Dr John Gottman is world renown for his work on marriage. His research spanned 40 years and followed over 3.000 couples. Couples were invited to spend a weekend at his famous “Love Lab”, a kinda staycation. During the weekend the couples would do what they always do on a weekend: cook, eat, watch TV, do laundry, etc. The only difference is that they will be watched by a team of trained researchers and all their interactions recorded for analysis later on.
In his research, Dr. Gottman observed that happy couples turn towards their partners approximately twenty times more than couples in distress during everyday, non-conflict discussions. In a study, newlyweds those who were still married six years after their wedding had turned towards each other 86% of the time while in the lab. Those who were divorced six years later, however, had only turned towards each other 33% of the time.
Every time you turn towards your partner’s bids for emotional connection, you are making a deposit in what Dr. Gottman calls your Emotional Bank Account. You add value to your account when you create and build on positive moments between yourself and your partner.
When you “turn towards” bids, the bidder hears:
- I’m interested in you.
- I hear you.
- I understand you (or would like to).
- I’m on your side.
- I’d like to help you (whether I can or not).
- I’d like to be with you (whether I can or not).
- I accept you (even if I don’t accept all your behavior).
These little moments add up, reminding the two of you of the feelings you have for one another, and of your commitment to supporting each other through all of the experiences you share. If you find yourself lost amid the everyday stresses of life, your investment in an Emotional Bank Account drastically diminishes the probability that these stresses will climax in some kind of catastrophic fight.