Tuesday, January 12, 2010

delanceyplace.com 1/12/10 - happy couples

In today's excerpt - happy couples. It turns out that
how couples handle good news
may matter even more to their relationship than
their ability to support each other under difficult

"Numerous studies show that intimate relationships,
such as marriages, are the single most important
source of life satisfaction. Although most couples
enter these relationships with the best of intentions,
many break up or stay together but languish. Yet
some do stay happily married and thrive. What is their

"A few clues emerge from the latest research in
the nascent field of positive psychology. Founded in
1998 by psychologist Martin E. P. Seligman of the
University of Pennsylvania, this discipline includes
research into positive emotions, human strengths
and what is meaningful in life. In the past few years
positive psychology researchers have discovered
that thriving couples accentuate the positive in life
more than those who stay together unhappily or
split do. They not only cope well during hardship
but also celebrate the happy moments and work to
build more bright points into their lives.

"It turns out that how couples handle good news
may matter even more to their relationship than
their ability to support each other under difficult
circumstances. Happy pairs also individually
a higher ratio of upbeat emotions to negative
ones than people in unsuccessful liasions do. Certain
tactics can boost this ratio and thus help to
strengthen connections with others. Another
ingredient for relationship success: cultivating
Learning to become devoted to your significant
other in a healthy way can lead to a more satisfying

"Until recently, studies largely centered on how
romantic partners respond to each other's misfortunes
and on how couples manage negative emotions
such as jealousy and anger - an approach in
line with psychology's traditional focus on alleviating
deficits. One key to successful bonds, the studies
indicated, is believing that your partner will be
there for you when things go wrong. Then, in 2004,
psychologist Shelly L. Gable, currently at the University
of California, Santa Barbara, and her colleagues
found that romantic couples share positive
events with each other surprisingly often, leading
the scientists to surmise that a partner's behavior
also matters when things are going well.

"In a study published in 2006 Gable and her coworkers
videotaped dating men and women in the
laboratory while the subjects took turns discussing
a positive and negative event. After each conversation,
members of each pair rated how 'responded
to' - how understood, validated and cared for -
they felt by their partner. Meanwhile observers rated
the responses on how active-constructive (engaged
and supportive ) they were - as indicated by
intense listening, positive comments and questions,
and the like. Low ratings reflected a more passive,
generic response such as 'That's nice, honey.'
the couples evaluated their commitment to
and satisfaction with the relationship.

"The researchers found that when a partner proffered
a supportive response to cheerful statements,
the 'responded to' ratings were higher than they
were after a sympathetic response to negative news,
suggesting that how partners reply to good news
may be a stronger determinant of relationship health
than their reaction to unfortunate incidents. The
reason for this finding, Gable surmises, may be that
fixing a problem or dealing with a disappointment -
though important for a relationship - may not make
a couple feel joy, the currency of a happy

Suzann Pileggi, "The Happy Couple," Scientific
American Mind, Jan/Feb 2010, pp. 34-36.


Blogger Sharon said...

Some interesting research!
I'll add my thoughts with "A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage" (Boston Globe #1 pick) -- essential behaviors for spouses -- find at borders, amazon, etc. -- come by and visit @ www.ashortguidetoahappymarriage.com

2:47 PM  

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