How do we actually make relationships last? There are, of course, many factors at play, with no magic fix for ensuring a relationship will thrive. But according to psychologists John Gottman, Ph.D., and Julie Gottman, Ph.D., founders of the Gottman Institute, there are three pieces of advice every new couple out there should consider:
1. Listen when your partner is upset.
When mbg founder and co-CEO Jason Wachob asked the Gottmans for their advice for new couples on a recent episode of the mbg podcast, John Gottman, Ph.D., said that listening is key.
“When you’re upset,” he told his wife Julie, “the world stops and I listen. And I want to know what’s bothering you, because your feelings and your needs are the most important thing to me.”
Listening to your partner’s frustrations is fundamental to building transparency and healthy communication. It also brings up the importance of recognizing bids for connection—which the Gottmans swear by. If you want to have a great relationship, they say, you’ll need to adopt the model of really listening when your partner is upset and supporting them through it.
Not only is it important to listen to each other in everyday moments, but Julie Gottman, Ph.D., also emphasized the importance of knowing your partner’s deepest dreams.
“Not nighttime dreams,” she noted, “dreams for their life.” Virtually everyone has things they dream about, things they hope for their lives over the next year, five years, or 10 years. And understanding your partner’s dreams is essential to fostering a healthy relationship.
To do so, ask questions like, What is it that really pulls your heart forward into life? and be sure to honor those dreams in the future. “Keep asking that question, because people’s dreams change, along with their life experiences, and their wisdom deepens,” Julie added.
Great relationships start with great sleep.*
And lastly, the Gottmans had one final piece of advice for every couple out there, whether they’ve just met or have been married for 20 years: Don’t be afraid to say what you need.
Makes sense, given both Julie and John’s favorite bits of advice deal with communication in some way or another. Not only do we want to show up for and support our partner, but it’s important to allow them to do the same for us, which can involve getting vulnerable and speaking up about our own needs.
Healthy relationships require effort, intentionality, and good communication. Again, there’s no foolproof way to make a relationship last—but you can bet that new couples who don’t listen to each other, don’t understand each other’s dreams, and don’t voice their needs will have a much harder time than those who do.