Psychologists John and Julie Gottman spent years observing couples' behaviour and developed a method that claims to predict a romantic relationship's chances of long-term success. They have (of course) used what they learned to create a $US750-per-couple workshop that aims to help people become better partners.
In an article at Huffington Post Highline, Eve Fairbanks traces the development of the "Gottman Method" from research lab to business plan, tries out their couples workshop, and considers whether lasting love can really be boiled down to a series of simple steps inside a manual.
Everyone at the workshop was given a kit in a box with a handle. Inside were decks of cards proposing questions to help us learn about our partners ("how are you feeling now about being a mother?") or offering ways to connect erotically ("when you return home tonight, greet each other with a kiss that lasts at least six seconds"). A manual provided us with a vocabulary to demystify and contain some of the scary things that go on in love: fights are "regrettable incidents," the things that make us feel good together are our "rituals of connection," the dark inner chasms that regrettable incidents seem to reveal are our "enduring vulnerabilities."
It's clear that Fairbanks found the workshop useful and meaningful, as did the other couples she interviews. But even the Gottmans admit that living with and loving another person is a complex problem, and a little magical thinking may be just as important as their rigorous psychology.
Picture: Pedro Ribeiro Simoes via Flickr