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7 Secrets to Stay Connected from the Love Lab

Relationship expert John Gottman, PhD, reveals simple acts that make for the must successful marriage.

Reporters often ask me, “What do couples fight about most?”

My answer is always the same: “Absolutely nothing.” That’s why it’s so important to tamp down tension whenever you can by “turning toward” each other during moments when it might be easier to turn away—what I call sliding-door moments.

In a telling result from my newlywed study, couples who remained married at the six-year follow-up turned toward each other 86 percent of the time during their stay at the “Love Lab,” our facility at the University of Washington in Seattle, where I study married couples’ behavior. Those who ended up splitting had interacted in this manner only 33 percent of the time.

You can avoid a lot of misery just by responding with interest during trivial incidents.

Since these episodes are seemingly insignificant and fleeting, repairing them is easy. Even if just one of you begins to slide the door open with greater frequency, your relationship will improve. In time, your partner is more likely to walk through that door too.

1. Pay attention.

This could be as simple as asking, “How do I look?” or noticing things together: “Wow, did you see that boat?!”

2. Help solve problems.

Ask in a way that shows you want and want to give feedback: “What should I do about my boss?”

3. Respond to simple requests.

Even the small ones: “While you’re up, could you get the salsa?”

4.Talk and listen.

Make time to share the big and the small: “Let me tell you what happened when my mom called.”

5. Help manage stress.

Be there for each other: “I think I blew my presentation today.”

6. Work as a team.

Especially when it’s really something you co-share: “Let’s get Janey into bed now.”

7. Join in adventures.

Shared experiences will bring you closer: “Want to hike up Turtleback mountain tomorrow?”