I read this article in the New York Times today titled
To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This,
regarding the process of falling in love by Mandy Len Catron (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/fashion/modern-love-to-fall-in-love-with-anyone-do-this.html?_r=0). She references a 20 year old study by psychologist, Arthur Aron that developed a procedure for making two people fall in love in a laboratory. Being a Gottman Method Couples Therapist, I of course immediately drew parallels in my mind to Dr. John Gottman's Love Lab, which developed remarkable findings on the factors that destroy love and those that help make it last.
It is this passage from Ms. Catron's article that resonates most strongly with me as a Gottman Therapist:
"Most of us think about love as something that happens to us. We fall. We get crushed.
But what I like about this study is how it assumes that love is an action."
In Gottman's research, he found that master couples build "lovemaps", meaning cognitive maps of who their partner is, their partner's likes/dislikes, hopes/fears, best and worst memories, etc... During courtship, as with Dr. Aron's procedures to "make" a couple fall in love, Gottman found that partners ask open-ended questions of each other (like "Would you like to be famous? In what way?" or "What would constitute a perfect day for you?"). Gottman also found that in long term relationships couples often get out of this habit and find themselves asking mainly close-ended questions (such as "did you pay the plumber?"). Gottman noted that master couples tend to have strong "lovemaps" supported by ongoing curiosity about each other and open-ended questioning.
In Ms. Catron's article, she also notes the power of hearing compliments from one's partner and wonders why people don't go about their business by complimenting each other as a matter of course because it feels so good. In fact, Gottman noted from his research that it is also characteristic of master couples to have strong "fondness and admiration" and "a culture of appreciation". Gottman also noted that another characteristic of master couples is that the partners "turn towards" each other's bids for attention, play, affection, advice, and intimacy (among other things) about 85% of the time, while "disaster" couples do so only about a third of the time.
Again, Ms. Catron notes that "love is an action". In Gottman terms, to have a strong friendship and a well funded "emotional bank account", a couple must:
1) Build lovemaps.
2) Develop fondness and admiration.
3) Turn towards each other's bids
In other words, to build love, action is necessary. To learn more about Gottman's research and it's application to couples, visit our website:
and consider taking one of our Art and Science of Love couples workshops.
Michael Basta, LCSW