When we meet someone, we can spend time with them, develop a connection, and for many of us, the goal is to decipher if they’re “the one”. But what does this even mean to each of us, how do we know this and how do we conclude that they’re the one? There are a myriad of reasons why someone will decide another person is the person they want to spend the rest of their lives with. These can include reasons such as: we have so much in common, they get along with my family and friends so well, I like how I feel around them or we have the same values and goals. All of these reasons are important, but it’s crucial to look at several things in order to make an informed decision about whether someone is “the one” for you.
How do you both measure up?
John Gottman studied 3000 couples in their labs and in the couples homes, and discovered what the couples that were doing well that stayed together long term, in comparison to the couples who were not doing well who ended up separating. Based on this research he came up with the Sound Relationship House.
Having an understanding of the different levels of the house can help us understand how we are going in our own relationship and how well we align with our partner.
Build Love Maps
How well do you know each other’s inner world? Do you know each other’s closest friends? Your childhood history? Your day to day lives? This level is all about the friendship you have with each other. Most notably, it is the foundation of the house which signifies that friendship is at the core of our relationship with our partner.
Share Fondness and Admiration
How often are you both expressing your appreciation and awe for one another? Even though you might feel appreciation, how regularly are you both verbally expressing your gratitude and admiration for each other?
Turning towards is measured by bids of connection. Bids of connection is any way that we reach out to our partner, whether that’s starting a conversation, a hug or a kiss, or a text to say we are thinking of them. How often are you and your partner turning towards instead of away from each other?
The Positive Perspective
When we are in the positive perspective of the relationship, it is like the sun is shining on the relationship and we see things mostly in the positive. For example, if we are in the positive perspective and our partner is late to pick us up from work, we can easily brush this off as a human mistake and move on. Conversely, if we are in the negative perspective it is like a dark cloud is over our relationship and we mainly see the negative aspects. For instance, in the negative perspective if our partner does something nice such as bring us our tea in the morning, we might not be as grateful as we are still annoyed at the disappointing things they did the day before.
How do you and your partner navigate conflict? Do you have open discussions where you can both talk freely? Or are you both engaging in behaviours such as criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling or contempt?
Make Life Dreams Come True
How well does the relationship support your individual dreams? Are you both willing to support each other’s individual pursuits? And when needed, can you work as a team to help achieve these dreams?
Create Shared Meaning
This symbolises the shared meaning you create as a couple. What rituals of connection do you have? Such as how do you spend Friday night together or how do you greet each other hello? Or what are your values and beliefs in life? Do they align? And if they don’t, do you respect each other’s differences?
Trust & Commitment
The 2 walls of the house are what holds this house together. How much do you trust each other to have each other’s back, or be there when everything falls to pieces? And how committed are you to one another?
Other things to consider:
For many people, common interests are what draw us to another person. However, having common interests may not be enough to hold a couple together. Effective communication is more important than having things in common. Because there’s ways around things when you don’t have much in common, but poor communication or ineffective conflict management skills can lead to relationship breakdown. Another key indicator of a healthy relationship is how emotionally safe we feel with our partner. Are we able to articulate our needs and wants and have it met with understanding by our partner? Does our partner act with our wellbeing in mind? Finally, we need to be careful of making comparisons to an ex-partner. There may be certain aspects of our ex-partner that we think negatively about such as: they never helped around the house, they weren’t hands on with the kids enough, they would go out with their friends too much, the list can go on. Then when we meet someone who does the opposite of these behaviours, we may see these as a welcome relief from our experience with our ex. But it's important to remember that even though these can be seen as a positive, we need to think about all of the areas listed above as well.
Sound relationship house theory and relationship and marriage education ... (2011) Sound Relationship House Theory and Relationship and Marriage Education. Available at: https://www.johngottman.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Navarra-Gottman-SRH-Theory-Relationship-Marriage-Education.pdf (Accessed: April 19, 2023).