A 1992 experiment by John Gottman discovered that certain indicators on how couples interacted in their relationship could forecast which pairs would stay together and which ones would not with 94 percent accuracy. This held true for couples across age, religion, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
He watched and monitored couple interaction and noticed something interesting when partners would make requests for connection, something he called “bids.” These were efforts by the spouse to bring the other spouse into their world if even for a few seconds. Those who turned toward their partners in the study responded by engaging the bidder, showing interest and support in the bid. Those who did not respond or responded minimally and continued doing whatever they were doing, like watching TV or reading the paper, were in effect rejecting their partner’s bid.
The most successful couples had bid rates around 87 percent, or engaged with their spouse nine out of 10 times. He notes that kindness and generosity are huge factors in keeping couples together. Here are some of these acts of kindness that couples use to maintain long and happy unions.
- The value of asking your partner how their day was. Communication is the key to any long-lasting relationship and even the simple routine of asking how each other’s days went goes a long way.
- A 6+ second kiss. After years of marriage, kissing seems like something many couples forget or do with robot calibration. Think about an intentionally long hello kiss when you greet your partner. It means you care about each other above all else and help reignite the intimacy your marriage may be missing due to kids, work, and other obligations.
- Show interest in your spouse’s “likes.” You don’t have to love miniature trains or 16 different ways to wrap a gift, but those who showed genuine interest in their partner’s joys were more likely to stay together.
- Understand that some fights are good for a relationship. Arguments are part of marriage and they don’t have to spell the end of a union. In some cases, conflicts can reopen lines of communication and strengthen the bonds you have with each other.
- Generosity should be an obligation. You don’t need a special occasion to show your significant other that you care and are thinking about them. Little surprises or unexpected things remind them you are thinking about them.
- Respond to each other’s texts, calls, etc. Ignoring your spouse’s communications can make them feel like they have no priority with you. Little updates and announcements are important and should be a priority.
There are many reasons why marriages fail, but if you look closely, it’s often a breakdown of kindness and generosity. As our married lives become more crowded with children, jobs, friends, church—couples can put less effort into their relationship and let the little things they hold against one another tear them apart. But for the couples that endure and live happily together for years and years, kindness and generosity is an ever-present force.