If you are thinking about getting married, you may wonder what to base your decision on. Do you look at how happy you feel with your partner today, and how much you have in common? If you feel you have found your soul mate, is that enough to decide this person is “The One”?
Are You Ready to Get Married?
“There is no perfect lover. That is only in the movies,” says Dr. Susan Johnson, bestselling author of Hold Me Tight. But we may want to believe that in real life, too, we can find the perfect mate. Our longing for attachment is inborn – we are built to bond, says Johnson. So when we find a person who fulfills our longing for love, and someone who is fun and compatible, we may feel like we’ve found “the one” ideal mate. We may decide to choose this person as our life partner based on faith that such complete happiness and fulfillment will last.
But how important is compatibility in the beginning to a happy marriage long term? Does it predict a happy lifelong marriage? The expert who has studied this question is Dr. John Gottman, whose work has predicted with over 90% accuracy whether a couple will stay together. His scientific studies show us this: the way couples interact is the most important factor in their happiness long term. The characteristics of a healthy lasting relationship “are not in the people. They’re really in the way that the people communicate with each other,” says Dr. Gottman.
How Do You Know If You Are a Good Match for Each Other?
Yes, says Dr. Gottman. “It’s absolutely possible to find out if you really match with one another. The basis is really affection and respect for one another. So, ask yourself whether you feel respected in this relationship and whether you feel like your partner is really fond of you.”
The Role of Affection, Respect and Humor in a Long And Happy Marriage
For many people physical attraction seems to be the main factor for judging how happy they think the relationship will be over time. Yes, good chemistry is very important to having fun and feeling fond of your partner. But what most people don’t realize is that the sexual energy grows from the small everyday gestures of warmth, good humor, friendship and respect, rather than mysterious ‘chemistry’. Healthy relationships remain happy when the number of good to negative interactions is about 30 to 1.
Does your partner give signs that feed your emotional connection, such as wanting to hold conversations, having dinner together, watching movies or sports games together, and showing interest in your feelings, likes and dislikes? These are good early signs for your long-term happiness.
Gottman refers to couples with this deeper connection as “emotionally intelligent couples.” These couples take time to learn much about one another including “each other’s goals, worries and hopes.” If you and your partner interact to stay in touch with how your partner feels on this level, you are doing something important for long term happiness
How You Handle Disagreement Now Is Important to Your Long Term Happiness
Fun loving and playful personalities can help build durable relationships. If you and your partner work to keep friendly, positive attitudes, this can be important to work through conflicts that come up.
Research shows us that a breakdown in communication is the leading factor in relationships that fail. Does your partner listen to you? Does your partner take time to hold a conversation with you? A sign that a relationship is headed for disaster is when partners neglect building friendship and intimacy. They either withdraw into their separate lives, or let conflict escalate to the point where they insult each other and think of each other with contempt.
What happens when you and your partner disagree? This is an important question to answer to decide if your partner is the one for you. The quality and effort you put in to understanding each other’s feelings and working through problems is critical to your success.
If We Have Work To Do, What’s Next?
Is your partner willing to discuss disagreements and relationship problems with a helpful attitude? In many cases, you can work through trouble if you take time to learn more about what you can do to keep up the courtship and communication.
An approach that counselors find most successful in helping couples grow healthy bonds comes from Emotional Focused Therapy. EFT, primarily developed by Dr. Johnson, and which we practice, helps couples work through relationships in distress, with the goal to create enduring bonds between partners. The method has enormous success rate in facilitating emotional bonding required for successful relationships. See the Mount Vernon Family Therapy Resources page for books, workshops and articles we recommend.