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Gottman and Levenson brought newlyweds into the lab and watched them interact with each other.With a team of researchers, they hooked the couples up to electrodes and asked the couples to speak about their relationship, like how they met, a major conflict they were facing together, and a positive memory they had.The masters were still happily together after six years.The disasters had either broken up or were chronically unhappy in their marriages.
The disasters looked calm during the interviews, but their physiology, measured by the electrodes, told a different story.
Gottman wanted to know more about how the masters created that culture of love and intimacy, and how the disasters squashed it.
In a follow-up study in 1990, he designed a lab on the University of Washington campus to look like a beautiful bed and breakfast retreat.
Their heart rates were quick, their sweat glands were active, and their blood flow was fast.
Following thousands of couples longitudinally, Gottman found that the more physiologically active the couples were in the lab, the quicker their relationships deteriorated over time. The problem was that the disasters showed all the signs of arousal—of being in fight-or-flight mode—in their relationships.