element is so very necessary to our well-being, but many have been conditioned to not believe this element is necessary or obtainable in a relationship. They go through several years of continuous partnerships and are confused why it doesn’t last. Or they coexist in the relationship and spend most of their time in their separate worlds.
I was watching Oprah several years back and an amazing guest was sharing what makes relationships work. He had done several studies with couples and was showing his scientific results. Before this day, I did not know that relationships could be qualified as science! His information was so pertinent to my life that day, it permanently changed my goals and what I was looking for in a relationship. When I was learning counseling psychology in graduate school (2001-2006), I studied this man’s work in more detail to learn how to help couples have more successful relationships.
This man was John Gottman, PhD. He is a psychologist, relationship expert, researcher, professor, and author who devotes his career observing couples’ interactions and writing books on his work. He now asserts that he knows on a scientific level what works for long term relationship happiness. He says he can predict in five minutes of observing a couple, with 91% accuracy, whether a couple will stay together or split up. This was a huge claim, and I had enough heartbreak, so I listened intently.
Gottman stated the evidence showed that a couple’s FRIENDSHIP is the biggest indicator in knowing whether they would be together years into the future. This is so blatantly obvious; I don’t know how I had missed it. I thought about the qualities I had in my close friendships and was determined to look for a relationship that had elements of friendship in them. It was tough for me, because I had seen a lot of dysfunctional relationships in my family. I was conditioned to believe I didn’t need a man, and it wasn’t possible to have a best friend in a partner. So with this knowledge from Gottman, I started to deepen my understanding and beliefs of what a good friend is and become this kind of person myself.
My list of friendship qualities I started to consider in a mate:
- Do we genuinely LIKE each other?
- Do we like spending time together?
- Do we have things in common we like to do together?
- Are we comfortable with each other?
- Do we listen to each other?
- Do we share funny stories and laugh with each other?
- Can we relax and have fun with each other?
- Do we simply like being together even when we aren’t doing anything?
- When a conflict comes up, do we work together to find a solution?
- Do we make up and reconcile after we have an argument?
- Do we admire each other?
Good friends speak well of each other. The couples who make it long term speak highly of their partner. They are positive about the future of the relationship. They have many great things they admire about their partner. Their friendship is a bond of mutual affection and a refuge from the world.
When you think about your relationship, how deep is your friendship? Do you notice areas where you could learn more about your partner and contribute to their life? How can you learn more about them so you can support their dreams? How can you be a better FRIEND to your partner?
To read more about creating a deeper friendship with your mate, I recommend you read John Gottman’s book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (I find it valuable even if you aren’t married). He has outlined many qualities of friendship and bonding that we can pursue to make our relationships even more satisfying and fun.
Taking your relationship to a deeper level simply by being more interested in your partner’s life is greatly nurturing to both of you. Friendship keeps you interested in the other person. Friendship helps a new relationship flourish. Friendship keeps long term relationships vital and alive. With friendship, there is always something new to learn about each other because we are deeply interested our loved one’s life.
To create more goodness in your relationship and to learn more about John Gottman and his work, please visit https://www.gottman.com/couples/.
You can also participate in helping couples achieve greater happiness in their relationships through Gottman’s Training Institute:
Core Clinical Training
Join the 60,000+ clinicians around the world that have trained in Gottman Method Couples Therapy and use our proven assessment techniques and interventions in their work with couples. Click here for more information.