Science of Relationships

1According to Business Insider, every day in June—the most popular wedding month in the United States—around 13,000 American couples tie the knot and embark on a lifetime journey of love, commitment and friendship.

However, what happens after that is not an optimistic story. Out of all the couples who get married, only 3 out of 10 couples actually make it to the end.

This incredible rate of marriages falling apart has urged researchers and psychologists to delve deeper into the subject and know more about the science behind it.

The Love Lab

In 1986, John Gottman and his partner, Robert Levenson, set up a research laboratory at the University of Washington where they studied how couples interacted with each other.

At the Love Lab, researchers brought thousands of couples and hooked them up with electrodes to keep a track of their physiological activity while they interacted.

From how they met to major conflicts and positive aspects of their relationship, Gottman asked couples a few questions and measured their heart rates, blood pressure and sweat production.

The Masters and The Disasters

From the data, they gathered and analyzed in the Love Lab, the researchers came to the conclusion that the couples could be categorized into two types: The Masters and The Disasters (the names are self-explanatory).

While The Disasters seemed calm during the interview, their physiological records could not attest to their seemingly relaxed state. With fast heart rates, increased blood flow and active sweat glands, their physiology showed as if they were in a jungle facing a tiger.

On the other hand, The Masters demonstrated low physiological arousal. It was as if they were in a warm and affectionate interaction. Gottman elaborated that these couples had created a climate of mutual trust and intimacy that was evident in their physiological records.

The Follow-Up Study

Gottman was not one to get satisfied with less-than-perfect results. He wanted to know more about how The Masters could do it.

2In a follow-up study in 1990, the researcher called upon 130 newlywed couples to spend some time at the Washington University campus that was designed to look like a vacation’s retreat. The couples were asked to relax and hang out: clean, cook, listen to music etc.

He observed that throughout the day, partners would make ‘bids’ for connections.

For instance, a husband would look at something interesting in the environment, say a bird, and try to engage his wife in the conversation. The wife could either take interest and connect (no matter how momentarily) with the husband or she might take no interest and continue doing what she was doing.

Gottman explained that The Masters searched their social environments for good things about their partners that they could appreciate; whereas, the disasters did the opposite—they scanned for their partners’ mistakes.

By observing these and other such interactions, Gottman was able to predict, with a whopping certainty of 94%, which couples would stay together, and which of the marriages would fall apart.

Rekha Shrivastava, at Blossom Hypnosis, uses effective hypnosis techniques to help couple with their relationship issues. Over the years, she has also helped her clients in Rochester with weight loss, pain management, stress management and other problems.




Lisa Scholfield

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