“When you end up being right about something—shut up. You can be right and be quiet at the same time. Your partner will already know you’re right and will feel loved knowing that you didn’t wield it like a bastard sword.”
“In marriage, there’s no such thing as winning an argument.”
Perhaps the most interesting nugget from Gottman’s research is the fact that most successful couples don’t actually resolve all of their problems. In fact, his findings were completely backwards from what most people actually expect: people in lasting and happy relationships have problems that never completely go away, while couples that feel as though they need to agree and compromise on everything end up feeling miserable and falling apart.
This comes back to the respect thing. If you have two different individuals sharing a life together, it’s inevitable that they will have different values and perspectives on some things and clash over them. The key here is not to change the other person—as the desire to change your partner is inherently disrespectful (to both them and yourself)—but rather it’s to simply abide by the difference, love them despite it, and when things get a little rough around the edges, to forgive them for it.
“Everyone says that compromise is key, but that’s not how my husband and I see it. It’s more about seeking understanding. Compromise is bullshit, because it leaves both sides unsatisfied, losing little pieces of themselves in an effort to get along. On the other hand, refusing to compromise is just as much of a disaster, because you turn your partner into a competitor (“I win, you lose”). These are the wrong goals, because they’re outcome-based rather than process-based. When your goal is to find out where your partner is coming from—to truly understand on a deep level—you can’t help but be altered by the process. Conflict becomes much easier to navigate because you see . . . the context.”
I’ve written regularly that the key to happiness is not achieving your lofty dreams, or experiencing some dizzying high, but rather finding the struggles and challenges that you enjoy enduring.
It’s the same in relationships: your perfect partner is not someone who has no problems in the relationship. Rather, your perfect partner has problems that you feel good about dealing with.
But how do you get good at forgiveness? What does that actually mean? Here’s what readers had to say:
When an argument is over, it’s over. Some couples went as far as to make this the golden rule in their relationship. When you’re done fighting, it doesn’t matter who was right and who was wrong, it doesn’t matter if someone was mean and someone was nice, it’s over. And you both have to agree to leave it there, and not bring it up every month for the next one hundred years.
There’s no scoreboard. No one is trying to “win.” There’s no, “You owe me this because you screwed up the laundry last week;” there’s no, “I’m always right about financial stuff, so you should listen to me;” there’s no, “I bought her three gifts and she only did me one favor.” Everything in the relationship should be given and done unconditionally—that is, without expectation of reward or manipulation of feelings.
When your partner screws up, you separate the intentions from the behavior. You recognize the things you love and admire in your partner and understand that he/she was simply doing the best that they could yet messed up out of ignorance. This happened not because they’re a bad person; not because they secretly hate you and want to divorce you; not because there’s somebody else in the background pulling them away from you. They are a good person—that’s why you are with them. If you ever lose your faith in their goodness, then you will begin to erode your faith in yourself.