The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1103: What Is the Science of Lasting Relationships?

Lasting relationships are built on kindness and generosity, in which each partner can feel empathy for the other and confident they too are heard.
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What Is the Science of Lasting Relationships?

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Why do some relationships last for decades and just seem to get stronger, while others wither? Is there a secret to lasting relationships?

Kindness, Generosity and Science:

Decades ago, psychologist John Gottman began studying how newlyweds interacted with each other. He and his colleagues created a “Love Lab” in which they took careful notes and collected physiological data on each pair as they answered questions about meeting, conflicts and future plans. After six years, the psychologists determined which of the couples were still happy together and which had separated or were miserable. Based on these data, they determined that a couple of key concepts underlay the happiness of lasting relationships: kindness and generosity.

Kindness as the Food of Marriage:

That sounds simple, doesn’t it? Further research by Dr. Gottman confirmed that these two simple concepts really are fundamental. Like most simple things, though, they aren’t always easy to execute. Psychologist Don Azevedo joins us to discuss why kindness and generosity are the keys to life-long happiness and how we can practice them within our own relationships both at home and at work.

Make Yourself the Hero of Your Own Story:

Learn why the first step is to acknowledge and honor your own self, so that you have the confidence to reflect your partner’s reaction with empathy. We also consider the importance of setting limits to establish a reciprocal rather than one-sided relationship.

You can read more about Dr. Gottman’s research in this article from The Atlantic, June 12, 2014.

If you would like to listen to a longer version of our interview with Dr. Azevedo, you can do so here:

This Week’s Guest:

Don Azevedo, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and founder of Azevedo Family Psychology in Cary, NC.

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Marriage is a partnership, each being equal, not one overbearing to the other. You take vows which are very serious and should do all you can to honor them, as well as honoring each other. Marriage is a daily compromise and should not be viewed as a game of who wins or loses. Yes, kindness and generosity of spirit is indeed needed for a wonderful long lasting marriage/relationship.

I married my high school sweetheart and best friend. We were together for 55 years, until he died thixmls year. We were friends long before we became romantically involved. He was my first boyfriend’s best friend, but I soon realized I had much more in common with him than I had with the boyfriend. So I broke up with the other guy, and found a way to let my friend know I was interested in being more than friends.

He was too, and we went steady for three years, then married after graduation, when he was drafted. I’m not saying it was a perfect relationship, but we always found a way to work out our differences, without separation or divorce. I agree that trust, genuine caring, ability to communicate, kindness, respect, and empathy are all involved as well as thoughtfulness.

But another important key in our relationship was laughter. He could always make me see the humor in almost any given situation. He also had a way of asking questions that helped me reframe my perspective. If I had a problem, I knew I could talk it over with him and we would find a way to resolve it together.

Most of all, he never lost that “magic” in my eyes. No matter how old we were, and how ill he was before he died, I still saw him the way I did at 15. His smile, his laugh, the twinkle in his eyes could make my day. My heart still does flip flops when I look at pictures of him, and even though he’s gone, I know I will love him forever.

What made me decide to divorce my first husband was his totally narcissistic personality. Everything was about his needs, and everyone else was staff to supply the needs. He managed to hide this until about a month after we were married. His favorite saying was “if you don’t like it, get a divorce”. So I did. It’s hard to be in a marriage between two people when one person is only interested in him/her self.

Great, practical advice, that could be applied in non-marital, sibling-based situations as well as other relationships. Sounds like all need more training on this topic. Would like to see on-line training courses on this topic.

Been married to the same girl for 53 years. Key to this success:

1: Total commitment to each other and to making the marriage work. Separation,
divorce, is never an option.
2: Respect each other’s wants and needs
3: Keep the marriage young like it was in the beginning
4: Develop a friendship with your partner

If you follow the above achieving a life long marriage is pretty easy……………

After two marriages and divorces and additional relationships over the ensuing years (I’m 81 now) I think relationships are a balancing act; each partner has to have some area of control. Growing up when I did, there was so much male dominance it was hard to find someone to relate to as a partner. Now, most of the fellows I knew are dead; I look back and wish it had been different with a couple of them but one has to move on and be happy with the life one has. So I write, read People’s Pharmacy, and enjoy senior activities as much as possible.

My parents were always nice to each other, but I still managed to get into two bad marriages. I was 32 when I met my third husband, and he was 29, and separated from his second wife.

I met him at work, and even before we started dating I could see what a nice person he was. He was kind and good natured, with a wonderful sense of humor. I liked him, but I sure wasn’t interested in marrying again anytime soon.

We ended up living together, which I know a lot of people say is a mistake, but it worked for us. What I noticed right from the beginning was how polite he was. He actually moved into my apartment, but he was thoughtful, and treated me with respect. I appreciated how he did not take me for granted.

We’ve been together just over 30 years, and nothing has changed except that we love each other more than ever. The funny thing is I don’t think I was head over heals in love when we first married, but I liked him a lot. My mom told me the same thing about marrying my dad: she wasn’t “in love,” but she really liked him, and with time, love grew. Also, when times were trying, they stuck together because they wanted to be married to one another.

We enjoy spending time together, and we’ve found things we enjoy doing together. He still opens the car door for me and tells me I’m pretty and desirable. We’re in our 60s now, but we take care of ourselves and our relationship.

The one thing I wish I’d understood when I was young was the importance of truly liking the other person. It’s too easy to mistake that initial passion for something more. People get engaged, but don’t take that time to really evaluate the relationship. Women, especially, get caught up in planning the marriage and too often looking the other way when there are signs that this might not be such a great relationship. I even think a lot of couples plunge in and have children too soon, thinking that’s going to make things better. There needs to be a foundation first, which includes good communication, trust, support and genuine caring. True love grows out of that.

I know this may be taken negatively by many but all too often sexual needs take over a relationship and then blinding one’s true evaluation of their partner. Maybe if that were gotten out of the way early in a relationship each person would more objectively see who they are really wanting to marry. The average number of years for a divorce after a marriage is 8 years which seems to support this theory.

Anne’s comments are spot on. We need to remember our manners–please, and lots of thank yous; appreciation for even the littlest things.

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