I couldn’t wait to get John Gottman’s advice on making love last. Gottman is a world-renowned scientist studying marital duration and divorce prediction. His team at the University of Washington analyzes couples not by what they say is going on, but by what the team can measure. What they can prove. What stands up to a mathematical equation.
At the end of his most recent book, What Makes Love Last, Gottman inadvertently offers us a Military Wife Quote:
“The best advice I can offer any couple…is to revere each other and be grateful that you are in each other’s life.”
That’s it? That’s all there is? Forty years of scientific research? Nearly 200 journal articles and 40 books? Hundreds of thousands of interviews? Millions of data points?
Gottman says it all boils down to the idea that you should be glad every day that this person married you. That they belong to you.
It is that easy. It is that simple. Like watering a plant. Like brushing your teeth. Like filling your car with gas. The best thing you can do is to stop every day and consider yourself lucky to have your own partner.
Except that this is simple like having the plant water you. Like having your teeth turn around and brush you. Like having your car swing by a swanky little restaurant all by itself to feed you.
And in a military family, this is the equivalent of having all that happen from 6000 miles away.
As long as both people wake up every day glad they married that particular partner and their partner wakes up feeling equally lucky to have married them, then everything is probably going to work out pretty well.
Gottman can take you into his lab and demonstrate how this underlying principal plays out in the way people fight and in the way they split up housework and in the way they speak to each other. We can see the same thing among the successful military couples around us, too.
Is that science? Or is that luck?
I think a skeptic would point out that to revere someone means that you treat them with admiring respect. So surely there must be something there to admire? It would be hard to admire someone who is drunk again. Kinda tough to feel positive about someone looking at porn in front of the kids. Really hard to see your way clear to admiring the one who is cheating on you every time you go on TDY.
Yet I don’t think Gottman’s advice is meant to repair the deeply damaged. Instead, I think it is meant to prevent damage—like watering a plant before it withers. Like brushing your teeth before you need oral surgery. Like filling your car with gas so you aren’t stranded on a lonesome highway.
The science is telling us that we married folks have to habitually cultivate a system of admiration and respect for each other. Automatic pilot does not quite cut it in marriage. Revering your partner and considering yourself lucky to have them is something that you do, not something that you feel.
And you both have to do it every day—from here, from 6000 miles away, and from every point in between.