If you ask people what it takes to make a May-December relationship really last, you’ll probably get a wide range of answers, everything from more communication to more sex. But one renowned psychologist believes he’s found the secret to a long-lasting relationship, and it’s easier than you’d think. According to John Gottman, all you need to really make your May-December relationship last are two key personality traits: generosity and kindness.
Gottman has made a career out of studying relationships, having spent the last 40 years analyzing couples around the globe to try and uncover what makes and breaks them. And if what he’s discovered is true, it can make the difference between happiness and heartbreak in your own May-December relationship.
In one of his most notable studies, Gottman and his team interviewed recently married couples about their relationship, touching on things like how they first met, what conflicts they were facing, and some of their positive memories. While being questioned, all of the participants were hooked up to electrodes that measured physiological responses like heart rate, blood flow, and sweating. Researchers then followed up with each of the couples six years later. In another follow-up study, Gottman invited successful couples to a mock bed-and-breakfast for the day and then watched how they interacted with each other while in a vacation setting.
Throughout all of his research, Gottman’s findings revealed one common thing—they all suggested that people who displayed traits of generosity and kindness, and who had a more positive outlook, were more likely to succeed in love when compared to individuals who displayed less of these traits. In other words, the kinder and more generous, supportive, and attentive you are, the more likely you are to reap the benefits of a successful May-December relationship.
Interestingly, the one trait that’s most likely to destroy your May-December relationship, according to John Gottman’s research, is contempt. Although negativity is never a good thing, those who constantly critique and pick out their partner’s flaws will more than likely end up causing more harm than good, because they end up missing as much as half of their partner’s positive actions and only see negativity, even when it’s not really there.
This is certainly something to keep in mind if you’re looking for a May-December relationship that’s solid enough to endure the good times and the bad. Kindness and generosity don’t necessarily mean holding the door open or giving little gifts every now and then. It has much more to do with how you and your partner interact with one other on a daily basis, including how you approach conflicts.
What do you think: Do you believe that kindness and generosity can actually make or break a May-December relationship?
Smith, E.E., “Masters of Love,” The Atlantic web site, June 12, 2014; http://goo.gl/McBLSx.