T Nation

Relationships: What Makes it Good?


#1

John Gottman, PhD, reported that he can predict with 95% accuracy which marriages will end within 5 years. The key is respect. Couples, he said, all argue. That's expected and healthy. The question is whether or not they are able to do it with respect for one another.

Broadening to include all long term romantic relationships, what do you guys think accounts for success? We have a lot of threads that touch on this, but they all seem to start with an anti-relationship or anti-marriage perspective.

So what makes it good?


#2

Hi Emily,

I’ve been in a 27year relationship and its still going even though in the last two years we have had to live apart during the week because of work commitments.

Mutual respect is good. I trust her absolutely. Also an amount of space in the relationship helps. There are just times when I need to be alone and her presence would not be helpful. Ditto when she feels the need to escape from me.

And as I don’t believe in mixed marriages I made damn sure she barracked for the correct football team…I think that is very important. Go Tigers!


#3

An able husband and a submissive wife. Speaking from experience. No one get mad please. I’ve seen it work the other way around as well.

Marriages that I’ve seen where couples were “best friends” or “soul mates” before rarely last unless both grew up together.


#4

In my marriage listening works VERY well for me. My republican mind respects her democrat opinions. Respect is present, and automatic. My wife’s two very well educated but stupid exs each lost a hot, very well educated, loving, energetic woman. Also good cook/weekend house painter. Guys, she even takes out the trash if I forget. Embarrassing. She’s seven years younger, and after 2.5 yrs-- seemingly 2 weeks-- we’re crazy about each other.

My trophy wife and I tend to hug a lot, even in public; I admit the initial attraction was physical with brains. I have a feeling her doctor ex regrets losing her even after 35+ years and a second family, and though I’m watchful of him I’m satisfied he’s no threat. My step son in law tells me the guy doesn’t talk much when he and his wife visit yearly. I talk.

My first wife and I were about 18 months apart in age, and married 28 years when she died. We actually finished each other’s sentences in conversation; it was a good match. That marriage showed me I can handle anything in life. After she died I took awhile looking around. The grief therapist I was seeing said I was a catch, but I don’t see myself like that, what with all the women who rejected me back in my college days.

Perhaps it also helps that I’m a former divorce attorney who’s heard outlandish stuff over the years. My law partner (20+yrs younger with 80% divorce practice) tells me couples now don’t consider marriage a big deal, more like a dating experience. I cannot imagine sharing myself with a woman with that attitude.


#5

Shoot, I was married just shy of 31 years to my beautiful wife who lost her fight with cancer in June. What kept us together? We always had respect for each other and never saw the need to tear each other down ever. We both always had good jobs and had the respect of our peers, which means a lot how your partner is percieved by others.

I’d say we were pretty much the same type of person, easy going and easy to laugh and let the unimportant things slide. Raising kids… this is probably breaks up most couples from what I see. You both have to be on the same page and the husband/wife relationship always has to be strong. You can’t let the kids split you apart.

I was big into self-improvement, I got 2 engineering degrees the hard way, at night. That was impressive to Barbara, how I always hustled to make more $$. She did call me her trophy husband and I’m way better than some of her friend’s husbands. I don’t see why their wives stay with some of them. I’m also a lot stronger and fit than anyone else we know around my age.

A lot of give-and-take go with a good marriage, you don’t always get your way. And never go to bed mad at each other.


#6

I dont have the years of experience that the above posters have but I have been married 14 years, dated for 5 before that. We have had our ups and downs (several years in a row of down matter of fact). I would have to agree with the good Dr., but I think it starts with respecting your self. If you dont respect yourself how can you respect anyone else let alone a significant other. Respect and communication are a huge deal to my wife and I though.


#7

Going in 18 years married and dated her a few before that. I’d echo everyone above and add that staying married is a conscience decision and requires varying amounts mental / intestinal fortitude, grit, “balls”, etc . Since this is a weight training forum I’ll liken it to hitting the gym. So you hit the gym and maybe you’re a newb, maybe not but it’s been awhile. Everything is great and you see the results fast. In time you grow a bit and those beginner gains slow or even stop. NOW the work begins. You find out quick that your diet, sleep, training template sucks.

