As recently reported by MSNBC, the traditional “how we met” stories told by couples may be an accurate predictor of whether marital strife lies ahead. Studies show that every couple’s back story reveals a great deal about the present state of their relationship, depending on how each individual spouse tells the story.
Spouses who are in happy marriages often recalled the earlier years of their relationship fondly and nostalgically, even when the actual circumstances of the marriage were not happy, such as when the couple was struggling financially. Conversely, unhappy couples tended to recall their past times together negatively, regardless of whether the circumstances of the early years were positive.
Researchers indicate that “how we met” stories are clearly predictive of future behavior because couples’ perceptions shift when they become dissatisfied with their marriages. Those who are happy in their relationships tend to remember the earlier years with the same optimism, whereas those who are in a current state of discontent find themselves more easily recalling the negative aspects of the earlier years, rather than the good times.
One of the earliest studies of the “how we met” story was conducted by John Gottman of The Gottman Institute in 1992. Gottman and fellow researchers recorded and analyzed oral recollections of the “how we met” stories from couples, then had the couples participate in laboratory-based discussions. Based upon this evidence, the researchers predicted which marriages would end in divorce. Three years later, the researchers checked back in with the couples and found that their analysis of the “how we met” stories had predicted divorce with 94% accuracy.