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John Gottman - The Science of Love

Updated: Aug 25, 2021

When asked what was special about his wife:

Sam: "It was a million tiny little things. We were supposed to be together and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home, only to no home I had ever known. It was just taking her hand to help her out of the car. It was like magic."

Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle.

Physiological calm, trust, commitment are three needed elements to create the magic of love. The balance of positive and negative emotions during conflict matters. Ideally the ratio would be 5 to 1 (positive interactions vs. negative ones). Humor, laughter, soft-startups are all necessary.

When we are calm, we can take in new information. If we are flooded, we are more likely to become flooded or overwhelmed. It is important to be gentle with each other, patient, kind, and accepting of the areas where each person has growth edges. It matters how we talk to each other too (see whiteboard below). A gentle startup is the idea that we don't just start yelling at a partner for the perceived grievance, but we self-soothe first and then approach the partner from a more grounded place in ourselves.

A trusting relationship leads to intimacy, a non-trusting relationship leads to loneliness.

"Mutual trust comes from when both partners are maximizing the benefits of both people, not just one's person benefit against the other person. So, I'm always thinking about how my wife sees things. I can walk into a kitchen now, after thirty years of marriage, and view that kitchen the way my wife would see it. So I can say [to myself she] would be upset by that, so I clean it up."

Commitment leads to loyalty, whereas betrayal leads to dissolution. We need to turn towards the other person (especially in conflict) and say to ourselves, I am lucky and grateful to have this person in my life - that leads to a tighter bond. The alternate of this is to start making comparisons to real complaints or imaginary fantasies about how this person should be or not be, and it leads to distancing between the two people. Commitment helps each person feel safe in the relationship.

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