You have to figure out what works now that the “fun” times are in the past. “Gains” now come in waves. Sometimes they come fast and sometimes you work your ass off for 1#. Those easy times are just that, easy. The rough patches are like grinding out a drop set, or if you’ve ever done DC training the WIDOWMAKER!. Your body and mind are yelling at you to quit, but you dig in and work it out. You COMPLETE the task.

This is for “good” marriages. They all take work. I will concede that there are marriages that should end quickly, marriages that should have never occurred in the first place. Sadly, we tend to make huge decisions in life when we are the least knowledgeable about such decisions. I know this piece may sound contrary to the “grind it out” thing above but I don’t need to eat an entire foot long shit sandwich to know it’s not good for me and odds are I will not grow to enjoy eating shit sammiches.


#8

I am very impressed with the quality of replies so far. Please, please don’t let this turn into a shitshow. There’s some great stuff here.

Thanks to those of you that have shared your experiences. I am much younger and at the beginning of such a journey (1 year relationship that is likely to progress to engagement and marriage when life allows), and appreciate reading insightful comments.


#9

Both of you have to handle confrontation the same way. You could have a million things in common and known each other forever, but if one is passive-aggressive and manipulative and the other is aggressive and direct the smallest arguments will never be resolved and any issue or conflict that may come up will linger and develop into much larger problems.

Problem solving and resolution is the key to success in relationships, if you both aren’t on the same page when it comes to this everything else could be great, but it will just slowly fall apart with each argument.


#10

I hit 15 years next month. Communication, compromise and I agree respect is key. Which is easy when you are in love and not the puppy dog I want to sniff her panties love. But the deep love that you feel a part of you has been ripped out of your chest if she is in danger or despair. When you have something go great in your life, whatever that is big or small, and all you want to do is call/talk to that person to share your happiness. And the person you love does the same with you and you dont blow them off but also genuinely enjoy in their happiness.


#11

[quote]dt79 wrote:

Marriages that I’ve seen where couples were “best friends” or “soul mates” before rarely last unless both grew up together.[/quote]

My wife and I are the exception… if that indeed is a rule.


#12

[quote]beachguy498 wrote:
Shoot, I was married just shy of 31 years to my beautiful wife who lost her fight with cancer in June. What kept us together? We always had respect for each other and never saw the need to tear each other down ever. We both always had good jobs and had the respect of our peers, which means a lot how your partner is percieved by others.

I’d say we were pretty much the same type of person, easy going and easy to laugh and let the unimportant things slide. Raising kids… this is probably breaks up most couples from what I see. You both have to be on the same page and the husband/wife relationship always has to be strong. You can’t let the kids split you apart.

I was big into self-improvement, I got 2 engineering degrees the hard way, at night. That was impressive to Barbara, how I always hustled to make more $$. She did call me her trophy husband and I’m way better than some of her friend’s husbands. I don’t see why their wives stay with some of them. I’m also a lot stronger and fit than anyone else we know around my age.

A lot of give-and-take go with a good marriage, you don’t always get your way. And never go to bed mad at each other. [/quote]

Sorry for your loss, BeachGuy. It sounds like you gave each other a wonderful life.


#13

[quote]CLINK wrote:

[quote]dt79 wrote:

Marriages that I’ve seen where couples were “best friends” or “soul mates” before rarely last unless both grew up together.[/quote]

My wife and I are the exception… if that indeed is a rule.
[/quote]

No. I just wrote what I have observed. Actually I love hearing about couples like yourself and your wife. It makes me feel better about human nature and relationships.

I am honestly so sick of hearing all the disappointment and bitterness of unhappily married/ soon-to-be divorced friends in real life. Then comes the scheming and asset hiding…

I had a very bleak outlook towards marriage after seeing so many friends getting divorced and would never have married if I hadn’t found the “traditional housewife” type of woman whom I have grown to love (after marrying her for pragmatic reasons - take care of young sibling, housekeeping etc).


#14

So much good stuff here written so well…

I’d just add this: similar sex drives. You can both want it once a month or 3x a week, but when one person wants it once a month and the other 3x a week, there can be problems.


#15

[quote]Dr. Pangloss wrote:
So much good stuff here written so well…

I’d just add this: similar sex drives. You can both want it once a month a 3x a week, but when one person wants it once a month and the other 3x a week, there can be problems.[/quote]

Awesome thread here hope it doesn’t turn to shit

And that last point is so true. Had a long term relationship where that was a large stressor


#16

Good stuff here. Not much to add but here goes (in no particular order).

