— Dee Lancaster (@dee_lancaster) October 6, 2014
1. LETTING SOME CONFLICTS GO UNRESOLVED
There’s this guy. His name is John Gottman. And he is like the Michael Jordan of relationship research. Not only has he been studying intimate relationships for more than 40 years, but he practically invented the field.
Gottman devised the process of “thin-slicing” relationships, a technique where he hooks couples up to all sorts of biometric devices and then records them having short conversations about their problems. Gottman then goes back and analyzes the conversation frame by frame looking at biometric data, body language, tonality and specific words chosen. He then combines all of this data together to predict whether your marriage sucks or not.
His “thin-slicing” process boasts a staggering 91% success rate in predicting whether newly-wed couples will divorce within 10 years — a staggeringly high result for any psychological research. His method went on to be featured in Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling book Blink. Gottman’s seminars also report a 50% higher success rate of saving troubled marriages than traditional marriage counseling. His research papers have won enough academic awards to fill the state of Delaware. And he’s written nine books on the subjects of intimate relationships, marital therapy and the science of trust.
The point is, when it comes to understanding what makes long-term relationships succeed, John Gottman will slam-dunk in your face and then sneer at you afterwards.
And the first thing Gottman says in almost all of his books is this: The idea that couples must communicate and resolve all of their problems is a myth.
In his research of thousands of happily married couples, some of whom who have been married for 40+ years, he found time and again that most successful couples have persistent unresolved issues, unresolved issues that they’ve sometimes been fighting about for decades. Meanwhile many of the unsuccessful couples insisted on resolving fucking everything because they believed that there should be a void of disagreement between them. Pretty soon there was a void of a relationship too.
Successful couples accept and understand that some conflict is inevitable, that there will always be certain things they don’t like about their partners or things they don’t agree with, and that this is fine. You shouldn’t need to feel the need to change somebody in order to love them. And you shouldn’t let some disagreements get in the way of what is otherwise a happy and healthy relationship.
The truth is, trying to resolve a conflict can sometimes create more problems than it fixes. Some battles are simply not worth fighting. And sometimes the most optimal relationship strategy is one of “live and let live.”