First, endeavour to marry the right person for the right reasons. This is difficult to quantify and is not one size fits all. However if you marry someone hoping they’ll change, you’ll likely be disappointed. Ironically, if you marry someone hoping they’ll stay the same, you will also likely be disappointed.

Attraction is important, but it’s not the end all. We all die old and ugly (if we’re lucky enough to make it there). That person who looks so good on your arm in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s will start to go downhill in the looks department eventually. So will you. When that happens someone who is kind, respectful, funny, intelligent and helpful will be of much greater value than the person who used to be hot.

Treat your relationship like you would your bank account. Consistently put more into it than you want to take out or it’ll go broke. Also, when shit happens (and unfortunately it almost certainly will, probably more than once), you’ll have a reserve to carry you through. That said, throw away your scorecard. There will be times when you will feel like you’re putting more in than your spouse/SO. There will also be times when you actually ARE putting in more than your spouse/SO. This does not matter. Assuming your relationship is healthy, the shoe will eventually be on the other foot.

People value different things. If you express love through work/acts of service but your SO does so through cards and gifts, they may well not feel as though they are loved no matter how hard you bust your ass. This can be a real problem. Pay attention to how your SO expresses affection/gratitude/love and endeavour to respond in kind sometimes, even if it doesn’t come naturally.

Accept that in a dispute with a loved one, you can be happy or you can be right. You can very rarely be both. If you are trying to “win” a discussion, you have already lost. Never go to bed mad.

Invest in your relationship on an ongoing basis. This is easy in the beginning, but over the years weekends away together etc can begin to seem expensive and time consuming and even like a bit of a hassle. If you think they are too expensive/time consuming/a hassle, try a divorce. It’s my understanding that it’s much worse.

I will also second StrengthDawg’s grit and determination sentiment. Sometimes being married is more fun than others. If you expect “romance” to carry you through, you may be disappointed. I resolved when I stood up at my wedding and said the words that the only way I was leaving my marriage was toes first, in a bag. Period. Sometimes discipline and dogged perseverance trump passion in the moment. I’m not saying stay in a bad relationship (abusive, unfaithful, structurally incompatible etc), I’m just saying that sometimes even stuff that is worthwhile sucks for a bit. Gut up and embrace the suck.

Last, happy people make better partners. If you don’t like being you, odds are nobody else likes being with you. Follow your passions, own your crap and stay positive. Also, if respect is key in a relationship, as per John Gottman, PhD, you must respect yourself and have integrity, clear boundaries and expectations if you expect your SO to respect you.

Okay, I guess I had a few things to add after all. Sorry for text-wall.


#17

Oh wow, this thread is delivering beyond my wildest dreams. Thank you all for sharing! I won’t respond to posts because every single one has had something in it to think about, and nothing to debate. Just a solid wall of goodness.

I hope there will be more for all of us to enjoy reading.

Beachguy, thank you especially for sharing about your relationship, and let me extend again my condolences.


#18

[quote]batman730 wrote:

People value different things. If you express love through work/acts of service but your SO does so through cards and gifts, they may well not feel as though they are loved no matter how hard you bust your ass. This can be a real problem. Pay attention to how your SO expresses affection/gratitude/love and endeavour to respond in kind sometimes, even if it doesn’t come naturally.

[/quote]

Someone’s read the 5 Love Languages. :slight_smile:

I’ll echo everyone else.

1 thing my wife and I have decided to do is try something new with each other at least once a month. It can be something new to both of us or just something we’ve never done together. Sometimes this seems like a bit of a chore and sometimes we don’t even like what we do, but it gives us more time to spend together away from the kid and just trying new things. I think it’s helpful.

Another thing we’ve agreed to do is read at least 1 book about love/marriage every year. The first one that we’ve read happens to be the 5 Love Languages that batman described above. We haven’t been married 2 years yet so we haven’t picked out the 2nd book.


#19

allow each other to grow, both professionally and personally~

my $.02~


#20

Married 24 years this November. Our marriage is built on a strong foundation of constructive criticism. Lots and lots of it.

If you think there’s nothing wrong with your spouse, you just aren’t paying close attention to all the petty little details. That’s what it’s all about. Attention to detail is key to so many things.